Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
Milwaukee, WI

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Let me begin by saying that as much as Nigel loves quality craft beer and enjoys the process of brewing it, I tend to find most brewery tours to be incredibly dry and boring. This fact has never made sense to me; after all, what’s more fun than seeing how a quality brew is made, all while sampling a variety of the newest selections and working up a nice buzz. Craft beer is a hobby, ladies and gentlemen, and is supposed to be both interesting and fun. So, why the Hell do so many brewers, from the largest macros to the smallest micros, run their tours as though you’re spending a day at a Catholic parochial school?

Apparently somebody heard my plea (or, more likely, shared my frustration) and developed the ultimate in brewery tours. The folks at Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee have mastered the art of the brewery tour: fun, educational, relatively short, and LOTS of free samples … and a free pint glass … and a free pint at a select local pub. Not bad for 5 dollars. Lakefront doesn't force you to walk single file along a pre-set, glass-enclosed path, and wait until after the 70 year-old tour guide finishes his dry, monotone spiel that he’s given 80 billion times in the past 15 years before you get your whopping one free sample. When you get to Lakefront, you get a plastic cup, about 10-12 oz. in size, which you can fill at the beginning and middle of the tours. Drink fast, because you have about 10 minutes between beer stops. The final beer stop before you head back up to the bar/banquet hall area is where you trade in your plastic cup for a nice Lakefront logo pint glass, filled to the brim with your beer of choice. While in the actual brewery, you walk right by (or on) all of the machines involved in the process, getting interesting insight into how Lakefront brews their beers, as well as interesting tidbits about Milwaukee’s rich brewing history (and a picture with Bernie Brewer’s old chalet and slide from County Stadium). What’s on tap downstairs? A few of the standards, as well as some limited releases and seasonals. The tour guides are both knowledgeable and ridiculously fun, and if you’re not keeping pace with your drinking, you’re sure to look foolish to both tour guide and fellow tourists alike.

A couple of weeks ago, Nigel took his Danish Princess, his roommate, and his roommates, uh … “lady friend” (not sure what their status is, so I’ll tread carefully) on the Lakefront Friday night tour. Lakefront’s tours are mainly focused on Friday evenings and Saturdays, with the Friday night tour having the option of a fantastic fish fry following, which is catered by one of Milwaukee’s best restaurants. If you want the fish fry afterwards, the Friday tour is 10 dollars, with a 5-dollar voucher off the cost of your dinner. Lakefront also runs a daily afternoon “eco-tour” during the warmer months, though I think that’s geared towards damn, dirty hippies. Lakefront tours have rightfully earned the reputation as a “must-do” among Milwaukeeans and visitors alike, so the crowds are usually quite large. Our tour was typical—about 25 minutes long, running us through the entire brewing process, complete with the Laverne & Shirley glove-on-the-bottle ode to Milwaukee at the end. On tap at various points were the Cream City Pale Ale (easily Lakefront’s best year-round brew), the decent Riverwest Stein Beer and White Beer, the not-so-good Organic ESB, the limited release Fat Abbey, a Belgian dark ale, and freshly tapped, right off the line Oktoberfest (which is not bad). Nigel was pleasantly surprised to see the Fat Abbey, and was fortunate enough to get the last pint before it was tapped out.

The best part of the evening, in Nigel’s opinion, was the fact that Lakefront had their IPA on tap. Apparently, this has been brewed in small batches for a few years and distributed to some local Milwaukee pubs and restaurants, but I had no knowledge of its existence prior to last week. While I do enjoy Lakefront’s fun-loving and ecologically friendly style, I’ve been disappointed in their overall lack of ballsy beers, what I refer to as “extreme beer.” The only Lakefront brew that is heavy on the hops is the Cream City Pale Ale, and virutally none of Lakefront’s offerings are terribly overpowering. I certainly believe that Lakefront has the knowledge, ability, and willingness to get more experimental with their selections, and I think bottling and distributing their IPA more widely would be a nice starting point.

Lakefront IPA is an English IPA, making it a bit less hoppy and slightly darker and maltier than the more common American IPA. Lakefront pours from the tap with a fairly foamy initial head that settles nicely, leaving a lively trace throughout the duration of the drink. A deep copper color, this is a bit transparent when compared to other craft English IPAs. The aroma is a pleasant right-off-the-line fresh. A piney, floral hop aroma is dominant, with a good backdrop of sweet malt and citrus fruit. The taste is solid for an English IPA: hops are at the forefront, but not to the level of a typical American IPA. A fairly sweet, fruity flavor of orange zest and grapefruit is matched with a sugary hint of caramel malt. Not too heavy, Lakefront IPA goes down smooth and is easy on the palate—I was able to fully enjoy this with my fish fry, and I typically tend to avoid pairing hoppy brews with meals. A bit of aftertaste was decectable, but all in all I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of Lakefront’s attempt.

Definitely put the Lakefront tour at the top of your to-do list on your next visit to Milwaukee, and make sure you track down a pint of their IPA (I’d suggest Benno’s in West Allis, near Miller Park, or Bar Louie on Water St.). Tell them Nigel sent you, and receive a free awkward look as they try to figure out who that is.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on September 26, 2007.
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