School is back in session ... sort of. With the official start of classes still a few days away, many returning students will descend upon the city's various entertainment districts, putting aside their pursuit of knowledge in favor of the pursuit of a cold beverage. But where to go? Fear not, future leaders of America, we've got you covered.
Yes, this is far from a complete and comprehensive list of every watering hole in Milwaukee. Different people have different tastes. But in our experience, these are the establishments that have, over the years, become magnets for college crowds be it for their location, their atmosphere or affordable pricing, for lack of a better term.
As an added bonus for those of you new to the bar scene, or just a refresher to those who have been gone a few weeks, be sure to check out our 100 Milwaukee Bar Tips.
But before we get to the list, keep these nuggets in mind:
Don't drive – That UPass from MCTS in your wallet will get you to and from the bar safe. Use it. If you can't get on the bus, call American United Cab at (414) 220-5000 or Yellow Cab at (414) 271-1800.
Play it cool – The Milwaukee Police Department has stepped up its presence in the city's entrainment and nightlife districts this year. Acting the fool, playing in traffic, disorderly conduct, public ... "relief" ... will probably lead to a ticket. So watch it, because they're watching you.
Bar time – For those who don't know, bar time in Milwaukee is 2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday (technically, that's Saturday and Sunday morning, but you get the point). Bar time doesn't mean chug what's left at 1:59; it means the doors will be closed and locked and you'll be out on the street.
Don't roll solo – This is a safe city, and a fun one. But err on the side of caution, leave the bar with a buddy. Get home in one piece. Bar owners want you to come back.
Nagging out of the way, here's your guide to Milwaukee's college bars:
2859 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 962-2122
Because Axel's is in walking distance of UWM, the bar usually features a fair share of college students blowing their financial aid money on pitchers of cheap beer. However, because Axel's has been around for so many decades, it maintains a neighborhood watering hole appeal as well and attracts drinkers who haven't stepped on a college campus in many years. Comfortable and no-frills, Axel's is a good choice for a game of pool, darts, video bowling or a place to belly up to the bar for a beer and a shot.
1139 N. Water St.
It's small, but Bar None packs a hefty punch. Some of the most generous drink specials in Milwaukee, including $5 "buckets of crap" on Tuesdays, $2 rails, domestic pints and shots on Wednesdays and $15 for all-you-can drink on Thursdays. Stop by and try to beat Amy in a round of bar dice.
1213 N. Water Street, (414) 224-1690
Part of a growing Midwest chain, Brothers does birthdays like no other. Nightly food and drink specials, three bars on two levels and a central location between Marquette make this a popular haunt for students.
1044 N. Old World 3rd Street, (414) 390-0233
Live music, DJs, drink specials and plenty of space are just a few of the reasons students make their way to this Northwoods-themed hot spot on Old World 3rd Street. Ladies Night is Thursday, with $2 martinis for the gals and $1 domestics for everyone.
717 N. 16th St., (414) 933-9047
Located in the heart of the Marquette campus, swing by on your way back from class for Happy Hour with $2.50 domestic taps, $3 rails or take advantage of nightly specials from 8 p.m. until close. Caffrey's also has free popcorn and an underrated patio out back.
Duke's on Water
152 E. Juneau Ave., (414) 221-0621
Connected to Scooter's Pub, Duke's on Water stands at the ever-bustling corner of Water and Juneau. Catering to college students, Duke's pours cheap drinks and plays loud music. Named after surfing legend Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, Duke's subtly reminds patrons of life on the beach but adds the convenience of sports watching on giant TVs. Oh yeah, $1 Happy Hour ... every day.
1732 E. North Ave., (414) 906-0199
Located on the corner of North and Oakland Avenues, The Eastsider and represents an interesting cross section of the many, varied East Side interests and people. It's a hopping spot on weekends but has more of a neighborhood corner tap on weeknights.
G Daddy's BBC Bar & Grill
2022 E. North Ave., (414) 272-7263
BBC stands for Bradford Beach Club. One of the East Side's largest bar and grilles, BBC's is all Milwaukee -- great food and cold beer! With live music nightly that features bands from around the Midwest, BBC is always good for a rockin' time. The two-story bar serves food late, and has 14 TVs, four pool tables, darts and foosball for your bar-hoppin' pleasure.
Judge's Irish Pub
1431 E. North Ave., (414) 224-0605
A college corner bar, this is a place to get a cheap brew in the midst of a lively crowd. While the meat market vibe settles in after dusk, there's a great selection of Irish beers on tap. If you judge this bar by quantity rather than quality, you're sure to get your money's worth. Outdoor seating is available during the summer.
1135 N. Water St., (414) 278-8888
One of Water Street's institutions, McGillycuddy's has three bars on three levels plus, when the weather is decent, one of the best patios in town. Nightly specials and a daily happy hour, too.
Milwaukee Brat House
1013 N. Old World 3rd Street, (414) 273-8709
Two for one taps, all day, every day. Not just on Miller Lite, but everything on tap – and there's some good stuff. Other nightly specials like $1 Schlitz on Wednesday and three-for-one domestic taps on Thursday, which is also Karaoke Night so beware.
Murphy's Irish Pub
1613 W. Wells St., (414) 344-0116
"Big Ass Beer Night" (Wednesdays, $3) is a Milwaukee tradition. Chances are, if you go to Marquette, you'll find yourself here at the very least on a weekly basis. And that's not a bad thing. Nightly specials including Friday 40-ounces and Saturday fishbowls make it an easy choice.
Old German Beer Hall
1009 N. Old World 3rd Street, (414) 226-2728
Big beers – really big beers. Boots. Shot skis. The nail game. What more could a college student want? An especially popular hangout for Marquette and MSOE students, bring your friends and settle in for the night. Thursday is college night; buy a souviner stein and get half-price liters with a valid student ID along with $1 shots of Killipetsch.
2311 N. Murray Ave, (414) 224-7084
Rascals is known for its extensive happy hours, which run Monday through Saturday, from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 2 a.m. That's called happy day, if you ask us! It's a good place to catch the game, what with their nine televisions. In summer the front floor to ceiling windows open up to the patio along Murray.
RC's Beer Garden
1530 E. North Ave., (414) 273-1100
Once known as the East Side's first and finest beer garden, RC's closed for several years, only to resurface in 2003 with a facelift and a new lease on life. Even remodeled, it remains a little old school with a touch of college crowd rowdiness.
Trinity Three Irish Pubs
125 E. Juneau Ave., (414) 278-7033
Claiming a "trio of irish authenticity," this is a hotspot for the college crowd, just west of the intersection of Water and Juneau. Comprising three interconnected bars, Trinity cooks up a full Irish lunch and dinner while pouring tappers of your favorite Irish brews.
1832 E. North Ave., (414) 273-6477
The East Side's original cocktail lounge, Vitucci's kicks it a little old-school on a nightly basis. Among the long list of specials is Ladies Night (Wednesdays), where women get free rail singles and guys can get $5 tall rail doubles, from 9 p.m. until close.