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."
With fall in the air and Oktoberfests popping up all over the city, I think we both knew it wouldn't take long for me to get back to a good old-fashioned beer round.
Not one to throw all my money into one pot, however, I decided to spread things out and get back to basics. So sadly, there will be no recounting of late-night revelries today (maybe later – there are still many ideas in the well). We will, however, be recapping a lovely little tour of some of Milwaukee's better-known beer halls, which is just as good.
Von Trier, 2235 N. Farwell Ave.
Von Trier (or "Von Trier's," as some locals and even the bar's own website domain name refers to it) is the kind of bar that always seems to be in season. And even though German taverns revel in the Oktoberfest-ivities of fall, it seems to be perpetually spring inside this East Side bar.
From its lively hand-painted murals to its brightly colored stained glass windows and lamps, Von Trier exudes cheerfulness. Even as patio season comes to a close and their outdoor beer garden, it's almost not missed in the bar's main area surroundings.
The back room's no slouch, either. From an authentic Cyril Colnik chandelier from the Pabst Mansion to a custom stained glass window imported from Trier, Germany, the bar has amassed quite the collection of historical stuff over its run (check their website for a full timeline of names, dates and cool stories from the bar's lifetime).
While it's easy for patrons to focus on the unique décor, the bar's focus is, appropriately, beer. Von Trier serves its fair share of hot drinks and cocktails, but you'll easily find a beer worth your time in the bar's wide selection of drafts and bottles. Their ever-constant free popcorn makes for one heck of a complement to any drink, too.
Old German Beer Hall, 1009 N. Old World Third St.
If popcorn won't do it for you, you can belly up to the bar or community table at Old German Beer Hall, the beer epicenter of Third Street's little slice of Germany. Here you can enjoy your beer alongside traditional German fare for lunch or dinner daily starting at 11 a.m., or just swing by for a drink or two with the late night crowd.
Modeled in the tradition of Munich's original Hofbrauhaus, the Old German Beer Hall taps Bavarian-standard beers shipped in straight from Munich. If your main reason for visiting is the beer, stop in Fridays for free beer (while it lasts) starting at 6 p.m. If you get the last glass out of the barrel you can drink all night. Patrons can also try their luck at the nail game for a chance to win a free drink, but it's on them to buy a round if they're the one to hammer it all the way down.
Probably the most recognizable aspect of the bar is the Stein Club's member steins, which take center stage in their spaces hanging over the bar. Diehard beer lovers can buy a membership – and get their very own stein on a rent-to-own system paid in liter fill-ups – for beer discounts and a chance to have their name emblazoned on their stein and a plaque. At $75, I'm more than content with sticking to beer by the glass and Friday freebies.
(Yeah I know, Kochanski's isn't wholly German. But it's a more than qualified beer hall, and nowhere did I say I'd just be going to German ones. And it's my blog; I make the rules.)
Finding Milwaukee's definitive Polish beer hall can be tricky. The bar, just blocks from Miller Park Way, is easy enough to get to, but the fact that it's sandwiched between a quiet residential neighborhood and an industrial business semi-park makes the trip feel a little counter-intuitive.
Once you're there, it's like you've stumbled upon one of the city's "best kept secret" bars. And in a way, you're right. The spot formerly housed Art's Concertina Bar, a polka bar institution widely known for being the only concertina bar in the U.S. The landmark bar changed hands not too long ago but has still kept up the music-focused tradition, hosting regular polka nights and various live music acts on its dueling stages.
Another major part of the bar that carried over is its vast offering of Polish and German beers; in fact, Kochanski's has made a name for itself as having the largest selection of Polish beers in the state. The bar also features German beers on tap and by the bottle, plus local, retro and import options for patrons looking for a little diversity.
There's also plenty of diversion at Kochanski's, too. From the juke box and foosball to the shotski, wax lips and mustaches, there's plenty of fun to get into at the bar. Just don't try to start up a conversation with the blow-up doll in the window – I hear she's not the chatty type.
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 other fun stuff. And if you want me to drink at your favorite bar, that's what Talkbacks and @Mentions are for.
Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with OnMilwaukee.com, 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.