The story of Goldilocks is pretty well known. A little blond girl breaks into a house owned by a family of anthropomorphic bears and proceeds to jack up their chairs, porridge and beds while they're out doing, I don't know, bear stuff. But what if, instead of being a cute little fairy tale girl with no respect for property, Goldilocks had some sense and happened to be just a little bit of a lush? Well, that'd be me.
I've decided to explore every bar, pub, lounge and dive Milwaukee has to offer – in sets of three, just to be cute. Check back often as I embark on regular bar tours with my self-proclaimed "magical sidekick," Jessie. And don't worry – I'm too much of a taste chameleon to ever find one that's "just right."
I recently took a rare vacation (my first in four years) and spend some time in Florida. It was fun and relaxing enough, but more than once I found myself depressed about the totally uninspired beer selection down there; namely, Bud as far as the eye can see, with some Heineken thrown in on occasion – you know, for diversity.
In the wake of such bleak drinking circumstances, I felt some quality beer exploration was in order.
The Bomb Shelter, 1517 S. 2nd St.
It's impossible to think about beer-centric Milwaukee bars without having your mind immediately make a mental beeline to the Bomb Shelter. Heck, even the TV show "Drinking Made Easy" thought so when they stopped by in 2010 for their Milwaukee episode.
Any beer fan is instantly at home in this Walker's Point bar. They've made a mission out of collecting and displaying vintage brewerania – everything from old-school signs and neons to lighting fixtures and quirky kitsch adorns every inch of the bar.
Both the décor and the beer list reflect their love of city-founding brews like Pabst, Blatz and Schlitz, but they also back a mean beer list that includes Wisconsin craft brews, various micro brews and rare finds from all over the globe.
With over 350 beers and constantly rotating taps, it's easy to get "kid in a candy store"-style overwhelmed, but the bartenders definitely know their stuff. What's more, they're not stingy with their know-how, holding weekly beer tastings for members of their Suds Club.
Even if you're just stopping in for a drink, though, it's not hard to strike up a conversation, whether it's about beer, sports or alcoholic whipped cream.
Sugar Maple, 441 E. Lincoln Ave.
Further south, Sugar Maple boasts a pretty stellar craft beer list of its own, including 60 American craft beers on draft.
The aesthetic in this Bay View bar is a complete 180 from the Bomb Shelter. A massive, winding bar and trendy lounge-style seating flank either side of the open space, and a number of large canvas paintings are hung throughout.
Despite the upscale look, Sugar Maple's focus is the beer, which is laid out nicely on a beer list so you don't have to make a judgment by wasting time staring at the tap handles. It gives the style of beer but doesn't provide more detail than that, though, getting your info the old-fashioned way through the bartender is still in order if you want specifics.
The seating arrangement is perfect for big and small groups alike to sit back and relax with a drink and conversation. Those who need more entertainment can always plan their visit around the bar's regular live music, too. There's no bar food here, but Sugar Maple offers a featured soup daily on a seasonally rotating menu, courtesy of Triskele's.
Romans' Pub, 3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Just down KK from Sugar Maple, Romans' Pub offers yet another well-stocked haven for beer connoisseurs. The beer list prominently displayed in the front room of the bar says "No Spotted Cow – Not Now, Not Ever!" and who can really blame them when they've set to the task of showcasing the best beers the entire world has to offer on 30 constantly rotating drafts.
At the moment, over 20 of the taps are craft brews, which include beers from Colorado, New York and others alongside Wisconsin names like Ale Asylum, Tyranena and Hinterland. The other taps also feature import drafts from big brewing countries like Belgium and Germany.
If beer could have a house, Romans' Pub would be what it looked like. The bar itself is laid out in a very homey way, from the large windows to the backyard patio-like beer garden. They keep modest hours, opening later than your average bar and taking Sunday and Monday off completely.
Charming as it is, Romans' still has plenty of bar amenities. The main room offers multiple flat screen TVs for watching various games. The liquor selection is also plentiful, and surprisingly, so is the list of wines by the glass. Romans' also sells cigars for anyone interested in ending the night with a smoke out in the beer garden.
Interested in future Goldilocks and the Three Bars adventures? Stay tuned here, or follow me on Twitter @Eenergee for real-time bar tour commentary. And if you want me to drink at your favorite bar, that's what Talkbacks and @Mentions are for.
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