Home Brew: Great Milwaukee Lagers
photo by Beth Rooney
At Sprecher Brewing Company, in the suburb of Glendale, they take a more historical approach, raiding the German beer-making tradition to come up with beers that seem incredibly fresh today. Founded by former Pabst supervisor Randy Sprecher in 1985, the brewery is dedicated to the classic styles of lager that Sprecher came to love while stationed in Germany during a stint in the military: spicy Special Amber; discreetly sweet Oktoberfest; meaty doppelbock; chocolatey Black Bavarian. These substantial lagers are the very inverse of a beer like Miller Lite. And, as I discovered while quaffing Sprecher's Black Bavarian and feasting on wursts, goulash, and a huge pretzel at Mader's, a German restaurant downtown, they pair deliciously with hearty foods.
But then, throughout my visit, lager showed off its food-friendly side. At the Milwaukee gastropub owned by the Green Bay—based Hinterland microbrewery, they use Maple Bock, a smoky lager brewed with maple syrup, as a pairing and as a marinade for wood-fired pork belly. According to Hinterland owner Bill Tressler, "The more people are getting into drinking craft beers, the more we have to make beers for all occasions."
In Milwaukee, that extends to breakfast, as I discovered one morning at a Sendik's supermarket, by watching Craig Peterson of Buffalo Water Beer Company promote his sole beer, a lager, the citrusy Bison Blonde. He was handing out samples to folks stopping in to buy hot deli ham on a white roll, a local Sunday-morning staple. One customer cried out, "My favorite foods! I love you!" Peterson was thrilled. "It's an honor to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, the Blatzes and the Schlitzes," he told me. "We have a city that has a legacy that's diminished. If we can bring that back, that will feel better than anything."