• Milwaukee Brewing Company

You can totally learn a few things on this tour if you pay attention, but even your beer-hating mother-in-law will still have fun. Guides are casual, snarky, and generally bearded. You’ll get to smell (and sometimes taste) the different stages of brewing while you cozy up to the brew tanks. The tasting bar is right in the middle of the production room, so you never have to go without a sample for long. You’ll also get a free beer token that you can use at lots of local bars and keep the party going. Tour info: $10 gets you a two-hour tour, unlimited samples, a coveted branded pint glass, and a free beer token for later. Fridays 4pm-6:30pm every half hour, Saturdays 1pm-4pm every half hour with open house 5pm-7pm.

  • Miller Brewery

Everyone in MKE has to do the Miller tour at least once in their life. It’s free, so there’s really no excuse. You’ll catch a video on the beer titan's evolution and be guided through the running bottling and packaging lines, which is more mesmerizing than you’d expect. The tour winds down in the beer caves where the earliest brews were put on ice (clearly where beer masons hold their secret meetings), before heading to the beer garden for free samples. Tour info: One-hour tour every half hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm daily. Free of charge. Three samples included.

  • Lakefront Brewery

The tour by which all other tours are measured. Guides are informative and genuinely funny -- though anyone talking about bungholes probably would be, especially after a few beers. The space itself isn’t very large, and there’s an immense demand for this tour, so prepare to make friends. If you’re nostalgic and a Brewers fan, Bernie’s chalet from County Stadium may be just as exciting as your free beer. Buy your tickets in advance or just wait your turn in the beer hall with some cheese curds. For the serious homebrewer, in-depth tours are available on Sundays at 11am for $30. Tour info: $8 gets you a 45-minute tour, pint glass, and four samples. Monday-Thursday 1pm-7pm on the hour, Friday and Saturday noon-8pm every half hour, Sunday noon-4pm on the hour.

  • Great Lakes Distillery

Though it’s technically just a tour of one big room, this one packs a punch. You get six samples of GLD’s various boozes at the end, from honey and citrus vodka to absinthe. A few shots worth of alcohol in about 20 minutes makes for a fantastic start to the night. Don’t forget to order a drink at the tasting room bar upstairs and bring it on the tour with you. Luckily, there are bowls of free pretzels on the tour, and popcorn at the bar. Tours on Saturday usually sell out so book ahead of time. Tour info: $7 for a one-hour tour with six samples. Sunday-Thursday 1pm, 3pm and 5pm; Friday 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, and 6pm; Saturday 1pm-5pm on the hour.

  • Sprecher

Soda lovers, take note: you’ll love this tour. A pretty standard brewery tour of fermenting tanks, aging cellars, and bottling lines ends at an indoor beer tent where you’ll be able to use the four free beer sample stubs on your wristband. You’ll also be able to taste any of Sprecher’s gourmet sodas in unlimited quantities, though I would recommend against bringing a to-go cup and buying it in the gift shop instead. There’s 20 different beers to choose from, along with 10 sodas. Unlike most brewery tours, reservations here are required. Tour info: $5 gets you a 30-minute tour and a sample glass, four beer samples, and unlimited soda. Weekdays at 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays noon-3pm on the hour.

  • Central Standard Craft Distillery

The tour here takes place at one end of the tasting room where the distillers are housed. It’s not much of a tour, since you essentially never leave the tasting room, but who cares when that just means you’ll be spending more time in a bar? You’ll get to sample all of their spirits, and learn about them all in the process. Bonus: it shares a building with Milwaukee Brewing, so you can go tour hopping if you’re one of those people who can handle mixing beer and liquor without a hangover the next day. Tour info: $10 for a 45-minute tour, samples, and a branded rocks glass. Fridays at 5pm and 6pm, Saturdays 3pm-6pm on the hour.

  • Brenner Brewing

One of the newest craft breweries in the state, Brenner’s brews are picking up steam. The facility is large and still sparkly clean, including the tasting room and bar. Likely Mike will be your tour guide, and he owns the brewery, so you’re getting the schpiel straight from the horse’s mouth. He’s also a big supporter of the art community here and uses local artists’ work for the beer labels. And how can you not love their logo with the little heart marking MKE? Awww. Tour info: $10 for 30-minute tour, four samples, and a souvenir bottle opener keychain. Mondays at 5pm; Thursdays 5pm and 7 pm; Fridays 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm; Saturdays noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm; Sundays noon, 2pm, and 4pm.

  • Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery

This tour’s a little different. The brewery is no longer brewing, so while technically you’re touring what was once a brewery, it’s really more of a beer history tour. You do get to drink a free Pabst or Schlitz during the tour, and that’s enough to make up for the lack of actual brewing. The buildings and spaces are beautiful -- there’s a ton of weddings held here -- so if you’re into MKE history and architecture this is your tour. Photo ops with statues of Captain Pabst and King Gambrinus, the patron saint of beer, are way better than any bronze Fonz selfie. Tour info: $8 for a one-hour tour with one free beer. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 1pm and 3pm; Fridays and Saturdays 11am, noon, and 1pm.

  • Koppa’s Fulbeli Deli (address and info)

Gather around, you curdless sprites, and we shall tell you of the Hodag, a mythical Wisconsin beast with the head of a frog, the tail of a stegosaurus, and the body of a bull. Also, between the Milwaukee's Best and long winters, Wisconsinites have a lot of time to hallucinate weird monsters. Anyway, Hodag is also the name of the breakfast sandwiches at this deli/grocery/beer store, and it, too, is the stuff of legend. Because you build your own Hodag based on the menu card, it can be anything. Want it on a croissant with bacon and egg? Yours. English muffin with ham? Absolutely. A hoagie with sausage? Actually, do that, because it's the best. Stegosaurus meat? Maybe if you roll in on the right night during January. Because legend has it...

  • The Vanguard

In a city that takes its sausages as seriously as Milwaukee, it takes a lot to get on a list of the 50 essential eats in the city. And while the Vanguard does great things with brats, its hot dogs steal the show by representing cities of tubed-meat lore, including a Pittsburgh dog dressed up like a Primanti sandwich and a cream cheese-covered Seattle dog. But you're in Milwaukee, so opt for the city's namesake dog, which comes with cheese curds, cheddar cheese, and Cheez Whiz for good measure.

  • Bay View

Nope, it’s not just a clever name. The Bay View neighborhood bumps right up to Lake Michigan. Not that it really matters when you’re plopped down at a bar. Which you very certainly will be, because in a city that takes its drinking extremely seriously, you have to be doing something spectacular to get the designation as the city’s best drinking 'hood. Having two of the nation's absolute best beer bars, helps, of course, which Bay View does in the form of Sugar Maple and the firkin-sporting Burnhearts. You can score whiskey with a chaser of hipster sensibilities at The Palm Tavern, beer with no snobbery at Romans', and cutting-edge cocktails like barrel-aged Negronis at Boone & Crockett. Meanwhile, the area is also home to two of the city’s best outdoor-drinking spots, which are key during the summer: Barnacle Bud’s -- a semi-hidden, Key West-esque shack -- and The Backyard, which doubles as a saunter-in movie theater/BYO meat BBQ when the weather’s right. And if you’re looking to make some bad decisions, you can skip jumping in the lake and head to Baby Boomers, where a sign with a cigar-smoking baby, cold beers, and fried fish round out the night in hazy style.

  • Amilinda

Milwaukee had a surge in international flavors this year, and, at the helm, is Amilinda, a former pop-up restaurant that finally found a permanent home. Chef Gregory Leon and his husband who works front of house have infused Wisconsin Ave with just the right amount of Catalan ambiance: a Gaudi mural takes over one wall, bright accents from the chairs to the walls pop, even from the street, somehow incongruously working with the 1891 building, and that food transferred oh so well into a full-time space. Just as natural a fit is Leon’s Spanish and Portuguese menu, a small lineup with stars like the Spicy Chickan Naufragado, a grilled Portuguese chicken served over mashed parsnips, that all manage to be even more comforting than Wisconsin staples. And if you know how I feel about cheese curds, then that means quite a bit. -- LC

  • Burnhearts

At the very best beer bars, the beer itself is simultaneously fantastic and somehow not the best thing about the bar. This is very much the case at Burnhearts, where you'll find a thoughtful, just-right-sized tap list heavy on Wisconsin and Michigan’s finest, plus a deep selection of rare bottles (ask about Carl's Secret Stash). But somehow even more importantly, Burnhearts is impossibly welcoming, devoid of pretension, and the kind of bar where you can feel like you've been a lifelong regular in one afternoon (which will likely end up bleeding into the evening), whether you're playing game after game of shuffleboard in back or chatting up the friendly staff up front. Come February, the (outdoor!) charity-minded Mitten Fest brings in people from all over to enjoy some rare beer, live music, and the fact that Wisconsinites refuse to let winter spoil a good time.

  • Brewhouse Inn & Suites

Giant copper brew kettles protruding through the atrium remind guests that the Brewhouse Inn & Suites in Milwaukee is no ordinary hotel. The posh and boutique digs were once a working Pabst Brewery from 1882 to 1996. While now dormant, those giant kettles helped Pabst brew the beer deserving of the infamous blue ribbon. Today, they make for great Instagramable moments. The steampunk theme extends to the accommodations where industrial elements are countered with sleek and modern finishes, including full kitchens. While the rooms don’t come stocked with PBR, the onsite Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub will help you get your fill.

  • Jo-Cat's Pub

Are you in Milwaukee? Do you enjoy drinking? Look behind you, because there is a 100% chance you're standing in front of a tavern right now. But what if you're looking for the kind of bar that feels like an overwhelmed house party, complete with a questionable amount of personal space? What if you're looking for the kind of place where a large man pushes past you, and you're like, "Does he play for the Packers? Should I say something?" (He does, and no, you shouldn't). You'll navigate your way upstairs. It's still crowded. But you have a beer now. You have another. The bar feels less crowded. The music seems to keep getting better. You lose track of time. By the time you come to the next morning, you're just grateful you live in a state that happens to be legendary when it comes to Bloody Marys.

  • Five O'Clock Steakhouse

Wisconsin is considered to be the birthplace of "supper club" dining, and Five O'Clock Steakhouse, Milwaukee's longest-running steakhouse, pays homage to those traditions with the style of service it's offered since 1946: Servers take orders while diners are having a drink at the bar (don't miss the signature Brandy Old Fashioned, considered the state's unofficial drink), and when diners sit down, the table is set with a family-style salad; a relish tray with olives, onions, pickles, carrots and peppers; salad dressings; and warm sourdough bread and a honey bear. All steaks, including the signature 16-ounce center-cut filet mignon and the 21-ounce bone-in rib eye, are basted with a signature, top-secret char sauce and finished au jus. The old-school North Woods supper club vibes are echoed in the decor — the restaurant sits in a historic early 1900s building with a hand-cut limestone facade, there's dark wood paneling throughout, and the Christmas lights and decorations are a year-round fixture. Rumor has it that throughout the '50s and '60s the restaurant's Alley Cat Lounge was an underground gambling parlor where people would sneak in through the rear alley entrance; these days, though, you're more likely to catch a live show here than a gangster.

nov 24 2015 ∞
feb 4 2019 +