While craft and microbreweries are popping up all over the country, Milwaukee continues to set itself apart from the masses and hold fast to the title of “Brew City.” The home of the four greats (Pabst, Miller, Schlitz, and Blatz), the city has a rich history in brewing, so it’s no wonder microbreweries are choosing to open their doors in Milwaukee. Everyone wants to be in the city where it all started. To drink like a Milwaukeean, you have to both pay homage to our trailblazers and be on top of the newest brews hitting the market.
Although the brewery was born in 1849, it was in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire that Schlitz got its nickname “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.” The fire wiped out five of Chicago’s breweries, along with its water infrastructure, leaving no water or supplies to brew beer. It was Schlitz to the rescue, sending thousands of barrels of their beer south to wet the whistles of the beer-deprived Chicagoans who were so thankful to Schlitz that they became brand loyalists. Schlitz is still available today, brewing their “classic ‘60s formula” that resonates with past and present generations alike.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Thanks to hipsters and millenials, Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) has made a comeback in a major way. The “award-winning” beer of the Pabst Brewery orginally brewed here in 1844 has expanded to become a lifestyle brand, but is sadly, now brewed in Los Angeles. PBR is served at most every dive bar in Milwaukee, but it truly tastes best from a 24-ounce "Tall Boy" can while watching a concert at Milwaukee's famous Pabst Theatre.
Sure, craft beer is king these days, but without these big guys paving the way in the 1800s, the beer industry wouldn’t be what it is today. Miller High Life was first released in 1903, making it the oldest Miller beer to date. The high carbonation levels in this pilsner-style beer, paired with the clear glass bottles distinctive of the beer’s packaging, earned it the nickname “The Champagne of Beers.” So while your friends are drinking their imperial black double IPAs, you can take solace knowing that your Miller High Life is just as classy as a glass of champagne.
The fourth of the Milwaukee Beer Barons, Valentin Blatz, opened his brewery next door to City Brewery, owned by John Braun. When Braun died, Blatz married his widow and merged the two breweries. By 1884, Blatz Brewery was the third-largest beer producer in Milwaukee. Today, the American-style lager Blatz is brewed and distributed by the Pabst Brewing Co., proving that even the Milwaukee beer barons can play nice.
First brewed in 1985 alongside the opening of the brewery, the Black Bavarian is one of the flagship beers at Sprecher Brewery, Milwaukee’s first modern craft brewery. This Bavarian-style black lager (or Kulmbacher-style schwarzbier) brings smooth, complex malt flavors with hints of coffee, caramel, and chocolate, but isn’t as creamy or sweet as a porter or stout – truly a unique (and award-winning) beer.
The flagship beer of one of Milwaukee's flagship breweries. Lakefront Brewery describes its Riverwest Stein as "an honest day's beer." This amber lager was named after the neighborhood where Lakefront Brewery was founded, and today it flows freely throughout all Milwaukee's neighborhoods.
Weekend @ Louie’s
Louie’s Demise is the beer that started it all for Milwaukee Brewing Company. Owner Jim McCabe brewed this beer for the first time in his basement in Cedarburg, back when the dream of owning his own microbrewery was just that – a dream. Weekend @ Louie’s, however, takes this beer to the next level with a collaboration with local Milwaukee tea makers, Rishi Tea. Adding Rishi’s Organic Blueberry Rooibos and Hibiscus Tea blends turns this amber ale into a unique, light, fruity, herbal summer beer. And what’s cooler than a Milwaukee collaboration?
Third Space Brewing believes that everyone has three spaces that they exist in: the space where they work, the space where they sleep, and the space where they play (and drink!). We think that the third space is our happy place, and this brewery agreed. Happy Place is a Midwest pale ale full of citrus, passion fruit and berry flavors which balance out the hop aromas, making this a full-bodied but very drinkable beer.
IPAs have been the big trend in the brewing industry for the past few years, and everyone seems to think the hoppier, the better! But Black Husky Brewing tries something different with their double IPA, adding in locally harvested spruce tips during the brewing process to give this beer a not-so-subtle pine and juniper taste and scent.
Good City Brewing opened their doors in June of 2016 and won their first national award less than a year later: Brewing News’ National Imperial IPA Championship for their Double IPA “Reward.” One sip of this hoppy, yet deceptively smooth brew and you’ll know why this is the beer that is putting Good City Brewing on the map.