Milwaukee has too many great beer bars and breweries to mention. But there are a few places that particularly stand out when it comes to enjoying a beer. Atmosphere, personal history and other intangibles all figured into creating the list.
4417 N. Oakland Ave.
A solid beer list is one thing, but Draft & Vessel wins big with its ambiance. The cozy spot in Shorewood simply oozes friendly vibes. The fact that it’s not really a bar — but more of a casual tasting room — and the ample rustic wood décor gives it the feel of a well-appointed study or rec room. A spot at the bar here is worth a long visit.
2599 S. Logan Ave.
There’s just something inviting about the combination of a neighborhood bar and beer haven that I find appealing. Burnhearts is welcoming at any time of day, and there’s always something on the beer list that has a “wow” factor. Also, owner B.J. Seidel seems to be concerned with social responsibility (one big example is the annual Mitten Fest, which raises money for the Hunger Task Force), earning extra points.
434 S. 2nd St.
It’s not about the quantity of beer available at Camino. The well-planned quality of the 20 taps make it worth a visit to the intimate, but often bustling bar. The beer menu is constantly in flux, and you’ll rarely find a mistake flowing from the taps. Smartly chosen brews pair perfectly with a small food menu that is equally well-curated. Try the Thai chicken sausage or the yellowfin tuna sandwich.
1 Brewers Way
I sat in section 210 for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series with a Third Space Happy Place IPA in my hand and optimism in my heart. So…that game didn’t end well for my beloved Brewers. But the great view down the first-base line and easy access to the Local Brews bar in the concourse behind the section made it near perfect otherwise. I anticipate a lot of excitement happening at Miller Park in the next few years, and I hope to be on the loge level to enjoy some of it.
1240 S. Moorland Rd.
There’s a tradition of sorts that happens for me every winter at Champps. In December, I meet up with local beer guru Tom “Grynder” Ciula and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beer scribe Kathy Flanigan to share a few rare (and likely hefty) pours and discuss the state of craft beer. The ringleader of this casual gathering is affable owner Tony Lewanovich, who presides over our meeting from behind the bar and entertains with myriad stories about beer, the bar and whatever else he can think of. Champps has turned into an extremely popular craft beer destination. The enthusiasm of the owner and his penchant for scoring rare brews are the reasons why.
6) Romans’ Pub
3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Lewanovich at Champps is a great orator from behind the bar, but it’s hard to beat the booming delivery of Mike Romans at Romans’ Pub. The owner has been in the business for four decades and is more than happy to share tales from all of those years. He also knows a thing or two about good beer, isn’t a fan of the macros, and keeps his more than 30 taps flowing with quality, and often rare, brews. Bellying up to the bar here is well worth your time, but be sure you can stay a while for story time.
1836 N. Pulaski St.
Wolski’s earns plenty of notoriety for the iconic “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper stickers handed out to patrons at bar time. But I prefer the 110-year-old bar when the sun is still shining. It’s hard to tell exactly what time of day it is inside the dark tavern, and that’s partly why it’s the best day drinking bar in town. The beer list is good enough to wash down free popcorn and for some reason it just seems like the ideal place to drink copious amounts of Lakefront Riverwest Stein (or Pabst drafts). Friendly, cheap and filled with regulars — the perfect recipe for a great neighborhood bar.