Jeremy Freeze, Gourmet Everyday Photographer & Contributor
When Milwaukee was announced as the location for the Beer Bloggers Conference 2017 at the close of the 2016 conference, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Tampa had been our first Beer Bloggers Conference experience, and being from the area, we already knew the beer scene there. Truthfully, what we kept asking ourselves was “are they going to be serving us PBR?” and “Miller Lite?” I’ll admit freely that this is one of those times when I was COMPLETELY wrong, so I’ll recap our weekend and shed some light on the Milwaukee beer scene.
Day 1: Pabst & MillerCoors
The conference sessions were held at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, which was the sight of the original Pabst Brewery, that closed in December 1996. Sadly, the brewery remained empty until Jim Haertel purchased the property in 2001. Since Jim’s purchase, the facility has been restored to its original beauty, and you can even sit at Captain Frederick Pabst’s roll top desk and look out onto Milwaukee as he used to do. The venue is incredibly unique with a distinctly German feel and bars in every conference room. I would certainly book an event there.
For our first lunch excursion we took a short walk up the street, passing under the iconic Pabst sign, to the Pabst Milwaukee Brewery. Walking in it was clear that I was going to be impressed. The remodel of the old church into a brew pub was beautiful with its high ceilings, white walls contrasting with bright copper brewing tanks, and the original choir loft balcony. However, it was the huge Pabst light hanging from the ceiling that seemed to attract the most attention and photography. Oh, and did I mention the beer? Yeah…they didn’t serve PBR! Instead, the bartenders poured sample glasses of nearly every style in the Pabst family of brewers. From Summer Solstice Wit and Flanders Red to Midnight Sun Doppel Bock and Von Damme Good Tripel, the line up of “Pabst” beer was impressive.
Dinner that night was planned at MillerCoors, and once again, I was unsure–still expecting them to only be pouring Miller Lite. As we were pulling up in the buses we were told we’d get to see the “old cave,” which certainly piqued my interest. As it turns out, the caves were where Frederick Miller originally stored his brews before refrigeration. Honestly, the cave was one of the most impressive sites we’ve ever experienced in the states. It felt like a scene straight from Phantom of the Opera, like we were in the catacombs of Paris. Like our lunch experience, MillerCoors served a variety of beer from their family of brewers, which did not include Miller Lite. From bottles of Crispin Hard Cider and Peroni to draft pours of Leinenkugel and Hofbräu München Anniversary Lager, we enjoyed the vastness of the MillerCoors family.
Day 2: Milwaukee Brewing & a Progressive Dinner
After a morning of breakout sessions and more blogging knowledge than I ever imagined possible, lunch was a walk to the future (still under construction) site of Milwaukee Brewing. We were treated to a tailgating lunch of the best brats I’ve ever had, buckets of Milwaukee Brewing beer in full pint cans, and a tour of the construction site and rooftop. I’ll say that, of the weekend in Milwaukee, the Hop Freak Double IPA had to be my favorite. Infused with organic Jasmine Tea, it comes in at 8.7% ABV. and is one of the tastiest, earthy-citrusy brews I’ve had.
After an afternoon of live beer blogging, which involved sampling beer and talking with a brewery owner or rep in 5 minute intervals, our dinner trip started at Lakefront Brewing for beer and fried cheese curds. Of all the breweries we visited, Lakefront’s location was my favorite. Walking outside and being right on the river under a bridge was very cool. Of course, being a bike person, I had to go with the Fixed Gear Red Ale to drink,and a fixed gear t-shirt to wear home.
From Lakefront it was onto Good City Brewing for more beer and bites. By this point in the day, the sheer quantity of beer was starting to catch up with me. However, Good City has a very tasty Reward Double IPA. Although we were starting to wind down for the day, I took the opportunity to put the drone up in the air and snap some aerial photos of the brewery.
The last stop for us that evening was Brenner Brewing. Once again, Brenner is another unique venue with different styles of beer to sample in different areas. We especially liked the second floor patio and sitting area sampling of some of their barrel aged beers.
All in all, Milwaukee is NOT what we expected. It’s not just cheese-heads and Laverne & Shirley monuments (though there really should be one!). It’s not just a city of old breweries and the cheap beer that your dad drank. No, Milwaukee is a city full of history, full of culture, full of new and old breweries, and most importantly, full of beer, which we would gladly tour again.