Milwaukee is a cool place, with so much still to uncover.
The longer I live here, the more I yearn to dig deeper into the neighborhoods around me: the rich history, the diversity, the architecture, the activities that breathe life into the city that surrounds us.
Recently, Chad and I decided to take a staycation for two main reasons: one, to recharge our batteries (by having a little fun). Two, we wanted to explore a new-to-us area: the Brewery District.
About the Brewery District
You might’ve heard of a little operation called Pabst? Founded in 1844, the Pabst Brewing Company (formerly the Phillip Best Brewing Company) became one of the largest breweries in the US by 1874. The Pabst Brewing Company Complex originally consisted of 27 buildings spanning seven city blocks in downtown MKE.
After operating there for more than 150 years, the Pabst Brewery relocated their headquarters, leaving Milwaukee and officially closing in 1996. This area, the seven blocks of historic buildings, became vacant and deteriorated over a span of 20 years. In 2006, real estate developer and philanthropist Joseph J. Zilber purchased the site and began revitalizing the area, preserving its history and creating a mixed-use district known as the Brewery District.
Today, the effort is apparent. According to the Brewery District website, over $300 million has been invested in the neighborhood; there are seven apartment complexes, three office buildings, two hotels, two breweries, several restaurants, banquet halls, a public parking structure, two parks, and affiliations with higher educations. Plus, there’s a dedication to sustainability.
It’s an incredible place to explore, located close to downtown and adjacent to the Deer District.
Sampling the district
It’s no secret: Chad and I are big brewery fans (especially in Milwaukee!). We’ve joked that brewery-hopping is our shared love language; it’s one of our favorite activities, especially when it comes to finding new places and exploring different menus and flavor profiles.
Our staycation itinerary couldn’t be more obvious (or more tailor-made for us): it’s in the name of the district. We tried two breweries and one eatery, all within a quick two-minute walk across the historic square, framed by neon lights and cream city brick in-between.
First, we tried the new Pilot Project brewery (in the building formerly occupied by MKE Brewing). The space was dazzling: modern, sharp, open, aesthetically pleasing. Chad and I both ordered flights with an array of flavor profiles; I opted for a fruity mix of light ales and hard kombuchas, while Chad chose more in-season, dark beers like a cherry porter and a chai stout. Everything was delicious and we vowed to return.
Next, we walked just up the sidewalk to Central Waters Brewing Company—a converted church that now is home to a fantastic menu of beer and recently food, too. Chad and I ordered a few rounds here, for me a fruity sour and Chad a German-style lager, while a football game played on the screen behind us. We posted up at our table with a deck of cards and played a game of rummy while we sipped our brews.
Last for the night, Chad and I went to On Tap, the bustling restaurant and bar connected to our hotel. We enjoyed delicious pizzas with the latter end of the Bucks game illuminated by the Pabst sign, while clinking our glasses to a successful night out.
In the morning, Chad grabbed us some coffee from the Boiler House Café—my soy vanilla latte hit the spot.
Other brewery district businesses and spots to check out include:
- Bento Xpert
- Eleven25 At The Pabst
- Glass + Griddle
- Lucky’s Spitfire
- Marco Pollo
- Meat On The Street
- Best Place At The Historic Pabst Brewery
- Preservation Park
Staying at the Brewhouse Inn
Probably the most important piece of the staycation, of course, is the stay. Chad and I opted for a one-night visit at the Brewhouse Inn and Suites.
If the location wasn’t enough of a sell—right in the thick of the Brewery District action, a two-minute walk from every single attraction, the hotel was amazing on its own. Aside from an industrial and luxurious interior, the Brewhouse Inn is also swimming in a rich history—Chad and I spent a good chunk of time wandering through the halls, reading about the building’s brewing past, and admiring the brick, architecture, photos, and the giant copper vessels on display.
When we got inside our room, I almost didn’t want to leave.
Chad and I were greeted by an incredible view, and were even lucky enough to catch a sunset as we toured our suite, over a Pabst skyline. The vibes were immaculate and we felt fortunate to have a killer place to call home for the night after our adventures out and about. I loved the modern, industrial details and Chad especially loved the playful odes to the property’s beer-dipped past, like the bubbly doors leading to the bedroom or the PBR ice bucket.
We definitely got what we were looking for: a gorgeous place to recharge our batteries amid all the fun.
An Important (Seasonal) Note: I loved the Brewhouse Inn on its own merits as a modern, cool, and historic space. But wow, I especially felt swept away in the magic of the hotel’s holiday decorations. There were Christmas trees (the tall, grand kind), lights, uniform red bows, and garland. Halls were literally decked. Even the copper pots felt festive and fun. Chad and I were delighted by the high-level of décor that somehow made the Brewhouse Inn seem even more upscale and wonderful.
We’ll be back
We’ll be back to the Brewery District, whether it’s for a tour of the old Pabst brewery, another round of drinks, or a meal at one of the restaurants. And if you’re looking for a place to stay in Milwaukee, the Brewhouse Inn is at the top of our list.