My Birthday Beer in Milwaukee

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I want to start this one out by mentioning it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. I started a new job, went through moving, and have had a lot on my plate during the last few weeks. I’ve always told myself that no matter how hard I work, I should keep my hobbies, even if it’s just a few hours a week. I’ve done a pretty terrible job of keeping a good balance this month. I visited Milwaukee Brewing Company on June 1st – and I’m never waiting this long to write about good beer again.

Milwaukee Brewing Company was great. You shouldn’t need to worry about making reservations because they only allow half of their tour to be reserved, and allow the other half to be walk ins so that they can promote a culture where if someone decides they want access to good beer . It’s one thing have a good beer – but it’s another to have a company that values making sure as many people as possible can have access to it.

Milwaukee Brewing Company is a great spot to visit in the summer. It has an open garage style front you can walk right in – and there’s ice cream right down the street for after your tour. You’ll walk in, check in or sign up, and continue to the bar, where you get one full glass of beer, and then a series of “half pours” after the first one – and they really more like ¾ pours. You can start drinking a half hour before your tour – and stick around for a half hour after to sample whatever beer you want to drink.

I started out with Hop Happy IPA. It was a light weight, and straight up traditional tasting minty hoppy beer. If you like IPA, you’ll like it. If you don’t know what a well-made, standard IPA is, try this; it’s how it’s supposed to taste. It’s a winner. I tasted this beer in a bar full of what was clearly a group of great summer- loving folks who clearly came on bicycles and didn’t take the time to take their bike helmets off during the tour. The first few minutes at MKE Brewing were all around entertaining.

I had the chance to fill up before my tour group got called over to start the tour – it was Pull Chain. It’s ridiculously hoppy and mildly coarse, but light enough to have more than one, great for hop lovers looking for a smooth drink. If you get it in house, you’ll get fresh ground cascade hops on top.

When you start your tour – you’re going to get to watch a nice video about the history of Milwaukee Brewing Company and Milwaukee Ale House. If you go in the middle of the day – your tour guide will probably have had a beer or two; ours was drinking Jasmine IPA from his coffee mug – and that’s what I tried next.  The Jasmine IPA has a light aroma scent with a strong creative hop mixture as the flavor. It’s medium weight – and tolerable in the heat until you realize it’s at 6.6 ABV. This one is absolutely stronger than it tastes.

After filling up – we got back to learning about beer, and some fun facts about Milwaukee Brewing Company. We learned about how much solar power they use to power their company – and how they’re one of the most environmentally friendly breweries in the region. You’ll also hear some fun facts about the history of beer, including some anecdotes about trade routes to India from Europe and the fermentation process for international history buffs.

If you’re like me, this is the point in the tour when you’re participating, asking questions, and making sure everyone knows that you’re the expert in the crowd. Naturally, I thought that meant it was time for me to use my ticket for an extra strong beer – and I tried the O-Gii. If you like farmhouse ale, you’ll like this sweeter, stronger, more well aged version of it that gives it a unique twist of American and Belgian style flavor. This beer is deceptively light for an over 9.0 ABV – so don’t drink it too fast.

The last beer I tried on my way out was Louie’s Demise. It’s great amber ale that adds a non- traditional hint of sweetness – making for a more drinkable, flavorful beer. This one really has a balance that’s missed too often by brew masters looking to make good amber.

On your way out, you should be sure to take a look at all of the art work and posters for the different kinds of beer they make, and ask about the ones you think are interesting. There are some awesome stories behind the names of beer at this place.

Overall this place is a must attend if you’re in Milwaukee. The staff is friendly (they all wore Christmas ties with their shirts that day), the beer selection strikes a great balance between classic and creative, and the crowd will always be a ton of fun.

Check Out More Information on Milwaukee Brewing Company (& some other great spots I visited) here:

MKE Brewing: mkebrewing.com, @MKEbrewco

Bel Air Cantina (this is where I had dinner the night before my tour – great choice, great tacos): http://belaircantina.com/, @BelAirCantina

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Beer on Division Street

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Those of you who have been reading know that some of my best beer tasting days come unexpected. I was flying back into Chicago after a job interview, and ready to drive back home to Green Bay later in the afternoon (after a terrible, overnight delayed flight I might add) when my boyfriend invited me to join his brother’s birthday party. As part of Chicago’s Beer week, they were going to jump around a couple bars featuring IPA’s, and that’s my kind of party. The night turned out well in part because of the kind of beer I was drinking. I noticed while I was writing this that all of the beer I had was relatively strong, flavorful, and light enough to have a lot. Cheers to that.

Our first stop was Small Bar, where I started with the Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. There’s always one beer during a beer week, whether you visit for the whole week or just a day, that you finish thinking “this is great for beer week;” this was that beer. This beer is nice and light, not too strong, but has a great bitter flavor with a nice sweet malt aftertaste. I say it’s great for beer week, because one or two won’t get you plastered, you can take the time to taste it, and be ready for more. It was a great start to the night.

Most folks who like a good beer have had a Stone IPA, but it was a treat to try it on cask. In true Stone tradition, this IPA is flavorful & bold. It’s much smoother on cask – and if you’re a fan of coarse IPA’s you should be prepared. The flavor is great. It has a nice citrusy smell, light citrus bite when you start sipping it, and a nice minty hop flavor. It’s a great example of a classic, well-made IPA.

I just have to add that a grabbed a side of macaroni and cheese at small bar. It’s really good. It is full of not too sharp creamy white cheddar, is topped with bread crumbs, and is the perfect size for a snack if you’re having trouble holding out until dinner.

Our next stop was Jerry’s, both for dinner & drinks. My next beer was Three Floyd’s Artic Panzer Wolf – I had this once or twice before this visit, but never really took time to write down how it tasted. Honestly it’s fairly standard – but went really well with dinner. This beer is medium weight – and super flavorful. If you’re a hop head who likes some creative malt flavor on the side, this is a good one for you. It also balanced out my dinner really well.

This is another one of those paragraphs in the blog that talks about food. I just have to mention Jerry’s – because you shouldn’t ever go to Chicago without going to Jerry’s and getting a kick ass sandwich. They have a menu of dozen’s creatively crafted and named sandwiches. If for some reason there isn’t something for you – you can even build your own. My personal favorite is the “PB&J&C,” the “C” stands for chutney. Think about your classic PB&J with light cheese, a touch of super flavorful chutney, and some fresh fruit. It’s really a perfect twist on classic.

I should say, I rarely use the phrase “perfect twist on a classic;” if I want a classic, I’ll just have that. Jerry’s has something for everyone – and always a perfect sandwich to go with your beer. I left this experience both refreshed, a little drunk, and ready for our next stop.

Last, we stopped at Bangers & Lace, where I forgot in the presence of an intriguing menu that we were even out for IPA. First I tried the Stone Imperial Russian Stout – I liked this one, but I just had a couple drinks; at this point in the night, I had no business having any more. It was sweet & smooth, but still really strong. It has a balanced flavor involving dark fruit, chocolate, and coffee flavors. The beer is medium weight, so you can drink it pretty quickly if you like the taste, but you’ll probably feel it if you don’t take your time for at least a little while.

The beer I decided to order a full glass of was Stone Mixtape. This had a nice caramel malty taste offset by a few bitter notes that give it a seriously well rounded flavor with a spicy edge that also includes a hint of sharp citrus and bitterness. It’s no surprise that if you look into it a little more, you’ll find out that this beer is a limited release blend of some amazing past Stone creations. It was another light weight, strong beer with a nice kick. Your stomach could handle eating with it – but honestly; it would just spoil the taste.

I wouldn’t recommend either of the Stone beers here for those of you who are new to the beer world; they’re really something to ease into. In a nutshell, you’ll like both of these if you like sweet, creamy, and strong. If you’re looking for something standard to compare to, I think that those of you who like Belgian Abbey style ale should give these a try.

Overall, it was a great night. More information on these places, which were all great, is below. If someone ever invites you out for a good night of quality beer drinking with good people, I recommend going. Socializing with intelligent people is fun, and good for your health. While Wisconsinites tend to have a foul opinion of folks from Chicago – I will say Chicagoans are really starting to appreciate, serve, and make good craft beer. It’s always a good day when we can highlight something we have in common.

More Information on the Places:

Jerry’s: @WithHotSause, http://jerryssandwiches.com/*

Bangers & Lace: @bangersandlace, http://bangersandlacechicago.com/

Small Bar: @SmallBarDst, http://www.thesmallbar.com/

*I want to start lobbying for Jerry’s to have a side of grilled vegetables. Then I could have an absolutely perfect meal there. They either have veggies with interesting dressing, or pickled veggies. Grilled vegetables are pretty serious to me.