Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a city whose name is practically synonymous with beer. From the old song “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous” to Laverne and Shirley’s jobs in the fictitious Shotz Brewery to the city’s nickname of “The Brew City”, Milwaukee is strongly associated with beer and the brewing industry in the public consciousness.
Of course, this is an association that is well deserved. Over the years, the city has been home to the Schlitz, Blatz and Pabst breweries as well as the industry giant Miller (now part of MillerCoors), which is still located in the city to this day. Then of course, there are the smaller breweries that call Milwaukee home, including Sprecher in nearby Glendale, Lakefront Brewery, and Milwaukee Brewing Company. The city’s German heritage looms large in many ways, not least of which is a strong beer drinking and yes, home brewing culture that persists to this day.
Milwaukee’s Brewing History
Milwaukee became known for beer in the 1800s, when the city’s population swelled with waves of German (and later, Polish) immigrants who brought their beer brewing traditions with them, establishing breweries and beer halls across the city of Milwaukee and its suburbs. Milwaukee is still home to countless beer halls, taverns and brew pubs – and it also has one of the country’s strongest home brewing scenes, with hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of Milwaukee area residents producing their own beer at home.
The culture of home brewing in Milwaukee is so strong that there is an event held each spring known as the Blessing of the Bock. For those readers who may not be familiar with the bock style of beer, this is a darker style of beer originating in Germany that is traditionally brewed for Lent. The event has been held for more than twenty years now and draws large numbers of Milwaukee home brewers and beer enthusiasts alike. It’s a tradition that perhaps could only have found a home in a city whose history is so closely tied to beer.
Due to the city’s location as a Lake Michigan port, it became a center for grain being shipped from points north and west to elsewhere in the country, both by train and by ship through the Great Lakes. Of course, wherever there is grain, there will be beer. So between the geography of the city and the rich brewing culture brought by German immigration to the Milwaukee area, the city inevitably became an important part of America’s brewing heritage as well.
There may be fewer breweries in the Brew City now than there once were, but there are legions of Milwaukee residents who pay tribute to the brewing culture and history of their hometown by making Milwaukee just a little more famous with their own home brewing creations.