On Location: Lakefront Brewery
MILWAUKEE—Just before 6 p.m., the place came to life. The Lakefront Brewery already had a good number of people standing at the bar or seated at the heavy oak tables in the dining hall, but this was a recent Friday, and people were ready to start their weekend with a traditional Midwest fish fry. Those without reservations didn’t mind the long wait for dinner. Kids ran between tables; friends and family clinked glasses; bartenders valiantly kept the taps open and kept up with demand.
In many ways Lakefront on a Friday evening is the personification of the idea so many of us have of the American Dream.
Let’s start on the dance floor and the typical family that has just arrived and ordered dinner. To a rhythmic polka beat, young children are bopping along to the music. Their grandparents watch with admiration and join the dancing. The parents, beer in hand, watch the scene, happy for the babysitters that are their own parents and the chance to have an adult beverage or two in a setting where they don’t have to worry about their kids getting into trouble.
Then there are the bright-eyed and enthusiastic servers, the ones working their way through school by slinging fried fish to hungry customers or the ones working hard for their families or themselves.
Amid all this is the backdrop of the brewery itself. Brewing giants like Schlitz, Miller and Pabst built empires and raised generations on their beers. Today, with the beer landscape changed and many large breweries of the past just memories, Milwaukee is home to a number of new-generation breweries that have raised the beer bar.
Perhaps none more than Lakefront, a brewery founded by the Klisch brothers in 1987. It has grown in size and continues to produce a solid lineup of beers that run the gamut of flavors, styles and creativity. The brewery distributes in several states, but it’s worth visiting to see the commitment Lakefront (1872 N. Commerce St.) has to its city, heritage and environment. Housed in what was once the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. coal-fired power plant, the brewery is forward-thinking environmentally—as highlighted on the tour—and with its hospitality.
If you come for a tour, a beer sample is offered before the formal tour begins. One at the halfway mark, and one at the end. It ends with crowds singing the theme from “Laverne & Shirley,” while a glove runs along the bottling line, a nice kitschy touch, and a nod toward local pop culture.
A cold pint, paired with flaky perch, Wisconsin cheese curds and another pint after that, and you might find yourself wishing—like I often do—that it was always Friday at Lakefront.
This story first appeared in the July 2015 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here to subscribe.
John is the editor of All About Beer Magazine and the author of three books, including The American Craft Beer Cookbook. Find him on Twitter @John_Holl.