Sand Creek Brewing Company

Sand Creek Brewing is the third largest microbrewery in Wisconsin, located in a space that has been a brewery since 1856. Previously, the building was home to the Oderbolz Brewing Company, the Badger Brewing Company, and the Pioneer Brewing Company. Sand Creek itself started up in Downing, Wisconsin in 1999; in 2004, Sand Creek and Pioneer merged into one in Black River Falls.

Sand Creek Brewing with their new sign

Sand Creek Brewing, located in a building that has served as a brewery since 1856. Inside, tons and tons of delicious beer.

Since 2000, brews from Pioneer – and now Sand Creek – have won three gold awards at the World Beer Cup. They brew their own brands and also contract brew brands for others at times. Popular Sand Creek beers include Badger Porter, Woody’s Easy Ale, Oscar’s Stout, Bugler Brown Ale, English Style Special Ale, Wild Ride IPA, their Cranberry Special Ale (a salute to their proximity to the heart of Wisconsin’s cranberry-growing region), and a series of hard lemonades. They also brew up a tasty root beer.

Sand Creek Brewing's Donkey Kong machine

It’s ON like… ah, too easy…

Inside their brewery, the Tap Room offers a cozy space for sampling and imbibing; a larger space as you enter the building has additional tables for people to gather, play board games, check out some memorabilia, or even play Donkey Kong on one of the original video game machines. Seriously.

Their Tap Room is open Fridays from 3-10pm all year, and Saturdays from noon-5pm during warmer months (usually May-Labor Day). However, they’ll sell you beer from their retail space from 8am-5pm Monday through Thursday, and Friday nights until 10pm.

U.S. 12 and Highways 27 and 54 bring you to Black River Falls. From I-94, connect to downtown Black River Falls (on the west side of the Black River) via Highway 54 or U.S. 12/Highway 27 and head south to Pierce Street.

Address:
320 Pierce Street
Black River Falls, WI 54615
(715) 284-7553
Website

 

Enlightened Brewing Company


Enlightened Brewing started in 2014, setting up shop in the Lincoln Warehouse complex, a 1928-era building on 1st Street in Milwaukee that one served as an A&P grocery distribution center. The Twisted Path Distillery and Bittercube, a specialty maker of bitters, are also in the building and Horny Goat Brewing is right across the street; the Kinnickinnic River runs along the side. This is definitely a craft beer-loving area of town, and it’s easy to get to: Highway 32 is just to the east, Highway 38 is just to the south and west, and I-94/43 is a few blocks west.

Their beers include their A Priori Pale Ale, their 53207 (a California Common style, also their zip code), Dark Matters Black Wheat, Sustained Thought Stout, From the Roots Dark Ale, Leap of Faith Gose, an American Wild Ale named Heather, an English Mild Ale called Polly Baker’s Porridge, a Farmhouse Saison called Amour de Soi, and The Luminary, a Belgian Blonde.

Enlightened is very much in the “nanobrewery” category but is growing; as of March, 2016 they’re in the process of preparing to open a new tap room and are targeting late spring/early summer for that opening. Their Facebook page will have the latest updates – and we’ll be there sampling soon!

Address:
2018 S. 1st Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 744-2018
Website

Pitchfork Brewing Company


Pitchfork Brewing was started by some local home brewers in Hudson who kept at it for nearly 20 years before opening their brewery in 2013.  Located next to Paddy Ryan’s Irish Pub, Pitchfork’s Tap Room offers up their craft beer, TVs for game watching, and even chess boards to sharpen your strategic skills – while drinking beer.

Pitchfork’s list of available beers varies each week, but some include their Pitchfork Pale Ale, American Gothic IPA, Honey Bee Blonde, Sweet Mack Cherry Stout, Red Hen Amber, and Straw German Pilsner. Many more are regularly rotated.

They offer free tours on Sundays at 2pm (and that time moves around when the Packers play at noon) that include a 30-minute look at the brewery and brewing process as well as tap samples.

You’ll find Pitchfork just off I-94’s Exit 4 and U.S. 12 on the east side of Hudson, just east of where Highway 35 meets up with I-94, too. Rodeo Drive is just off U.S. 12 north of the freeway.

Address:
709 Rodeo Drive
Hudson, WI
(715) 245-3675
Website

Northwoods Brew Pub, Osseo

Northwoods Brew Pub

Originally in Eau Claire, Northwoods Brew Pub moved into a massive former condensery in Osseo in April, 2016 and now sports an incredibly impressive space featuring its brewery operations, full restaurant with a front patio, and bars on two levels with event space that rivals anything we’ve seen in Milwaukee or Madison.

osseo-northwoods-brewpub-outside

Northwoods Brew Pub’s new building is gi-normous. During World Wars I & II, this place was a condensery.

They still brew Eau Claire’s historic Walter’s Premium Pilsner, a brand they resurrected in the 1990s after decades of dormancy. Northwoods Brewing Company brews quite a few of their own brands, including:

  • Floppin’ Crappie Pale Ale (voted the #1 “Biker Beer” in Sturgis in 2004)
  • Lil’ Bandit Brown Ale (a silver medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival)
  • Rowdy Rye Ale
  • Prickly Pike’s Pilsner
  • Bumbl’n Bubbas Buzz’ Brew
  • Red Cedar Red
  • White Weasel Light Ale
  • Mouthy Muskie Light,
  • and – lest you think we’re getting too light here – Kelly’s Stout.

Northwoods Brew Pub front tapsThey add seasonals here and there including a Ripplin’ Red Raspberry Wheat (from mid-May ’til it’s gone), their Chippewa Valley Oktoberfest Lager (available in fall – you know, around Oktoberfest time), their Buckshot Buck in February, and more.

Northwoods offers tours of their brewing facilities. They’re open seven days a week at 11am.  Their closing times are 10pm Monday through Thursday, 11pm Friday and Saturday, and 8pm on Sunday. Winter and holiday hours can vary; call 715-597-1828 for updates.

Their main brewery, bar, and restaurant is located on the main floor, but worth a look (at the very least) are the beautiful second and third levels. With original wood floors, sandblasted brick, original ceilings, and impressive new bar facilities, they’ve made the most of this solid old building.

Northwoods Brew Pub, 2nd floor

Part of second floor event space at Northwoods Brew Pub.

You’ll find Northwoods Brew Pub one block north of U.S. 10/53 on West Street, just west of Osseo’s downtown (the other big attraction in town, the Norske Nook, is less than half a mile away.) I-94 travelers reach Osseo via Exit 88 (U.S. 10) and going west about one mile and then one block north on West Street. The Buffalo River State Park Trail runs right past the building.

Address:
50819 West Street (just off U.S. 10/53)
Osseo, WI 54758
(715) 597-1828
Website

 

Milwaukee Brewing Company


Milwaukee Brewing, which almost sounds redundant, started in 1997 with the opening of Milwaukee Ale House on Water Street in the city’s Historic Third Ward district. Demand grew, and eventually the main brewery had to move south into the Walkers Point neighborhood along 2nd Street, one block west of Highway 32, three blocks north of Highway 59, and three blocks east of Highway 38.

The 2nd Street Brewery for Milwaukee Brewing Company kegged its first beer in 2007 and installed the first “micro-canning” system in Wisconsin a few years later. The brewery proudly implements a long list of “green initiatives” that include using the Milwaukee Ale House’s waste vegetable oil to help power the brewery’s heating needs.

Milwaukee Brewing Company (often abbreviated as “MKE”, the city’s airport code) produces a number of popular brews including flagship Louie’s Demise, an amber ale; Polish Moon, a stout named after the nearby iconic Allen-Bradley clock (ask for the story); the Hop Happy IPA; Booyah, a saison-style ale named after popular Flemish-Belgian-inspired stew; Outboard, a cream ale noting the invention of the outboard motor by local resident Ole Evinrude back in the day; and Litta Bitta, a Belgian Wit. Plenty of other seasonals and “herb-in legends” are also produced by the brewery, including a tea-infused wheat beer called O-Gii.

Tours are “beer-in-hand” and run every half hour from 4-6:30pm Fridays and 1-4pm on Saturdays, with a 5pm “open house” lasting two-hours that go even more in-depth and usually becomes a fun social convener.

Address:
613 S. 2nd Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 226-2337
Website

Ice Caves at the Miller Brewery Tour, Milwaukee

Miller Brewery Tour

One of the largest and most popular brewery tours in the nation, the Miller Brewery Tour covers the grounds of MillerCoors’ Miller Brewing plant, Wisconsin’s largest with an output of over 10 million barrels per year.  The brewery sits on land purchased by Frederick Miller back in 1855 and fermentation has been happening here ever since.

Beers such as Miller Lite, Miller High Life, Miller Genuine Draft, and Milwaukee’s Best have been churned out for decades here; with mergers and acquisitions, Leinenkugel’s and Coors products are brewed in the Miller Brewery, as well as a ton of “old school” brands by contract: Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, Old Style, and more all still exist as brands but are brewed by Miller.

Miller Brewery Tour kettlesThe Miller Brewery Tour begins at the Visitor Center along State Street, which of course includes a large gift shop along with historic exhibits on Miller’s history here, from its humble beginnings in 1855 to being MillerCoors today, one of the largest breweries in the country and part of Molson Coors (there were a lot of parent company changes from 2002 to 2016.) After a 15-minute film describing the company, its history, and art of macro-beer brewing, the tour hits State Street for a walk to the Brewhouse. An optional stair climb offers a view from above of the shiny copper brew kettles. Then the tour heads back across the street to the Miller Inn, a Bavarian-style bar where free samples are offered. Next stop is the historic Miller caves, where beer was chilled with ice cut from area lakes before mechanical refrigeration made the process a bit easier. Next up is a look from above at the bottling and canning lines (you’ll hear “Laverne & Shirley” references on this part of the tour as sure as you’ll hear “Caddyshack” references on golf courses) where statistics on how many cans and bottles get filled per minute – it’s rather staggering – and how they deal with short fills, etc. are covered. A walk-through of the shipping and distribution warehouse follows. This massive shipping area is larger than four football fields, and you’ll frequently see forklifts plying the aisles hustling that beer into ready trucks. The tour then heads back to the Visitor Center to wrap up with additional samples, outdoors when weather permits and inside otherwise. And of course, that’s right next to the Gift Shop.

Tours cost $10 and include a souvenir glass and beer samples along the tour. If you’re not of legal drinking age, well, they’re free – but you don’t get beer.

Residents and anyone else with a Wisconsin state-issued ID get half off, so for state residents the tour is $5.

In winter, tours run six days a week (closed Sundays) from 10am to 3:30pm, kicking off every half hour. In summer, tours run 10-6 Monday-Wednesday and 10am – 7pm Thursday-Saturday. On Sundays in summer, there are no tours but the beer garden is open from 10am to 4:30pm. Call 414-931-BEER for details or go here for the latest updates.

In December, you can enjoy the "Holiday Lights" on a Miller Brewery Tour.

“Miller Valley” lights up with an animated display during the holidays. It can be part of the Miller Brewery Tour, or you can just drive by on State Street.

Miller Brewery Tour and Visitors Center Address:

4251 W. State Street
Milwaukee, WI 53208
414-931-2337
Website

You can access State Street easily from the Highway 175 freeway, just about a mile north of I-94 and Miller Park. Follow State Street east just a few blocks and you’ll see the Visitors Center right there. U.S. 18 is also right there, passing by via Wisconsin Avenue with a view of the whole complex from the bridge leapfrogging the Menomonee River and “Miller Valley.” You can access Miller’s Visitor Center from U.S. 18 via Highway 175’s connections to State Street or by connecting directly to State via 35th Street, which U.S. 18 follows between Highland Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue.

Miller Brewery Tour




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Lakefront Brewery


Lakefront Brewery is actually on Milwaukee’s riverfront, and dating back to 1987 they’ve been one of the most popular breweries in Milwaukee. Their tour has been rated among the best in America! Their Beer Hall also whips up a terrific Friday Fish Fry; live entertainment is not uncommon, and it’s a popular place for weddings and other events.

milwaukee_lakefrontbrewery01

Beers brewed by Lakefront include their Riverwest Stein Amber Lager, named for the neighborhood just to the north of the brewery; Fixed Gear, an American IPA; the Bridge Burner Imperial Amber Ale, after 19th century bridge-burning incidents along the Milwaukee River; the Extended Play IPA; a stout brewed with coffee called Fuel Cafe, named for a former popular coffee shop in town; the Eastside Dark; Kilsch Pilsner, named for its founder; and New Grist, a pioneering gluten-free pilsner-style beer brewed with sorghum that was the first gluten-free beer granted label approval by the U.S. government. There are many others that are seasonals or limited-edition specials, too.

The brewery is located in a 1908 former coal-fired power plant that powered the city’s interurban lines of the day. You’ll find it along Commerce Street, where the presence of the Holton Street Bridge above and Larry, Moe, and Curly out front make it unmistakeable. Tours are available on the hour and you can buy tickets there or online in advance. You’ll not only find brewing equipment and learn about their beers, you’ll probably spot the old Bernie’s Chalet from Milwaukee County Stadium and witness a brief show at the end related to “Laverne & Shirley.” Yes, take this tour.

Address:
1872 N. Commerce Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
(414) 372-8800
Website

Big Head Brewing Company


wauwatosa_bigheadbrew_outsideBig Head Brewing sits just a little over a mile west of the behemoth known as the Miller Brewery. Opened in 2013 just off State Street in Wauwatosa, Big Head brews a variety of craft beers, with an eye also on specializing in a diabetic-friendly line of beers with low carbs that still taste like craft brews.

wauwatosa_bigheadbrew_taps

Along with the beer variety, they have quite the tap handle variety – including ball-peen hammers, wrenches, and custom metal designs serving to help draw the draught.

Their Tasting Room is open Thursday-Saturday and features pool, darts, games, and bands playing on select evenings. While still new and brewing under 1,000 barrels annually, Big Head has big plans.

You’ll find Big Head about 1 1/2 miles west of the Highway 175 freeway, one mile east of Highway 181 (76th Street/Harmonee Avenue), one mile north of U.S. 18/Bluemound Road, and a few miles north of I-94 and east of I-41/U.S. 45. It’s also just east of the Village of Wauwatosa, a charming little area in its own right. It’s also mere minutes from Miller Park.

wauwatosa_bigheadbrew_coolers

Clearly, the cooler named after The Fonz is cooler than the cooler named for Richie Cunningham.

Address:
6204 W. State Street
Wauwatosa, WI 53213
(414) 257-9782
Website

Delafield Brewhaus

Delafield Brewhaus


Delafield Brewhaus is perched above I-94 just east of Highway 83 in Delafield, serving up a variety of craft beers including three medal winners in the 2014 World Beer Championships.

In-house brews include the “always on tap” Dockside Ale, Delafield Amber, Pewaukee Porter, Naga-Wicked Pale Ale (named somewhat for nearby Lake Nagawicka), and Sommerzeit Hefe Weizen.  Seasonals include a Strawberry Lager, Golden Promise (featuring a specialty Scottish malt), Green Bullet IPA (with unique hops from New Zealand), Einhorn Bock, a Belgian Quadrupel (10.5 ABV… whoa!), and the Oats and Barley Stout. Additional specialty beers, including some aged in whiskey barrels, are available from time to time.

The bar area and restaurant are adorned with plenty of Brewerania collectibles and old-school signs, and some of the shiny copper kettles used in brewing are smack dab in the middle of the place.

Easy to spot but tricky sometimes to get to, Delafield Brewhaus is along I-94’s frontage road on the south side about one mile west of Highway 83 (Exit 287 off I-94). From Highway 83, turn east on Hillside Road, weave your way past some big-box stores, and it will be on your right just past the big “Hotsy” sign familiar with I-94 drivers. From the east/Milwaukee direction, exit Highway SS (Exit 290) and head west on the north side frontage road before cutting over to the south frontage road via Elmhurst Road or County E/Maple Avenue and heading west.

Address:
3832 Hillside Drive
Delafield, WI 53018
(262) 646-7821
Website

Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens


The Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the nation’s best, hands down! Opened in 1958, it’s home to over 2,000 animals including mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles – many of whom reside in specialized habitats. The grounds of the Milwaukee County Zoo spread across over 200 acres of forests, exhibits, a large pond, indoor and outdoor habitats. Along with viewing and learning about animals, the Zoo offers opportunity to enjoy wildlife shows, ziplines, a carousel, a 15-inch gauge miniature railway the whole family can ride that loops around the grounds, and more.

Other fun features of the Milwaukee County Zoo:

  • The Zoo features one of the largest groups on bonobos in one location outside of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The aviary features over 60 species, including one large “cage-less” room where the birds fly free.
  • The “children’s zoo,” now called the Northwestern Mutual Family Farm, gives kids educational presentations and access to hedgehogs, porcupines, box turtles, bald eagles, and more.
  • At the Giraffe Deck, you can climb a deck to end up face-to-face with them – and even help feed them.

You’ll find the Milwaukee County Zoo nestled between I-94, I-41/U.S. 45, Highway 100, and U.S. 18/Bluemound Road on the far west side of Milwaukee, with Wauwatosa to the north, West Allis to the south, and Brookfield & Elm Grove to the west. The main entrance is off U.S. 18/Bluemound Road.

The Zoo’s hours vary by season. Admission fees run as follows (Milwaukee County residents with ID get additional discounts, see their website for details.)

ADMISSION
January 1 through March 31 & November 1 through December 31
Adult: $11.75
Child (age 3 to 12): $8.75
Child (2 and under): Free
Senior Citizen (age 60 and over): $10.25

April 1 through October 31
Adult: $14.25
Child (age 3 to 12): $11.25
Child (2 and under): Free
Senior Citizen (age 60 and over): $13.25

Parking is an additional $12 for passenger cars.

Address:
10001 Bluemound Road (U.S. 18)
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 256-5412
Website