Many pub crawls' goal seems to be promoting short term memory loss, but one taking place in Riverwest next month aims to tap the neighborhood's rich history of tavern culture along with some tasty brews.
Historic Milwaukee Inc.'s Historic Taverns of Riverwest Crawl, will blend a typical pub crawl with talks on Riverwest's distant and more recent tavern history, including barrel-roll reenactments of Lakefront Brewery's first sale by brewery co-founder Jim Klisch.
"I think that Milwaukee's tavern and drinking culture is something uniquely its own," said Erin Dorbin, HMI's program director.
Matt Prigge, a UW-Milwaukee graduate student and intern at HMI will be giving historical info on each of the tours eight stops which include: Falcon Bowl, Uptowner, Tracks, Stonefly Brewing Co., Nessun Dorma, Linneman's Riverwest Inn, Gee Willickers Saloon, Riverwest Public House, and the former Lakefront Brewery site at 818 E. Chambers St.
"Historically a lot of these were meeting places for labor organizations for political groups. You hear stories about men who couldn't read who would go there to hear other men read the newspaper aloud so they could learn about what was going on in the world. It was a lot more than a place you went to get a drink," Prigge said.
And while Riverwest still has one of the city's best bar scenes, Prigge said that research shows that it's actually at its lowest activity point historically speaking.
"I was doing a survey of what businesses used to be in the area of the five by six block area that our tavern crawl is going to cover where there is maybe a dozen or 15 bars today. During the last year of prohibition the city director listed 39 different soft drink parlors in this area," said Prigge, "So even when alcohol was illegal there were just bars on every block."
Each crawl stop will feature drink specials and free Lakefront samples. Selected stops will also feature live music from Riverwest performers and the first 300 guests at Stonefly Brewing Co. for a 30th anniversary celebration of the program will receive a free commemorative Spaces & Traces pint glass, courtesy of Lakefront Brewery.
As you'd expect of a historical look at tavern culture, Prigge said he has discovered a lot of info about the colorful characters that owned or frequented Riverwest's taverns way back when. One such tale includes the story of the time a former Falcon Bowl owner considered Milwaukee's fattest man, ran a foot race against his nearest competition where the loser had to push the winner to City Hall in a wheel barrow.
"I just hope people see this is a greater event than your typical pub crawl, because we are really introducing you into the heritage of this neighborhood but we also have events where we are discussing the present and the future. So it's a really wide scope," Dorbin said.
Tickets to the pub crawl are $20 for HMI members and $25 for non-members and include admission to the Riverwest Spaces and Traces event that takes place the following week and includes neighborhood tours and historical lectures among other things.
Tickets are currently on sale at the HMI Office, Winkie's Variety Store, Milwaukee Area Boston Stores, Alterra on Humboldt, Alterra at the Lake, Alterra on Prospect Ave., and Stonefly Brewing Company as well as online.