Ale House Offers a Great List of Beers
And the vintage building and riverside setting adds charm.
Early Monday evening I stepped out of the pouring rain and into the yeasty confines of Milwaukee Ale House (233 N. Water St.). As I took a seat at the bar a man asked me if there were any smaller bars nearby that might have gambling machines. Though I wasn’t sure of the gambling machines, I recommended The Irish Pub, just a block south across the street. He was deterred by the downpour and offhandedly asked if I would be willing to sell my umbrella. Considering it was my most battered umbrella I offered to part with it for a mere five dollars. He obliged and that gave me enough to cover my first beer.
For years I’ve passed Milwaukee Ale House while in the Historic Third Ward or on my way to Walker’s Point. I assumed it was its own entity, a restaurant/microbrewery with rotating ales and lagers not found in stores. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is owned by Milwaukee Brewing Company (MKE), the purveyors of beloved local beers like Polish Moon (milk stout), Booyah (saison ale), Louie’s Demise (amber ale), and O’Gii (Rishi Tea-infused Belgian wit). The Ale House has been around since 1997 but the building itself is over a century old and has been the headquarters for a saddle maker, a sailmaker and the inventor of the Hula Hoop.
Happy hour at the Ale House runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as Thursday night during karaoke from 9 p.m. to close. All MKE taps, house wine, and rail cocktails are $2 off. With rails regularly running just $4, they are the best bang for your buck on an individual drink during happy hour. However, five MKE taps are only $8 for a pitcher. In order to take advantage of the discounted drinks make sure to be in the bar area at the front or the outdoor deck overlooking the Milwaukee River (a pretty nice place to be), as happy hour is not active in the dining area under the arch.
Although happy hour deals are not valid in the dining area, that’s not to say there aren’t food deals included in the happy hour. Ale House offers three dollar chips and salsa, small nachos, four dollar wings, hummus and rosemary flatbread, and five dollar beer battered cheese curds, bavarian pretzel and coarse mustard, and a small cheese pizza. For less than the resale price of my umbrella I got five honey sriracha wings, which are such a perfect pairing of heat and sweet that I barely used the blue cheese dressing. August food specials are Pork Belly Tacos and an Au Poivre Burger.
The rest of the menu has many good-looking items, including a “craft food” section with dishes like Louie’s Demise BBQ Ribs and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. The Bangers and Beans reminded me of my Saturday night at Irish Fest. While the Ale House is just a stone’s throw from Henry Maier Festival Park, you don’t have to step outside the House for live entertainment. Each Friday and Saturday night they feature a live band, with Random Maxx (Aug. 21st) and Sugarnova (Aug. 22nd) performing this weekend. There are also lots of big TVs to watch the upcoming Packers season.
In the Spring, Ale House started carrying about 20 craft bottles and cans, with five Wisconsin options including the hard to find New Glarus Thumbprint Scream (double imperial IPA) and the new gluten-free offering from Lakefront, the Ginger New Grist. (Ale House has a decent number of gluten-free dining and beverage options.) There are also three guest taps: Central Waters Summarillo, Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, and Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Extra Double IPA. They have 12 house cocktails, six red and six white wines, plus a couple sparkling and “Blush” wines. The Hopside Down Irish Pub downstairs has a riverside patio and dock with six slips for boats up for 60 feet. It was closed on Monday but is always open on the weekend. By the time I left, fully satisfied with my helping of wings and local craft beer, my shoes were still a bit damp from the downpour, but I was greeted by beautiful vanilla skies that had banished the rain.