By Renee Lorenz Special to Published Dec 30, 2011 at 5:33 AM

Brew City Bar Tab takes a patron's-eye look at the Milwaukee area's diverse selection of bars, clubs, pubs, taverns, lounges and more. Stay tuned each week for themed bar reports, bar reviews and bartender profiles to help you explore and discover the city's bar scene.

Well, it's the end of the year. Almost. But, this is the last Bar Tab before the new year, so it's only fitting to take some time now and send 2011 out with a bang – or failing that, some pyrotechnics.

Sadly, I was advised not to actually light anything on fire. Barring that (pun semi-intended), I've drummed up three fiery Milwaukee hotspots that are more than capable of heating up any winter's night out on the town.

Burnhearts, 2599 S. Logan Ave., (414) 294-0490

Burnhearts isn't a main drag kind of bar, which is kind of a good thing. If every tipsy Milwaukeean were able to stumble in on a run-of-the-mill bar crawl the place would be filled to capacity daily. Now, that's not to say that wouldn't be great news for a bar that definitely deserves it, but this is a find worth, well, finding.

Hidden in plain sight about a block off KK, Burnhearts is a cozy little lounge/tavern with so much to offer. For starters, it's well suited for any kind of outing you're up for. Looking for a good drink and a friendly bartender? You'll find it inches from the door at the decoratively lit front bar and dark side tables. In the mood for a more conventional night out with friends? Head to the back for a game of pool. Feeling quirky? Settle in on the sofa for a board game.

Of course, such fun and games pale in comparison to the more, uh, colorful extracurriculars offered in the space's former life as a brothel and speakeasy, but the aesthetic is alive and well and reflected in the bar's murals and decorations. The murals are really gorgeous as bar art goes, and the rest of the décor helps call up this girl-centric history with geisha-esque parasols, wooden sculpture and brazenly boobtastic pictures near the bathrooms.

Burnhearts is not just for show, though. The bar is serious about their craft beer, rotating taps regularly and pouring a wide selection of brews. What they don't offer on draft is more than likely available by the bottle, too. Add to that a selection of standard and local liquors and weekday happy hour specials from 3 to 7 p.m. and there's almost no reason to ever leave.

Fire on Water, 518 N. Water St., (414) 291-4411

For a night with a little more spark, Fire on Water might be right up your alley. The bar boasts live local music nearly every Friday and Saturday night. The music is the focus – evident by the prominent and stylish prints of classic rockers like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and others that line the length of the bar – but there are non-musical diversions too, like free pool and a 120-inch projector screen in the second level loft lounge.

Unlike a lot of higher-profile downtown bars, Fire on Water doesn't hold back on drink specials. They offer shot and drink specials every night of the week, including Friday and Saturday nights (not Monday, obviously, since they're closed). They're not stingy, either – happy hour features two-for-ones, Thursdays give patrons $10 all-you-can-drink taps and Fridays include $3 select shots.

With a screen like the aforementioned 120-incher and big screens in the lower bar, Fire on Water daylights as a sports bar of sorts. Sports fans can cash in on a number of specials for Badgers and Packers games, like pitcher and bomb deals and free pizza at halftime. The flatbread pizza, by the way, is made fresh at the bar and is served in regular and personal sizes off a menu of other basic bar appetizers.

Hosed on Brady, 1689 N. Franklin Place, (414) 223-3919

Milwaukee's firehouse-themed bar isn't actually on Brady, but it's close. And, the only reason why it can't have that prime real estate is because of its neighbor and inspiration, the Milwaukee Fire Department's Engine Six.

Between Engine Six and a whole slew of other fire stations Hosed has amassed all kinds of equipment and firefighting gear, which is proudly displayed on all walls of the bar and even around the bar itself, which is lined with an old fire hose. As a special bonus for the ladies, the bar has also put up a few pictures in the bathroom (no points for guessing what they're dressed as).

As a bar, Hosed is pretty straightforward. The drinks are cheap. The happy hour specials run every weekday from 2 to 7 p.m., and the nightly specials take over from 7 to close. And if you're lucky, you'll be at the bar for your free shot when one of the trucks next door gets called out.

Renee Lorenz Special to

Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."

Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.