Brew City MKE display

Attention: We Now Have a Museum Entirely Dedicated to Beer

The Milwaukee County Historical Society offers a brewery history lesson at its new Brew City MKE exhibit downtown.

“Beer museum” has to be at the top of the list of the best uses for a former Applebee’s. Kudos to the Milwaukee County Historical Society for making that happen in downtown Milwaukee.

The space in the Shops of Grand Avenue (275 W. Wisconsin Ave.) that used to dole out riblets now provides a detailed walk through Milwaukee’s brewing history with the Brew City MKE exhibit, which opened at the beginning of October.

It doesn’t take long to peruse the nearly 3,000-square-foot display, which includes detailed histories of Pabst, Miller, Schlitz, Gettleman, et al. The history lesson is great, but where the space shines is in its delivery of breweriana. Brew City MKE is filled with vintage ads, promotional materials, old bottles and packaging, and other beer-related items that would make a collector swoon.

Brew City MKE Pabst DisplayThe display is devoted to big beer’s Milwaukee past, and understandably there are no mentions of Milwaukee’s craft beer scene. But that doesn’t mean craft breweries aren’t represented. A bar at the end of the self-guided tour pours a nice selection of taps from the likes of Good City, Third Space, Enlightened, Lakefront, Sprecher and Black Husky. The $10 entry fee to Brew City MKE gets you in the door and also earns you a free beer when you’re done learning. Not a bad deal.

I’m a big fan of embracing Milwaukee’s brewing past, and I think the city has been pretty good at that. Brew City MKE helps spread the message to out-of-towners. The place is easy to spot while strolling down Wisconsin Avenue, and it’s a quick and economical stop for beer lovers. Besides, what else are you going to do with a shuttered Applebee’s?

Brew City MKE information:

Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admission (includes a beer or soda)
$10 adults
$7 ages 13 to 20
Free to Historical Society members and kids 12 and under



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.