Joey Grihalva
Weekly Happy Hour

Hotel Foster

It’s way cheap, drinks for just $1, but only for 23 minutes.

By - Nov 12th, 2014 01:58 pm
Milwaukee’s 2nd shortest happy hour

Milwaukee’s 2nd shortest happy hour.

I kicked off this column with a tale of Halloween high jinks at Yield Bar. My date and I may not have danced the night away to the enigmatic GGOOLLDD, but we did get down to the sounds (and lazers) of DJ Asher Diamonds at The Hotel Foster, home to Milwaukee’s 2nd shortest happy hour, and my second stop on this weekly column.

On Halloween night I was introduced to Ginger Brandy, a beloved rail liquor featured at HoFo, as some like to call Hotel Foster. Not long after that, while spending the weekend in Minneapolis I searched far and wide for the liquor, with no luck. Ours is a brandy-loving city, of course, and Ginger Brandy seems to be the Old Fashioned of shots in Milwaukee. It is fantastic. I downed one as soon as I arrived at 5 o’clock sharp Monday evening. Most drinks are $1 for 23 minutes on Sunday through Friday. That’s five minutes longer than the 18 minutes at Nomad, which has long proclaimed it as the city’s shortest happy hour.

Considering HoFo’s impressive collection of classic/craft cocktails, regional and imported beer, good whiskey/brandy/rye, this happy hour deal is nothing short of magic. But it’s young, only about a month old, so some parameters will need to be laid out, especially after some guy ordered eight shots. So far the deal gives you any drink $9 and under for $1, but if it’s busy probably no coffee/steam drinks (they carry locally roasted Valentine beans) will be included. They’re also thinking about making it one cocktail per person, one drink at a time, sensible stuff like that. If you’re anything like me, you can enjoy a shot and two beers in 23 minutes, about the span of a sitcom, minus the commercials.

Eleven tap brews make a dozen with HoFo’s exclusive cask ale. What sets the cask apart is the natural secondary fermentation. Their current selection is a version of Lakefront’s Eastside Dark with added raw coconut, cocoa nibs and lactose. It’s exquisite.

Much like its happy hour, HoFo is a relatively young bar, which first opened in mid-2011 after an extensive renovation of the place. I’m just old enough to remember the days of Live on North and The Globe East. What sets the latest incarnation of 2028 E. North Avenue apart is the drinks and the decor, which they describe as “Parisian elegance meets tavern Americana.”

Specials at Hotel Foster.

Specials at Hotel Foster.

HoFo is the kind of place where musicians bartend, you meet Brooklyn transplants and overhear locals planning trips to Europe. When I walked in Monday night Elvis Costello was in the speakers and Total Recall was on the projector. On the first Thursday of every month the Skylight Music Theatre hosts an opera talk.  But HoFo is also the sort of bar where you can grab a glass of Old Milwaukee and play pinball on the same stage where great bands perform. Upstairs you can lounge on cozy vintage furniture or smoke in their heated patio.

If you can’t swing the amazing 23 minute deal, HoFo has nightly specials Sunday through Thursday. Old Milwaukee is always on tap (and $2 on Sundays when the Packers can be seen on their projector), but if you like complexity to your draught, HoFo has harder-to-find kegs like Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde, which took me back to my Montreal days. Max did a fine job tending bar and filling me in on the details. I’ll certainly be back, whether for a dance party, live show or a ridiculously cheap premium cocktail.

Hotel Foster


I'm just old enough to remember the days..."

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