Red Lion is a Brit Hit
For British beer and pub food fans, every Monday through Friday offers two hours of bargains.
It’s not every day a basketball game takes precedence over a heavyweight European soccer match at a British bar, but that’s what happened last week at Three Lions Pub in Shorewood when the Bucks played in the final NBA Global Game of the 2014-2015 season in London, England. Three Lions hosted the official viewing party, complete with Bucks dancers, hype guys, free prizes, $3 Coors Lights and $4 brats.
I hadn’t stepped in Three Lions since writing them up in my World Cup Bar Guide. It was my first look at their additional room, which doesn’t match the traditional pub aesthetic of the main room and cheapens the experience, in my opinion. (Though I’m sure it came in handy during the World Cup.) But maybe I’m biased against suburban bars.
When I heard Three Lions would be involved in a British invasion of what once was an Irish bar (Brocach) in the city on “Tannery Row” (1850 N. Water Street north of Brady Street) I was optimistic and excited. The irony in that Irish-to-English is almost as great as the pleasures provided by their happy hour. Sure, it’s only two hours each day, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, but it’s $4 taps of good imported and local beer, plus $4 for select appetizers.
I immediately went for a pint of possibly my favorite English beer, Wells Banana Bread, which retails for $5 at the few local liquor stores that carry it. Next I ordered a Welsch Rarebit because I thought I’d never tried it, but when the beer cheese sauce with bits of pork came I remembered having it and not being crazy about it. I guess I’m biased against cheese sauces, too.
There is no menu yet for their house cocktails, so it’s not clear which are 2-for-1 during happy hour. The confirmed candidates include a Wisconsin Old Fashioned, gin and tonic, and Pimm’s Cup, which I first tried at Wimbledon last summer. Impressively, Red Lion carries two flavors of Pimm’s, an English gin-based fruit liqueur, original and Blackberry Elderflower, the latter of which you can also get with vanilla ice cream and Orange Fanta in their “Pimm’s Float” off the dessert menu. The rest of the liquor is pretty standard, featuring four Great Lakes products, plus my favorite flavored tequila, Patron XO Cafe.
In addition to Wells Banana Bread, there are a few other British favorites on tap including Boddingtons, Old Speckled Hen, Fuller’s London Pride and Hobgoblin. They are complemented by local favorites Spotted Cow, Riverwest Stein, Miller Lite and the Sprecher exclusive Lion’s Pride IPA. Red Lion’s bottle and can list features about 40 brews, ciders and ginger beers ranging from $4 to $11. Eleven are from Britain, nine hail from the rest of Europe and there are a few American craft beers plus the usual domestics and Mexican imports. Five reds and five whites suffice for the wine selection.
At Red Lion you can start your week with that great Milwaukee tradition usually reserved for the end of the week, fried fish. Their traditional Fish and Chips is 2-for-1 on Mondays, starting after 5pm. On Tuesdays they have Pint and Pie night, with hearty pies (regularly $13-$14) and a beer for only $10. Wednesdays is all UK music with $4 Irish whiskey shots and $3 PBR tall boys. Thursday is trivia night with $5 giant pretzels and $4 draught of the week. The weekend brunch seems to be a hit (a girl at the bar next to me raved about their salmon hash) and features a $25 mimosa special (bottle of champagne plus carafe of orange juice).
The Packers may have bowed out of the NFL playoffs in heartbreaking fashion, but the English Premier League season presses on. Red Lion opens early on the weekends for EPL matches and features $4 Krombacher pints, which are also available during NFL games, but who cares about those until August, right? When I went upstairs to check out the additional bar (open on weekends) there was a staff meeting where the prospect of live music was being discussed. The outdoor patio movie tradition from Brocach will definitely be carried over once the weather warms up. Whether it’s for the happy hour, weekly specials, weekend brunch, outdoor movie, an intimate concert, or just for the emblematic red telephone booth, Red Lion will surely draw a crowd, and deservingly so.