Von Trier Is Great for Dark Beers
Try Monday’s $4 German beer night; it goes down great with the many German sausages.
This weekend might be Bastille Days but I’ve been thinking about an establishment inspired by another European nation next door to France. The design, decor and libations of Germany are the stars at Von Trier (2235 N. Farwell Ave.). The first time I dropped into this handsome cocktail lounge was during the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival for an interview with Joe Angio, director of the rousing documentary Revenge of the Mekons. We munched on fresh popcorn, drank German beer and Angio reminisced about late nights with fellow Marquette students at the popular East Side hangout. For almost a century there’s been a bar on this (southwest) corner of N. Farwell and E. North avenues (its history is recounted here) and it continues to house some of the best bites and beverages from Europe.
When owner Karl Lotharius bought the bar in 1978 he decided to redesign it with decor from his hometown of Trier, Germany, as well as locally-made stained glass lamp shades, bronze and wrought-iron bars. The wall and ceiling murals were painted by Mike March, a regular of the bar when he was a student at UW-Milwaukee. Von Trier was the first establishment in the country to serve Hacker Pschorr Weiss on draft and still has one of the best selection of imports in town, which can be enjoyed at a discount during their happy hour. The standard M-F deal is $1 off everything from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., but the best deal is Mondays and Tuesdays when half-liters of German beer are only $4 (liters for $8).
Von Trier is a dark beer lovers heaven. In bottle they have some of my favorites: Atwater Vanilla Java Porter, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald, Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Organic Chocolate Stout. On tap they have some of the best dark European beers I didn’t know I loved like Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel, easily the best dunkel I’ve had. The Kostritzer is another smooth dark lager. On top of all the caramel colored brews, they also have 31 ales in bottle ($5-$11), 8 wheats ($5-$9.5), 8 ciders, sours and a hard root beer ($6-$9.5), 19 lagers and pilsners ($4.5-$9.5). Four of their non-German taps are from Wisconsin and the rest range from $5-$12 (the German taps are $6-$8.5 per half liter). Fun fact about the Paulaner Salvator: this strong doppelbock (7.9 percent alcohol) was served by the monks as a replacement for food during lent.
True to their reputation as a cocktail lounge, Von Trier serves 15 different tasty cocktails ranging from $6.5-$10. The spirit selection had a few clear liquors I’d never seen before and the dark stuff is very good. When I dropped in this week I was en route to a dinner so I kept my snacking to their fresh popcorn, but if I was hungry I might have indulged in “The Best of the Wurst.” Von Trier carries over a dozen different sausages served on a Miller Pretzel Roll or Sciortino Sausage Bun. The wursts include pork, beef, chicken, veal, duck and can be topped with a number of “garnierungen” (toppings) and imported mustards. If you’re looking for something light, share an authentic 10oz pretzel, sausage sampler, daikon radishes, or German bread basket. Von Trier is equally enjoyable in the summer and cooler months, with a lovely brick-walled and plant-enclosed “Biergarten” to augment their beautiful interior bar.