Brewery Travels: Milwaukee (Northside)
by Joel Geier
Hi all, welcome to my first article! My name is Joel, and I will be taking you along my journey to visit as many craft breweries as can (currently 45 across 20 cities in 5 states). As of now, I have just been going to breweries around the areas I’ve lived (Oregon and Wisconsin), but starting this fall my wife is becoming a travel nurse, so we will go bouncing around the country, allowing me to taste what every region has to offer. Craft breweries are my favorite places to visit because they are all unique, both in what they brew, and what atmosphere they offer.
This first article will be an example of what you can expect. I will profile several breweries from a particular region, city, or even neighborhood, offering my insights on the beer I tasted and what the atmosphere was like. We begin on the Northside of Milwaukee, my current home; the breweries I will profile are listed below:
- Sprecher Brewing
- Company Brewing
- Black Husky Brewing
- Like Minds Brewing
- Good City Brewing
Sprecher was Milwaukee’s first craft brewery after Prohibition, founded in 1985. Besides the brewery itself, where you can take their popular tour, they also have a Restaurant/Pub located near a nearby mall. They lean towards German style beers, but have something for pretty much everyone. Krystal Paradise (a Witbier) was my personal favorite, but I also enjoyed their Black Bavarian (Schwarbier). The current season would weigh heavily on which I would choose for a pint, as the Black Bavarian is a much heavier drink, while Krystal Paradise is similar to a Blue Moon Belgium White.
The restaurant/pub is a cool place, but if you only get to one, go to the brewery. The tours do occasionally sell out, so plan ahead. It’s a cool building that reminds you of being in a castle, or some other similar Eastern European building. Lakefront Brewery has the best tour in the area, but you will not be wasting your time going to Sprecher. The pub DOES have really good food, and I would highly recommend the Wisconsin Scotch Eggs (pictured below), which are hard cooked eggs wrapped in bratwurst, covered in panko bread, then deep fried. Yes, they are delicious.
Located in the Riverwest neighborhood, you would not think that you were walking into a brewery if you did not know it was there. It looks and feels like your run-of-the-mill restaurant/bar combo, but the beer is worth stopping in for. They consistently rotate what they offer on tap, so you never know exactly what will be there. My personal favorite was a Belgian Brown Ale, which carried the unique name Femme-Pire Strikes Back, and had a smooth, malty taste with just a hint of cinnamon. The Poor Farm Pils is good as far as Pilsners go, and they also had a Rye Ale (Night Rye’d) on nitro that felt great going down.
I came here in the evening after class one night, and it seemed like most people were there for the food. Only a few people were at the bar, and no one else was doing a flight (which is a must for me at each new brewery). Don’t come to Company expecting your typical brewery experience, but if all you care about is beer (which isn’t a bad thing), it is worth a stop if you are in the area.
Black Husky got its start in Pembine, WI in 2010 before moving to the Riverwest neighborhood (only a few blocks from Company) in 2016. And yes, the brewery is named after actual dogs that are a part of the founders’ family. The brewery/taproom is a cool spot, with lots of natural wood, comfortable seating, a piano, a large-than-life Husky statue, and a popular outdoor drinking area (that is of course dog-friendly).
The beer wasn’t overall my personal favorite, but one that did stick out was their Milk Stout, called OIHF. It is fairly thick and as typical of a stout, has wonderful chocolate and coffee notes. I do need to go back sometime, as the Big Buck Brown Ale is a popular choice, but they were out when I visited, and brown ales are a preferred style of mine. Overall, the average ABV for their beers is rather high, so if you plan on a long night, pace yourself here!
Like Minds actually brews much of its beer in Chicago, but with the new location in Milwaukee, I’m counting it. It’s a neat place, located just a bit north of the downtown area. It has a slightly more upscale feel than your typical taproom, and they do operate as a restaurant as well. My buddy and I got there right when the main kitchen closed, but we were mainly there to try the beer anyway.
As you will find, I am a huge fan of sour ales, and Like Minds had a couple on tap during my visit. My favorite was their Blueberry Sour, but they also did well with their Rhubarb sour and their Amarillo Brillo, which is a charred grapefruit barrel aged sour dry hopped with Amarillo hops. They do have other great beers too, such as the ultra smooth oatmeal stout Nighthawks, served on nitro. If you are a fan of sours like I am, definitely make a stop here while in Milwaukee!
Good City Brewing opened in 2016, and has already made a name for themselves in the Milwaukee beer scene. Many people love this place (it was PACKED when I visited), but for some reason, the beer was not for me. The restaurant/taproom was nice, with the big shiny brewing kettles set up behind the bar creating a neat atmosphere, but the beer left something to be desired in my eyes.
The Pils (pilsner) was alright, but generally if a pilsner is my favorite beer a place offers, that isn’t a good sign. Detail, the offered Porter, was also decent, but this was surprisingly my least favorite beer menu in Milwaukee. The beers just seemed a little ‘alcoholy’ to my taste, but I do need to make another visit sometime, as it was my 3rd brewery of the day, and my palate may have been a bit off. All this said, I would not simply take my word for it, as several people would refute my claim.
Thanks for joining me for my first brewery breakdown! I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on any changes or additions they would like to see. I hope you all enjoy following my journey as I explore our country, one craft brewery at a time! Also, if you want more current updates, follow my twitter: @brewerytravels !