It's been fun watching the Milwaukee beer scene mature. A couple of years ago the thought of long lines at barrel-aged beer releases and festivals built solely around Wisconsin IPAs would have seemed far-fetched, but now those are realities. It’s a good time and place to be a beer drinker. Here are a few of my favorite things from the local beer scene in 2017.
Best Beers: A Few Local Standouts
Every brewery is contributing to the robust Milwaukee beer scene, but a few managed to produce some standout brews that I particularly enjoyed. [Please note that I didn’t get to try everything I wanted to because of availability and time — for example, I still haven’t tasted any of Third Space’s barrel-aged In the Spirit brews or the barrel-aged Explorium Cherry Chocolate Stout.]
Good City Brewing
2017 Barrel-Aged Density Imperial Stout
This year’s batch from the east side brewery was worth it for those who lined up to get some during the December bottle release. It isn’t too boozy or sweet and has a nice dark chocolate bite.
Raised Grain Brewing
Naked Threesome IPA
This beer earned the People’s Champ award at the Wisconsin IPA fest in August and it was well deserved. The guys from Waukesha created a hazy IPA that gets big citrus flavor from a combination of Citra, Mosaic and Crystal hops.
Third Space Brewing
Java Blanca Coffee Cream Ale
This golden brew confuses the senses. The hue gives way to big, unexpected coffee flavor and a touch of sweetness. Another win for Third Space.
City Lights Brewing
An extremely drinkable porter, good for any time of the year. It has a smooth, malty sweetness and a coconut finish that’s not too overpowering.
1840 Brewing Company
Impatiently Waiting Oaked IPA
The September release was 1840’s first IPA, and it generated a fair amount of buzz. Fruity hops are nicely muted by the oak aging, resulting in a hazy IPA that doesn’t overdo the juiciness.
Eagle Park Brewing Company
Loop Station Ale
A mix of lime, agave nectar and a hint of sea salt didn’t sound appealing to me at first when I made a trip to Eagle Park this summer. But the beer is amazingly refreshing and crisp. I applaud breweries that get a little creative with their brews.
Best Local Event
The first Wisconsin IPA Fest was a huge hit. On August 5, Third Space Brewing hosted brewers from all over the state. Each brought one of their best IPAs, and a large panel of judges, which I was privileged to be a part of, spent the afternoon determining the best.
Everything came together perfectly on that summer weekend day. The weather was sunny and warm, there was a strong turnout from both beer drinkers and brewers, and Third Space did a phenomenal job of hosting. Look for the event to pop up again in 2018 and be sure to be there to see if Lakefront Brewing can defend the first place trophy it took home with its Centennial IPA.
Best Chance for Milwaukee to Show Off
The Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference came to town the same weekend as Wisconsin IPA Fest, bringing craft beer lovers from all over the country into Milwaukee. The group spent time hearing from industry experts at Best Place (901 W. Juneau) and hit up a few breweries. From what I could gauge by talking to attendees, the visit was a big hit.
Best Two-Year “Trend”
For the second year in a row, a Milwaukee-area brewery claimed a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest. Third Space earned the honor in October when Unite the Clans Scottish Style Rye Ale beat out nearly 50 other entries in the rye beer category. That’s a big deal, folks. The win followed Raised Grain’s gold in 2016 for Paradocs Red Imperial IPA.
Best Trend to Avoid
The closing of Brenner Brewing in late November was a stark reminder that craft brewing is a business. Owner Mike Brenner may have been a polarizing figure to some, but the brewery (opened in 2014) was a big part of the beginning of the wave of craft breweries in Milwaukee. I enjoyed any time I spent at Brenner, and the Witchcraft Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout was delicious.