Restaurants that 'Get' Beer
Sometimes it is hard to say whether an establishment is a bar that serves food or a restaurant that serves beer, and your definition might depend on the time of day you tend to show up there. The Nitty Gritty and the Plaza are two of the city’s most popular burger joints during the day that at some point after dark morph into two of the most popular downtown bars. Here are a few restaurants (brewpubs and bars are exempt from this highly incomprehensive list) that do beer right.
It’s firmly rooted on Monroe Street, but this “neighborhood eatery and tap room” feels like a place you’d stumble upon in Europe. Inspired by years itsowners spent in France and Belgium, Brasserie V offers a menu that utilizes local ingredients and changes seasonally. Beer selections rotate too, but you can always count on more than 150 by the bottle and 14 on tap—the vast majority of them Belgians.
Alongside your pulled pork, enormous racks of ribs and blackened catfish, Brickhouse (pictured at left) offers a dizzying array of beers. In the collection of the 40 beers on tap (including rotating and special releases), you can find favorites from local breweries like Capital, New Glarus, Lake Louie, Ale Asylum, Furthermore, Tyranena and Goose Island. Bell’s Oberon and Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous can also be found here.
The Coopers Tavern
Coopers has “tavern” right there in its name, but it is a significant restaurant, especially before dark. People who go to Coopers for the Tuscan chilled pasta salad, pork belly mac and chicken schnitzel might be only vaguely aware of the restaurant’s colossal beer list: the bottled beers are broken into 13 categories, and there are 28 tap beers, including St. Martin Brune, Leffe, Morland Old Speckled Hen, Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock and Ommegang Hennepin, along with great local beers from Ale Asylum, Great Dane and Lake Louie and some good old Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Capital Tap Haus
This State Street brewpub that’s modeled to look just like a “turn-of-the-century beer hall” pays tribute to Capital Brewery. Owner Jack Sosnowski even says as much, noting, “I truly believe Capital beer is the best beer in Wisconsin—if not the Midwest.” Look for around 10 Capital beers on tap plus seasonals right when they’re released. Capital brews are even a vital ingredient in many dishes like the Island Wheat mussels, Supper Club beer-battered bites and Capital Dark BBQ pulled pork. On the menu each dish is also paired with a suggested Capital beer.
Jacs (pictured at right) on Monroe Street offers several Belgian beers along with many local, regional and other domestic brews. New Holland Dragon’s Milk from Michigan is 10 percent alcohol. Finesse is a Rye tripel from Dochter van de Korenaar and costs $8 per glass. Left Hand Sawtooth Ale and Three Floyds Alpha King are from Colorado and Indiana, respectively, and go for just $5 a glass.
Liliana’s deserves recognition here because of its appreciation of the word “local.” It is a great Cajun restaurant that has Abita Turbodog on tap and at least a half-dozen New Orleans–brewed bottled beers on hand at all times, but it also has Capital, New Glarus, Furthermore, Lake Louie and Potosi beers on tap. There are even more Wisconsin and regional craft beers in bottles.
Lombardino’s has great food and wine and could probably get away with slacking off in the beer department. But it doesn’t. Supper Club, Lake Louie Scotch Ale and Hacker Pschorr Weisse are on tap, along with seasonal taps from Ale Asylum, New Glarus, Dogfish Head and elsewhere. We appreciate the effort.
Old Chicago (pictured at top) is a regional chain, but it knows its beer. That means they have Capital, New Glarus, Lake Louie and Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter to go along with Guinness, Bass Ale, Newcastle Brown Ale and Paulaner Hefe-Wiezen. OC also offers beer flights, allowing you to sample several fairly small glasses of beer, and has a World Beer Tour program that tracks which beers you’ve sampled.
The Old Fashioned
If you live in Wisconsin you never have to drink a beer made anywhere else. The Old Fashioned (pictured at left) tests that theory with 29 Wisconsin beers on tap. Some of the lesser-known offerings include Barrel Aged Tempt from Wausau’s Red Eye Brewing, Fatty Boombalatty from Spring Green’s Furthermore, Dankenstein IPA from Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse and Mudpuppy Porter from Central Waters in Amherst.