The Milwaukee Ale House will close when its lease expires in September.
The final day will be Sept. 11.
This lengthy note appeared on the brewpub’s Facebook page on Monday night:
“We’ve spent the past 25(!) years with each other, celebrating your milestones, eating and drinking together, watching the sun set on the river from the patio. We have brewed many pints of fresh beer, trying over 400 different recipes. There could be nothing better, and we thought we had at least another 25 years to continue our traditions.
“Unfortunately, we lease this famous space, and the building owners have decided to go in a different direction. Our lease is expiring and our last day at this location will be September 11, 2022. Very few places have been around for this long. After such a long tenure here on the water, we are losing our beautiful home, and the city is losing a staple in the restaurant and brewing scene.
“In true Ale House fashion, though, we’ll be tapping kegs and frying curds until the very end. Please, come join us one more time over the next four weeks, and raise your glasses with us to toast the amazing memories we have here. We will have some special releases and some throwback pricing to send us off in style.
“And hopefully, it’s not goodbye forever, it’s just goodbye for now … to be continued.”
When the Ale House opened in October 1997 at 233 N. Water St., in the Saddlery building, it was unlike anything the Third Ward had seen before. I worked in the neighborhood at the time and the excitement was palpable. Everyone went to check out the beer, the live music, the food and the riverfront location. Post-work happy hours took off.
Later it expanded its outdoor patio, added a dock and a more intimate pub on the lower level.
As a musician, I played there a few times, too, including one especially memorable gig that I still often joke about. It was May 14, 1998 and while all of Milwaukee was home watching the final episode of “Seinfeld,” we played to an empty Ale House, save for a few employees. (Builds character!)
But more often the place was rocking when there was a band. Like the time The Frames, whose frontman starred in the film, “Once,” performed, or on the occasions the Yonder Mountain String Band occupied the tight stage.
“It was the first non-Summerfest parking issue in the Third Ward,” McCabe says, accurately, of the Ale House.
The beer made on site in the front window introduced many Milwaukee drinkers to craft and its hoppy embrace. Beers like Louie’s Demise and Pull Chain Ale became the foundation of the lineup when McCabe launched Milwaukee Brewing Company (which is currently for sale).
Those beers initially cost $2.50 a pint!
McCabe says he’s looking for a new location, echoing the Facebook post’s hint that the Ale House story will “be continued.”
“You are a person that loves history in the most interesting detail; you can appreciate a story,” McCabe says. “The Milwaukee Ale House started as a story of respect for Milwaukee and our history. Shout out to Mike Bieser, my partner in those formative days!
“It’s really unfortunate that the lease cannot be renewed. I try to be pragmatic and say the neighborhood has changed to the point where this doesn’t work here. But I think it does work in this neighborhood. But here we are, and what a great way to live my best years!
“Customers that are dear friends. Hundreds of local musicians that rocked our room. The family that walks in with three kids and tells the story of how they met here. Our amazing employees that buy their first house, or get to use the law degree they’ve been night-timing on tips and sweat. And great beer.
"History. Bobby, we’ll keep the story going.”
The Grafton location, which opened in 2008 and was sold in 2011, is unaffected.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.