When people think of Wisconsin, they usually think of two things: beer and cheese. As a native Wisconsinite, I can attest that these two things are a pivotal part of our culture.
Beer (and activities revolving around beer) is one of the great hallmarks of Wisconsin tradition, and Milwaukee is the hub of it all. With over 30 breweries in the city and surrounding areas, Milwaukee rightfully earns its nickname as the “Brew City.” As a self-proclaimed “beer enthusiast” and Milwaukee resident, I have had the privilege of trying a large number of breweries in the area and have always wanted to share my favorites with the world. So, that’s what this post is for.
Top 5 Craft Breweries in Milwaukee
Narrowing down my favorite Milwaukee breweries to just five is no easy task. There are so many great places around the city that offer amazing beer, food, and vibes; but the ones below are elite in my book. These breweries truly capture the spirit of Milwaukee and should be a stop for anybody living in or visiting the city— beer lover or not.
City Lights Brewing Co.
-Address: 2200 W Mt Vernon Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233
-Phone: (414) 279-7004
-Serves food: Yes
City Lights Brewing Co. is one of those rare breweries that has it all: great beer, restaurant-quality food, and unmatched vibes. Located in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, this brewery occupies a portion of a historic facility that once produced gas for the city street lamps (hence the name City Lights). The indoor space maintains that “factory” look of the outside and makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Although the taproom itself is smaller than others on this list, City Lights boasts a large outdoor patio right along the Menomonee River, a perfect place to sip a cold one on a warm summer day.
Their taplist features a variety of beer types, with their Coconut Porter being one of my all-time favorite beers. Other honorable mentions include the Mexican Lager and Hazy IPA, both of which are simple but always seem to hit the spot.
If the beer isn’t enough, the food alone makes this brewery worth a stop. In my opinion, the food at City Lights rivals even some of the best restaurants in town, especially if you’re looking for that classic American grub. Their menu features your classic brewery-type food (apps and handhelds), but with an elevated taste. My personal favorite is the pulled pork sandwich, which is beyond juicy and flavorful. Pair that with a side of homemade chips and *muah* chef’s kiss.
City Lights truly has it all and rightfully lands a top spot on my list. Don’t just take my word for it— check it out if/when you’re in the area. I know you won’t be disappointed.
-Address: 1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212
-Phone: (414) 372-8800
-Serves food: Yes
Lakefront Brewery definitely has a stronghold in Milwaukee and for good reason. It is by far the largest craft brewery by volume in the city, producing over 38,000 barrels in 2021 alone. Their flagship Riverwest Stein (an amber larger) can be found at nearly every bar and event in the area, and their gluten-free beer options have really set them apart from the rest.
Lakefront Brewery is housed in a former coal-fired power plant right along the Milwaukee River with dock-access for boats and kayaks during the summer months, though space is limited. Their riverfront patio is an ideal location to enjoy a few beers and some food (that’s where you’ll find me most of the time) and the massive beer hall inside has plenty of space even on the busiest of days.
In my opinion, the food is top-tier for a brewery. The menu consists of classic brewery-type options (apps, sandwiches, sausage, etc.), and it’s all fantastic. Their fried cheese curds (another Wisconsin staple) are among the best I’ve ever had, especially paired with their homemade ranch which I would literally drink if it wasn’t frowned upon. Another notable mention are the fish tacos— super fresh, flavorful, and just fits the vibe if you eat them on the riverfront patio.
Besides beer and food, Lakefront Brewery also offers an awesome brewery tour that is a must-do for anybody living in or visiting the city. You will learn the basics of beer-making, see the production and packaging lines, and of course get pours along the way.
Whether you arrive by car or by boat, Lakefront Brewery is worth the stop for anyone in the Milwaukee area.
OPE! Brewing Co.
-Address: 6751 W National Ave, West Allis, WI 53214
-Phone: (414) 509-6700
-Serves food: Yes (food truck outside)
OPE! Brewing Co. in West Allis is one of the newest additions to the Milwaukee brewery scene. Opened in 2022, this brewery features a huge taproom with plenty of seating, a friendly atmosphere, and a stage that routinely hosts local musical talent and other events. There is a wide variety of beers on tap for every type of beer drinker, with their sours and IPAs being some of my favorites. OPE! is also family and dog friendly for those wishing to bring their kids and fur babies.
Although food isn’t served in the taproom, there is usually a food truck outside for those looking to grab a bite to eat.
OPE! Brewing Co. has quickly proven to be a Milwaukee brewery that is here to stay. Come for the tasty beers, inviting atmosphere, unique events, and best yet, the dogs.
Pilot Project Brewing
-Address: 1128 N 9th St, Milwaukee, WI 53233
-Phone: (414) 395-1070
-Serves food: Yes
Another recent addition to the Milwaukee brewery scene is Pilot Project Brewing. Located in The Brewery District, Pilot Project occupies the former facility of the well-known Milwaukee Brewing Company and touts itself as a “brewery incubator.” In essence, it serves as a launch pad for small-batch brewing and start-up breweries, a unique business model that ensures every beer you drink is one of a kind and often experimental.
The taproom itself is large and designed with touches that give it a very modern and elegant feel. Pilot Project also has a gorgeous rooftop bar that has panoramic views of the Milwaukee skyline, a favorite spot of mine during the summer months.
I’ll be bold and say that the food at Pilot Project is the best out of all the breweries in Milwaukee. No, seriously, it’s phenomenal. The menu consists of classic American-type dishes and a handful of Italian dishes, all of which are elevated in taste. The menu is a little pricier than those at other breweries, but it is warranted because it truly offers a culinary experience that is hard to find anywhere else. My personal favorites are the chicken parmesan sandwich, Friday fish fry, and any of the pasta specials.
Everything about Pilot Project is innovative and fresh, and it has cemented itself firmly in the Milwaukee brewery scene. I catch myself coming here frequently (especially before a Buck’s game) because I know I will always get amazing beer, next-level food, and just good vibes all around.
Indeed Brewing Company
Last but certainly not least, Indeed Brewing Company rounds out my Top 5 list of breweries in Milwaukee. Originally founded in Minneapolis, Indeed Brewing Company now has a home away from home in the Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee.
The taproom itself is cozy and gives off a warm and inviting atmosphere, a perfect place to grab a beer and catch-up with friends. They also have a seasonal rooftop bar called Indeed UpTop, which operated across the street during the 2023 season (in previous years it operated next door to the actual brewery). This rooftop is a super fun place to hangout during the warmer months and offers a fantastic view of the Milwaukee skyline and the iconic Hoan Bridge.
The taplist at Indeed Brewing is wide and varied, covering styles such as IPAs, stouts, lagers, and more. One of my favorite beers in all of Milwaukee is their Pistachio Cream Ale, so I always find myself back at Indeed whenever I need my fix.
The food is limited and features a handful of local snacks (pizza and soft pretzels), but they do allow outside food to be carried in. Honestly, I never go to Indeed looking for food though— I just go for the beer.
Overall, Indeed Brewing Company is a solid choice for those looking for breweries in Milwaukee. Out of all the breweries on this list, it is the simplest in nature: no glitz and glamour, just an inviting space to unwind, hangout, and drink great tasting beers.
The Explorium Brewpub
- Two locations: Third Ward and Greendale
- Wide variety of beers and seltzers (my go-tos are the dark beers)
- Excellent selection of food (the calzones are top-notch)
Broken Bat Brewing Co.
- Baseball themed brewery with attached wiffle ball field that is rentable by the hour
- Featured on the show Shark Tank in 2016 with the premise of crowdsourced beers
- Offers a wide array of interesting beers and craft pizzas
Third Space Brewing
- Spacious taproom with quality beer, plenty of board games, and a large outdoor area
Eagle Park Brewing Company
- Two locations: Milwaukee and Muskego
- Muskego location is very spacious
- Both locations serve high-quality food options