This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Tom White.
An opportunity arose to get out of Chicago for the night and check out the nearby city of Milwaukee. I know surprisingly little about our neighbour to the north, never doing more than passing through while on the way to Northern Michigan.
For those of you who have never visited Milwaukee or the state of Wisconsin, I imagine you immediately think of one of three things; cheese, Harley Davidson and/or “Triple Hops Brewed” Miller Light. Fortunately, I had the chance to try out a few of the city’s other offerings and came away pretty impressed.
With a half hour to burn, we started the day at Water Street Brewery (www.waterstreetbrewery.com). I sampled their Pale Ale while Stephanie (my fiancée) went for the Bavarian Weiss.
In my opinion, an American brewery that doesn’t brew an IPA or at least a Pale Ale on the hoppier side should be immediately shut down until the issue is rectified. WSB offers one beer in this vain, simply called Pale Ale. The Water Street Pale Ale describes itself as having a “predominant hop character” which “is citric with some sweet caramel malt used to balance its bitterness”. Obviously a “Pale Ale” is an incredibly broad style of beer, but I felt that this particular brew suffered from the same issue that we have experienced with some of our home brews. While they were clearly trying to balance out the bitterness of the hops with the caramel malt, it results in a somewhat muted, disappointing flavor. On the other hand, the Bavarian Weiss seemed much more hearty (for a Weiss) and was exactly what I expected from it. I will definitely be trying this one again during our next visit.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Water Street Brewery was the immense amount of memorabilia found throughout the restaurant. Located in a beautiful turn of the century corner building, your eye is immediately drawn to the displays covering nearly every wall. According to their website, they boast 6,000 cans displayed in 25 cases, 1,400 tap knobs and handles, 2,300 coasters and 825 bottle and can openers to name a few.
The next few hours included a quick trip around the block to Trinity bar before heading off to the Bradley Center to watch Marquette play Cincinnati in a Big East match up. After digging themselves into an early hole, the Golden Eagles blew away the Bearcats in a 95-78 win. A good time had by all but not much to mention here on the beverage front as the typically overpriced stadium prices limited us to a choice of Miller Light and MGD… moving on.
Next stop was the Milwaukee Brewing Company, located in the Third Ward. The place was a great post game venue with a wide open set up and a huge bar with tons of seating. The menu offered a much wider selection of beers brewed in house, with at least a couple beers offered from all the major styles. As with any good brewery, they offered flights which a few of us decided to try out.
MKE’s beers are generally good while, in my opinion, pretty underwhelming. As with Water Street, I never tasted anything there that really blew me away though was never completely disappointed. One major gripe was with the flights themselves. I’ve sampled many a flight of beer in my time and never has it been served like this (warning: rant alert). Every other flight I’ve had has been served from lightest to fullest bodied beer which you can clearly see is not happening here. For those of you who generally stick to one style, drinking a light beer immediately following a very hoppy or malty beer (or vice versa) severally detracts from the experience. Obviously we could have just switched them around but a brewery should know better!
On a side note, if you’re interested in checking out their off site facility, tours are offered at various times on Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately I’m unable to comment on this as we discovered upon arrival that they sell out a couple weeks in advance. I hear only good things about it so if you’re interested in checking it out visit http://mkebrewing.com/tour.
Milwaukee, in my mind now a place a craft brews, loyal sports fans and a place I will definitely be revisiting (I still think of Harley and cheese). We definitely only scratched the surface of what the town has to offer and I can’t wait to get back in warmer weather and get to know the place better.