I think nightlife is the hardest thing to find when visiting a new city, it can take a while to get the lay of the land and every night usually offers something different. That is why I am attempting to have nightlife guides for every major city around the world. This week’s Milwaukee Nightlife Guide was written by my my old friend, Chris. He has been living in Milwaukee since college and has some fantastic knowledge about the best watering holes in the city.
Milwaukee has long been known as a beer town and it very much still is. Milwaukee is home to one of the largest beer brewers in the world, Miller Brewing Company (now Miller Coors, but still). Drinking has a unique culture in the entire state as proven by the fact that Wisconsin has almost 3 times as many bars as it does grocery stores (source). There is no shortage of bars in this city and if grabbing a few beers and maybe a few shots interests you, then you can walk into any bar in the city and drink for relatively cheap. Here are some highlights of the city’s very much alive nightlife scene.
Easily the cheapest drinks in the city are at Duke’s / Scooter’s. It has two names but in reality it’s just one bar that is joined by an opening in the wall. This Water Street staple features $1 domestic taps and $1 rail mixed drinks every night until 9pm. Yes that’s every night, even Friday and Saturday nights. It’s the perfect place to go for just about any occasion because it’s never overly crowded, they’ll probably have whatever sports game you want on, and centrally located to one of the most popular bar districts in the city.
Milwaukee is and always will be a beer city. These days though it’s more than just the home of Miller as Milwaukee Brewing Company and Lakefront Brewery have made waves for making great tasting beer, creating fun atmospheres to enjoy their beer in, and allowing you to tour their facility and learn about their processes.
Lakefront Brewery is the oldest and largest of these three. The 1 hour tour is $8 and includes a pint glass, 4 small pours of beer, and a coupon for a free beer at a local bar. The best time to check out the tour is on a Friday night when you can pair it with a fish fry and listen to live polka music (both are Wisconsin staples). Be sure to book in advance as these are very popular and sell out very quickly.
My personal favorite is Milwaukee Brewing Company. Their 1 hour tour costs $10 and includes a pint glass, coupon for free beer at a local bar, and 2 hours’ worth of their beer (your 1 hour tour and 30 minutes before and after). Their facility is much smaller than Lakefront’s, but they maximize their space and incorporate as many green practices as possible into their brewery. Be sure to book in advance as well because these tours are becoming increasingly more popular. Don’t miss out on the root beer!
The few warm months of summer in Milwaukee are highlighted by bars opening up their patios to allow for maximum exposure to the beautiful summers. The best bars for outdoor day drinking are Barnacle Bud’s, Horny Goat, and The Harp. Barnacle Bud’s is like stumbling upon an oceanfront beach bar right in the middle of an industrial park in Milwaukee. Horny Goat is a micro-brewery, sand volleyball facility, and riverfront dock all in one. Their dock is the highlight as it’s extremely modern, spacious, and comfortable. The Harp is located just off Water Street and features a split level patio right on the river. Walking distance from 2 main bar districts, it’s the perfect place to start your summer night.
Being known for dive bars and pubs, finding nightclubs in Milwaukee is a little more difficult, but once you do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The main nightclub district in Milwaukee is on Milwaukee Street (not a typo) as Apartment 720 and Dick’s Pizza and Pleasure are all within a few blocks of each other. I would say that my favorite is Dick’s Pizza and Pleasure because every night is different and so is every floor. The ground floor serves pizza by the slice all night while each floor above it features a different music style and space.
If you need a break from dive bars that feature predominantly beer and shots, look no further than Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge and Hi-Hat Lounge. My favorite is Bryant’s despite the fact that it’s a little hard to find. If you don’t know what cocktail you want, then just give the waiter a style of drink you prefer and their master bartenders will make something for you. They do not have a menu, but they can make whatever kind of drink you request. If you’re feeling lucky and have an open mind, then tell the bartenders to surprise you and they will send something amazing your way. It is considered to be one of the best bars in America and I’ll tell you that the hype is worth it.
The first of two Milwaukee legends is Koz’s Mini Bowl. This dive bar / duck-pin bowling alley is famous for their human pinsetters and $2 mini pitchers. Make sure you reserve your lane ahead of time as they need to make sure they have the staff to manually set the pins.
You simply can’t discuss drinking in Milwaukee and not give the most famous bumper sticker in town it’s due. Wolski’s Tavern is a landmark in Milwaukee and on the Mount Rushmore of bars in this city. Featuring free darts, free popcorn, pool tables, and video games it’s a great place to hang out, but the real reason people come is to stay until bar time. When you leave after they kick you out, you’re handed an “I Closed Wolski’s” bumper sticker, the most prized reward for staying out late that you’ll find.
There are plenty of other great bars, clubs, and breweries in Milwaukee, but use this as a guide to get you started. Happy Drinking!
Does your city have a fun and unique nightlife? Please Contact Me if you are interested in writing a guest post