Food & Drink

The Best Beer Bars in Milwaukee

Published On 09/22/2015 Published On 09/22/2015
Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

Milwaukee knows a thing or two about beer. After all, we did gift America with beer barons like Schlitz, Miller, and Pabst. Despite the fact that the city largely owes its heritage to the American adjunct lager, Brew City has kept up with the times, and has plenty of craft beer bars worth visiting. From barrel-aged rarities to Midwestern mainstays, the selections at these serious beer bars are worth tapping into.
 

Burnhearts

Bay View
A cozy corner bar that unassumingly pours some of the best beer in Milwaukee from two dozen taps and two firkins, and boasts a list of bottles and cans that’s too big to count, Burnhearts is a great place to find an ample selection of beers from Central Waters, a standout brewery in Amherst. It’s also a frequent host of tap takeovers and block parties.

Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

Romans' Pub

Bay View
You have to be worthy to be served at Romans’ Pub, and you need to pass the test of owner Mike Romans. Mike knows his stuff, and enjoys sharing his opinions on the state of the craft beer craze. Don’t show up expecting anything from Miller, because you won’t find it. Do expect to find something you really like in his tap list of more than 30 beers.
 

Stubby's Gastrogrub & Beer Bar

East Side
There are a whopping 53 taps behind the bar at Stubby’s, and don’t expect to find poor choices on the beer list. If more than 50 choices isn’t enough, Stubby’s has a few limited bottles in its “cellar,” and frequently has events featuring rare brews. The fact that it’s a short walk from Lakefront Brewery doesn’t hurt the status of Stubby’s, either.

Bernie’s Tap Room & Restaurant

Bernie's Tap Room & Restaurant

Waukesha
Despite having a cool "Main St in America" vibe, Downtown Waukesha is highly underrated. Bernie’s resides smack in the middle of it all (actually on Main St), and makes sure that Waukesha has quality beer to drink. Two dozen taps and the frequent appearance of rarities provide tasty reasons to rediscover the western ‘burbs.
 

Landmark 1850 Inn

South Side
The term rustic doesn’t do justice when describing the Landmark 1850 (the ancient building was once a stagecoach stop). But there’s something appealing about drinking good beer underneath a tin ceiling and surrounded by classic woodwork. Unless you’re spending too much time at the airport, the bar/roadhouse is off the beaten path. But if you make the trip, nearly 30 tasty brews reward you for the effort.

Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist

Cafe Benelux

Third Ward
Belgians, Belgians everywhere. The massive “Bier Book” (aka: menu) at Cafe Benelux is bursting with Belgian brews, some of which are made exclusively for the bar. Treats from Lowlands Brewing Company, like Confession Grand Cru and Tandem Dubbel, are created by Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Ertvelde, Belgium, and then served at Cafe Benelux. That’s dedication.
 

Champps Americana

Brookfield
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Champps is just a big, bustling sports bar. It’s a big, bustling sports bar with a lot of damn good beers. The spot just recently earned its way into the mix of respectable craft beer bars by adding tap lines (47 total) and frequently scoring rare barrels like Founders CBS, 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

Courtesy of Camino

Camino

Walker’s Point
The 20 taps at this cozy spot never disappoint: you won’t find 19 identical-tasting IPAs and a Miller Lite handle here. Instead, the selection is a varied mix of beer styles and brewers, with a nod to local and regional brews. The food is no slouch, either; the fried cheese curds, fresh from nearby Clock Shadow Creamery, are a must, and the sandwich list includes the surprisingly tasty Brussels sprout grinder.
 

The Brass Tap

Greenfield
Some spots with massive tap banks get complacent with the quality of the liquid pouring from them. But The Brass Tap manages to keep most of its 80 taps interesting, with quality breweries and a wide range of beer styles. If the taps aren’t good enough, well, you sound really picky -- and also in luck: the bottle list is even bigger.

Palm Tavern

The Palm Tavern

Bay View
Imports are noticeably prevalent on Palm Tavern’s menu of well over 150 beers. It’s the perfect place to sample a few bottles of Chimay, or try a barrel-aged rarity from Scotland’s Harviestoun Brewery. The bar is small, dark, and extremely inviting for those looking to get away from the outside world. A barstool at Palm Tavern is the perfect place to take a drinking tour around the world. Sneak into the cozy space for a few hours. 
 

World of Beer

Wauwatosa
Sure, World of Beer is a chain. But it’s a chain that has hundreds of beer choices -- and not hundreds of "options" that are really just various Shock Top or Blue Moon varieties, which shouldn't really count. The list is curated with thought, and includes a good number of Wisconsin brews and a solid selection of imports. Drink up in an inviting atmosphere that helps you forget you’re on the busiest corner in the western ‘burbs.

Courtesy of Crafty Cow

Crafty Cow

Oconomowoc
It’s a crazy and unpredictable world, but burgers & craft beer is a combination you can count on. Crafty Cow offers a huge list of "juicy Lucy"-style burgers stuffed with cheese. Washing them down is even better: the 20 taps frequently have a few rarities, and it’s one of the few places in town where Toppling Goliath brews appear on the menu.
 

Sugar Maple

Bay View
The northernmost point on the Bay View beer corridor makes for either a perfect starting or ending point for a neighborhood craft beer pub crawl. Patriotic beer connoisseurs can take heart knowing there are more than 60 American craft brews on tap, including plenty of locals.

Flickr/k.steudel

Benno's

West Allis
Benno’s joined the craft beer movement long before it was cool. The friendly neighborhood tavern had 30 taps in 1990, at a time when no bars were running 30 lines nor had any idea what to put in them. Benno’s serves tasty bar food and a solid Friday fish fry, and lets bar-goers wash it all down with New Glarus, Sprecher, Lakefront, and what frequently seems to be the best selection of 3 Floyds in Milwaukee.
 

Von Trier

East Side
Being a great beer bar doesn’t just mean that you have the latest fashionable domestic craft brew on tap. Von Trier is a classic on a busy corner of the East Side that built itself on a great list of German beers, which makes plenty of sense in Milwaukee. The gorgeous Old World interior -- complete with chandeliers made of antlers, and stained glass windows -- gets better-looking with age and after a few Franziskaners. Von Trier also has a fair number of craft beers on its menu, but try and stick with the imports when you’re there.

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Patrick Follett writes about the beers and bars in Milwaukee for Thrillist. He enjoys spending plenty of time with both.

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1. Burnhearts 2599 S Logan Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

Here you’ll find a thoughtful, just-right-sized tap list deep 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, their (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.

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2. Romans' Pub 3475 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207 (Bay View)

Mike Romans started serving microbrews well before today's thickly bearded beer snobs were even born. His bar -- a former roadhouse built in 1885 -- has become a can’t-miss destination for beer-lovers due to an excellent selection of more than 30 taps and Romans’ ability to talk shop. The affable and opinionated owner likes to discuss his brews. He does not, however, like large drunken groups of miscreants, so, behave like a human being while imbibing a rare beer, or you’ll likely be shown the door.

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3. Stubby's Gastrogrub & Beer Bar 2060 N Humboldt Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53212

Great for a Tuesday night trivia game, and even better for a chill brunch in their outdoor space. Try their nachos with pulled pork and choose from their wide selection of beers. They always have a fun atmosphere and great portions.

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4. Bernie's Tap Room and Restaurant 351 W Main St, Waukesha, WI 53186

Great atmosphere and an even better selection of beer. They feature the largest selection of craft beer on tap than any other bar in the area. They also have plenty of appetizers and specialty pizzas to choose from. Make sure to come in on Friday when they play live music.

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5. Landmark 1850 Inn 5905 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

The bar’s been in the old building as long as the copper/iron ceiling, owner Joe and his son, Jeff, are frequently on hand to tell you the history of Wisconsin’s first bar, and European mainstays and American craft beers dominate the taps here and pay homage to Milwaukee’s early German, Polish, and Irish heritage.

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6. Cafe Benelux 346 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Cafe Benelux is big on beer and Belgians. It's got 30 drafts, a few of which are brewed exclusively for the bar at Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Belgium, and nearly 200 bottles available at the rooftop deck-equipped spot on the Northern edge of the Third Ward. Food options are plentiful, but don’t underestimate the frites cone with curry ketchup and Sriracha mayo for dipping.

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7. Champps Americana 1240 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield, WI 53005

This is a sports bar that trumps all of the rest, mostly because of their fantastic beer selection.

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8. Camino 434 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204 (Walkers Point)

Situated on Second Street is unassuming craft beer bar and eatery Camino. It's is a tiny bar; with only 10 two- or four-top pub tables dotting the front window and 12 stools at the bar, it’s warm and toasty on those cold Milwaukee winter nights. Here, you’ll order from a selection of American bar fare, with starters like “Garbage Fries,” with fried pork jalapenos, garlic, Parmesan, parsley, and rosemary oil, burgers, house-made sausages, like the “Garlic Polish,” with sauerkraut, horseradish cream, and tomato, and, to top it all off, a selection of wings. Wash it all down with one of 20 beers on tap, 16 varieties of bottled brews, and eight types of canned beers, and take a growler to go.

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9. The Brass Tap 7808 W Layton Ave, Greenfield, WI 53220 (Greenfield)

Some spots with massive tap banks get complacent with the quality of the liquid pouring from them. But The Brass Tap manages to keep most of its 80 taps interesting, with quality breweries and a wide range of beer styles. If the taps aren’t good enough, well, you sound really picky -- and also in luck: the bottle list is even bigger.

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10. The Palm Tavern 2989 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

This tiny Bay View bar happens to house the best Belgian beer offerings in a city most famous for decidedly not-Belgian beer. With 25 taps and a binder full of bottled brews, whiskeys, and other craft liqueurs, Palm Tavern inundates drinkers with options; but fear not, overwhelmed patrons, because Palm Tavern bartenders are always enthusiastic about making recommendations. The red crown molding above the bar is reminiscent of stage curtains, which sets the mood for an alcohol-driven main event of an evening.

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11. World of Beer 418 N Mayfair Rd, Wauwatosa, WI 53226 (Wauwatosa)

This is your local craft beer tavern complete with cozy atmosphere and great decor. Be sure to check out their BEERunch on the weekends. Try out their craft pairings like their chimay burger and margherita pizza.

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12. Crafty Cow 153 E Wisconsin Ave, Oconomowoc, WI 53066

It’s a crazy and unpredictable world, but burgers & craft beer is a combination you can count on. Crafty Cow offers a huge list of "juicy Lucy"-style burgers stuffed with cheese. Washing them down is even better: the 20 taps frequently have a few rarities, and it’s one of the few places in town where Toppling Goliath brews appear on the menu.

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13. Sugar Maple 441 E Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207

Bay View’s Sugar Maple is a local favorite bar that offers over 60 craft brews on tap, featuring many hailing from small Wisconsin breweries past Milwaukee’s city limits. The long, spacious hall sticks to an amber palette in both the modern artwork that adorns the walls and the rich hues of the curved bar and high-top tables. Though there’s no in-house food, the surrounding neighborhood touts multiple restaurant options. Head outside to the back patio on a warm day.

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14. Benno's 7413 W Greenfield Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53214 (West Allis)

‘Stallis’s Benno’s doles out quality American pub fare on a menu that includes starters, soups and salads, customizable sandwiches, and house favorites, like brisket poutine or catfish po’ boy. Benno’s real gem, though, is its signature burger, which highlights house-seasoned and hand-formed meat. This patty is totally customizable; stack it on a Kaiser bun, hoagie, Panini, or marble rye, all from Papa’s Bakery, and add toppings ranging from smoked triple pepper bacon to a fried egg. Smother it with a couple of Benno’s sauces, like horseradish aioli or Cajun mayo, and wash it down with any of the 40 beers on tap.

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15. Von Trier 2235 N. Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202

This is the closest you can get to living in Germany, without actually leaving Wisconsin.

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