Nicknamed “Brew City,” Milwaukee offers an array of watering holes, from German-style beer halls to countless craft breweries to upscale cocktail lounges. Whatever you want to drink, you can find it in Milwaukee. With an overwhelming number of bars and nightlife venues, Wisconsin’s biggest pub scene can intimidate visitors. This list distills down the best places to drink in Milwaukee, a city known for, well, drinking.
SafeHouse Milwaukee $$ — Don’t worry if you show up not knowing the password to this not-so-well-kept secret bar. You can still get in, as long as you don’t mind doing a ridiculous dare while being broadcast on a TV behind the bar inside. SafeHouse is the only spy-themed bar in town, with authentic espionage artifacts and on-brand cocktails like “Mission Impossible” and “The Danger Zone.”
Where: 779 N Front St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Trinity Three Irish Pubs $$ — Three bars in one (as stated right there in the name), Trinity is the perfect destination when you aren’t sure whether you’re in the mood for a DJ, a cover band, or just a pint of Irish beer in a quiet wooden booth. With two live music stages and a maze of seating areas and bars, Trinity is a place where you can bar crawl without having to open up a second tab. If the music gets too loud, you can catch some fresh air on the outdoor patio.
Where: 125 E Juneau Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Water Street Brewery $$ — A Milwaukee institution, the city’s oldest brewpub serves up its innovative selection of house beers that are all brewed on-site in small batches. Request a tour from the brewmaster for a behind-the-scenes look at how grain, hops, yeast, and water come together, or simply order one or a few pints for a taste of what this historic brewery is all about. Don’t miss the collection of historical memora-beer-lia, which features over 50,000 pieces including tap knobs, neon signs, cans, and coasters.
Where: 1101 N Water St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Milwaukee Brewing Company $$ — Grab a beer and hop on Milwaukee Brewing Company’s popular brewery tour or order a choose-your-own-adventure flight of beers at the bar. Either way, visitors are bound to leave a little tipsier than when they arrived. Located in a warehouse-style space, this craft brewery deserves a visit, and not only because the beer tastes good. It also sets the standard for environmentally-friendly beer in the region and uses local and sustainably sourced ingredients.
Where: 1128 N 9th St, Milwaukee, WI 53233
Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery $ — For visitors wanting a history lesson on Milwaukee’s origins as America’s Brew City, Best Place is, as its name suggests, the best place. Pabst was one of America’s biggest breweries, and the once-bustling business felt like a city unto itself during its peak in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Best Place’s historical tour through the brewery that started it all is a memorable way to experience Milwaukee’s heritage. Tours start in Blue Ribbon Hall, where fresco paintings depict the story of the brewing process and include a beer of your choosing.
Where: 917 W Juneau Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233
Punch Bowl Social $$ — When you want to play like a kid but drink like an adult, Punch Bowl Social has you covered. You can do it all here: bowl, sing karaoke in a private booth, throw darts, or play any other bar game you can imagine. Channel your inner child with a milkshake and add a shot of whiskey to give it a grown-up upgrade. In this spacious and lively nightlife spot, the options are truly limitless.
Where: 1122 N Vel R. Phillips Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Old German Beer Hall $$ — Transport yourself to Bavaria at this kitschy Midwest take on Munich’s famous Hofbrauhaus at the Old German Beer Hall. Purists will appreciate that the bar’s Munich-brewed lager abides by the “Reinheitsgebot” or Purity Act of 1516. Don’t miss the annual Oktoberfest tapping that’s held every September.
Where: 1009 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Ale Asylum Riverhouse $$ — Showcasing views of Milwaukee’s iconic riverfront, Ale Asylum Riverhouse serves beer from the Madison, Wisconsin, brewery of the same name as well as hard seltzer and cider. A popular destination for boozy brunch and events, Ale Asylum Riverhouse accepts reservations, making it easy to enjoy some of Wisconsin’s most celebrated beer along the iconic Milwaukee River.
Where: 1110 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Twisted Path Distillery $$ — You can try any or all of Twisted Path Distillery’s organic spirits at its tasting room in the historic Lincoln Warehouse. Select one of the custom cocktails, like the gin and banana Heliophilia, or sample a little bit of everything straight with a flight. When you find one you love, you can buy a bottle to take home.
Where: 2018 S 1st St, Milwaukee, WI 53207
The Lost Whale $$ — Legend has it there is a whale somewhere in Lake Michigan, but if you can’t find him, you can always visit The Lost Whale, a cocktail bar on the Kinnickinnic River. Featured on several “best of” lists, The Lost Whale prioritizes sustainability in its operations and sponsors community initiatives to keep Milwaukee’s waterways clean. The seasonal cocktail menu features innovative and thoughtfully-crafted concoctions like C.R.E.A.M., a coffee-based drink perfect for a liquid breakfast.
Where: 2151 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Enlightened Brewing Company $ — Enlightened Brewing Company creates beers with philosophy-inspired names like Imperative and Kettle Logic. It’s easy to spend an entire day in the spacious and bright taproom, where you can carry in your own food or order delivery. It’s both family- and dog-friendly and is well-equipped with games that will keep everyone happy whether they are drinking or not.
Where: 2020 S Allis St, Milwaukee, WI 53207
1840 Brewing Company $ — An urban farmhouse brewery, 1840 Brewing Company uses rustic brewing techniques that pay homage to Milwaukee’s brewing history (which started, not coincidentally, in 1840). Releasing new beers weekly, 1840 Brewing Company serves beer to-go in bottles or to-stay by the glass in the beautiful farm-meets-factory taproom.
Where: 342 E Ward St, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Walker’s Point and Harbor District
Caroline’s Jazz Club $$ — Milwaukee’s undisputed choice for live regional jazz and American blues, Caroline’s Jazz Club is an intimate venue to relax with good music and a Sidecar cocktail. With its vintage decor and moody atmosphere, you might think Louis Armstrong is about to walk out on stage at any moment. If nothing else, you’ll be transported back in time while enjoying a French 75 or a simple rum and club soda.
Where: 401 S 2nd St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Lost Valley Cider Co. $$ — Lost Valley Cider Co. serves over 20 ciders on tap, including house-made ciders as well as favorites from Europe and across the United States. For those new to cider or curious to taste a variety of options, flights of 4-ounce tap tasters are a great option. Those who prefer liquor can enjoy cider-inspired cocktails. Lost Valley Cider Co. also serves beer and wine, making it a great option regardless of your drink of choice.
Where: 408 W Florida St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Urban Harvest Brewing Company $ — Urban Harvest brews handcrafted ales onsite at the brewery and taproom, where you can sample any of the weekly-brewed core beers as well as an ever-changing seasonal and special release selection. Schedule a visit with one of the informative brewery tours, which includes samples of five beers. Order food delivery or bring your own, and stay awhile to sample the diverse range of 12-16 beers offered on tap on any given day.
Where: 1024 S 5th St, Milwaukee, WI 53204