Pairing Suggestions for 8 Summerfest Beers

Pick a beer and we’ll tell you which show to drink it at — and what to eat with it.

Craft beer options at Summerfest aren’t exactly abundant (a shame considering the thriving local beer scene). The massive music fest is clearly a MillerCoors production, and always has been. But there are plenty of beer options that pair well with both the ample food and live music on the festival grounds.

1) Miller High Life

On a warm Summerfest day, a cold High Life won’t steer you wrong. The Champagne of Beers is literally everywhere on the festival grounds.

Pairs with: Loverboy
Uline Warehouse Stage, July 3, 10 p.m.

The classic American adjunct lager goes great with the classic Canadian rock of Loverboy. Aren’t we all working for the weekend? High Life is also a nice way to wash down a tasty Chicago-style hot dog from one of the three Martino’s locations. Yes, you can use ketchup.

2) Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA

The ale has a resinous hop flavor with a fair amount of bitterness. But with a potent 7.3% ABV, it’s not recommended as your choice for an entire day of imbibing.

Pairs with: Snoop Dogg
American Family Insurance Amphitheater, July 7, 7:30 p.m.

Gin and juice isn’t an option at Summerfest, but the dankness of Hopsecutioner will work just fine when taking in the Snoop Dogg show. The beer is available at the amphitheater and should match the pungent haze that will likely accompany D-O-double-G to the stage. The hoppy brew also works well with the spicy chicken tacos from one of two Belair Cantina locations.

3) Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Wheat beer and the flavor of lemonade combine for a summer refresher that can combat the cruel heat of the abundant Summerfest asphalt. It’s a low 4.2% ABV too, which makes it a good choice for the long haul.

Pairs with: Dark Star Orchestra
BMO Harris Pavilion, July 6, 8 p.m.

A sunshine daydream. Sip on this crisp brew while taking in the crunchy tunes of Dark Star Orchestra. The Grateful Dead tribute band is one of the best around. Enjoy the jams with a bag of Fazio’s kettle corn (available at the Miller Lite Oasis and the nearby Harley-Davidson Roadhouse), which is a tasty compliment to the lemony shandy.

4) Sol Lager

The crisp Mexican lager isn’t overly complex, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s refreshing, and that’s essential for a summer beer.

Pairs with: Ozomatli
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, June 30, 4 p.m.

The Latin-inspired band from Los Angeles is hard to put a finger on. What’s certain is that they’re an amazing live act and one of the earlier shows worth seeing. Sol can be found just to the south of the stage. It goes well with plenty of foods at Summerfest, but try it with an egg roll from Wong’s Wok, a festival staple located nearby close to the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse.

5) Leinenkugel’s Original Lager

If you like your American adjunct lager with a little more bite, then Leinie’s Original is for you.

Pairs with: Willy Porter
Uline Warehouse Stage, July 7, 8 p.m.

Another Wisconsin original, Willy Porter played in Milwaukee venues in the early 1990s that sold plenty of Leinie’s at the time. Pick up an Original at the nearby U.S. Cellular Connection Stage before checking out Porter’s acoustic guitar expertise. The Klement’s Sausage and Beer Garden is nearby, and a Leinie’s Original and bratwurst are a hard pairing to beat.

6) Lakefront Hazy Rabbit

One of the few true craft beers available at Summerfest from one of Milwaukee’s original craft breweries. It can be found, along with other Lakefront brews, just north of the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard. Hazy Rabbit is a New England IPA — an example of an established brewery creating a contemporary style.

Pairs with: Courtney Barnett
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, July 4, 10 p.m.

The Australian singer is contemporary for sure, but her music is rooted in bare bones old-school rock. She’s another act to consider for your can’t-miss list. As far as food goes, well, Hazy Rabbit does just fine by itself.

7) Water Street Bavarian Weiss

The Water Street Brewery area on the south end of the Summerfest grounds offers four beer options. Bavarian Weiss is a risk-free choice and a nice fit for summer.

Pairs with: The National
Miller Lite Oasis, June 30, 10 p.m.

The National is as safe a bet as there is when it comes to an entertaining live show. Also a safe bet? Saz’s sour cream and chive fries. The fries are a Summerfest tradition and can be found in several spots at the fest. They’ll go just fine with your weiss.

8) Miller Lite

Lite has the least punch of any beer on the grounds and it’s easy to find. So there’s that.

Pairs with: Your hangover.
Everywhere, every day.

Most Summerfest vets are no strangers to rough afternoons on the grounds immediately following long nights at the fest. Miller Lite goes just fine with your hangover while easing you into another night of revelry. The light brew also allows for plenty of room while attacking a Smoke Shack Burger and tots from A.J. Bombers (Northwestern Mutual Children’s Theater & Playzone).



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 15 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for close to 25.