The craft beer scene in the Milwaukee area has seen some impressive gains over the last three or four years. This list represents some of those strides forward. These are a few standout brews that are readily available — regular offerings from local breweries. So you won’t see any limited or seasonal beers like the latest outstanding hazy IPA release from Eagle Park or an oak-aged one-off from 1840 Brewing. These are beers that are easy to find, and delicious.
Happy Place Midwest Pale Ale
I’ve easily consumed more Happy Place than any other beer on this list. The beer combines a fair amount of citrus flavor with a mildly bitter finish. It’s an easy drinker with a modest 5.3% ABV and has become my go-to at Miller Park (and anywhere else that has it).
My love of coconut borders on obsessive. But it doesn’t always work well in beer and too much of the flavor can be cloying and artificial. City Lights has achieved a balance that works just fine. The beer is slightly sweet and the coconut flavor is obvious without being overpowering. It’s a well-made beer with a surprisingly low 5.3% ABV.
Hey young beer fans, there was once a time not long ago when IPAs weren’t juicy, and bitterness was a matter of pride. Reward isn’t overly bitter, but it does have a nice dank, resinous finish that harkens back to the days before haze.
If you like Citra and Mosaic hops, and most of you likely do, MKE IPA is for you. Both come through while sipping on this fairly recent creation from Milwaukee Brewing Company. There’s a juicy citrus aroma and flavor for sure, but there’s also some late bitterness that balances it all out. Plus, the label design is really cool.
Treffpunkt Kolsch-Style Ale
Lately, I’ve become more and more appreciative of beers with crisp flavor profiles. Treffpunkt certainly fits the bill. The beer, also a favorite of fellow craft beer fan Chris Drosner, is decidedly refreshing and easy to drink. A low 4.6% ABV makes it an ideal session beer.
Black Bavarian Schwarzbier
A beer that helped launch Sprecher Brewing in 1985 is still worthy of mention more than three decades later. The roasted malt brew has rightfully received a fair amount of acclaim. It’s flavorful and exceptionally easy to drink.
Riverwest Stein Amber Lager
Riverwest Stein holds a special place in my beer-loving heart because it was the first craft beer I tasted. At the time, the flavor was a shock to my palate, which was conditioned from my college drinking of beers like Old Milwaukee, Red White & Blue (I still gag at the thought) and Miller Lite. The slight malt sweetness, hint of hops and clean finish of Lakefront’s flagship still resonates.
Paradocs Imperial Red IPA
The complex, but perfectly-balanced flavor of Paradocs is what earned it a gold medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Fest. It expertly, and boldly, combines caramel sweetness with piney citrus bitterness. There’s no lack of flavor from this amber brew from Waukesha.
Rose’s Sour Ale
This relative newcomer to the brewing scene creates a kettle sour that achieves just the right level of tart. The pink-hued brew is made with mango and raspberry and that fruit flavor comes through. Rose’s Sour is tasty, refreshing, and has a nicely low ABV of 4.6%. Component is a brewery to keep an eye on.
Sproose 2 IPA
This bitter brew isn’t for everyone. The addition of real spruce tips literally lends to its piney flavor. It’s a big, bold beer that isn’t for the timid. But if you’re in the mood for an old-school bitter bomb, it’s the perfect choice.