Monday, May 30, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate Milwaukee?

This weekend I went to Milwaukee to see my beloved Giants at Miller Park take on the kinda likable Brewers for a couple of games, and enjoy everything Milwaukee has to offer. Milwaukee gets sort of a bad rap out there, but after going there a few times, I have to say that it is a good weekend destination. Please note, I have no desire to "settle down" in Milwaukee as I have no need to eat significantly more sausage, put on 15-20 pounds, become even pastier, and endure even worse weather than NE Ohio. That being said, I can tell you the following things about Milwaukee.

1) The People of Milwaukee are very friendly. I got pretty lit up on Friday night when the Giants pulled one out of their ass and beat the Brewers 5-4 in the 9th. I was sitting in the club section, which is surprisingly far away from the field (see photo), and was one of three Giants fans in the entire stadium. When the team name is the Brewers, and they play at Miller Park, there is certainly ample corporate pressure for heavy drinking at $7.00 a pop. You would think being surrounded by husky drunks, I would have received threats or at least well timed shit talk with the way I was acting up, but no Sir. We all laughed it up, and overpaid for various Miller products being hustled in the stadium. One caveat... Avoid the stadium food at all costs as I ate a hot dog that was barely room temperature, but still looked like a major improvement over a stack of deep fried alleged sea creatures greasily sitting in orange heat lamps. Plan ahead. The stadium is set off from the city, and the good people of Milwaukee like to tailgate before games. I think they are going through the motions until the Packers start up again, but what do I know? It would be easy to blend in and drink comp shitty Miller brew if you are traveling on a budget.

2) Milwaukee has a brewing tradition. Unfortunately the tradition was in brewing Schlitz, Pabst and Miller. Only Miller remains, as the Schlitz and Pabst facilities have become trendy condos by the river. There are three microbrew places that bear consideration. Lakefront Brewing is outstanding. Their entire portfolio was excellent, with certain beers resonating a bit more with me than others. Gravitating towards our old friend the hop, I liked the Lakefront IPA. The Cream City Pale is nice as well, especially if you don't want the high alcohol of the IPA. They push the Riverwest Stein Beer, which is an Amber, but it's a bit malty for me. Snake Chaser Irish Stout is real nice, but hardly a summer beer. The brewery is in a large old industrial building with German beer hall style tables to serve people on the Friday Fish Fry handled by someone named Captain Rusty. I don't know who Captain Rusty is, but he sounds like someone that would shanghai young boys onto his filthy ship to service the crew until they could dispose of the body at sea. Or maybe he's just a guy that likes to cook fish...

Sprecher is just North of the city, and specializes in German takes on beer. Having drunk my way across Germany a half dozen times, I find Sprecher to miss a certain zing in their beer, but it is certainly better than having a Miller High Life. Avoid the tour if you can, as the thing never seems to end. They force you to do the tour before going to the tasting room, but in retrospect I just should have slunk off from the group and ditched them. If you have time, check out the beer at Stonefly as well. It is one of those bearded slacker breweries where the music is ironic and beers are wittily named. If those dudes stopped buying clothes at thrift stores and spent more time in the brewery, maybe their beer could move into the #2 position. Also, I had been to the Milwaukee Ale House on an earlier trip, but I just remembered it as like going to a Rock Bottom. It seemed like less of a serious brewery, and more like a place to have a wedding rehearsal dinner. Buyer beware.

3) You can go to the Harley Davidson Museum if you want to. I don't, but you might. There seemed to be plenty of guys in their fifties with really big guts that had their chunky wives in their "weekend jeans" on the back of their bikes. I think the guys walk around and look at old bikes and throw terminology around while their wives buy shit in the massive gift shop. Owning a Harley now is sort of what owning a sailboat was in the 1960s, isn't it? It's the new suburban version of buying into the fantasy of "freedom" and "individualism", when in reality it is just punching an entry ticket to go to chicken wing house Bike Nights and drink Coors Light draft out of plastic cups. I like bikers that have their bike as their exclusive mode of transportation, instead of one of four "toys" in their 4 car garage. Bikers should be named "Ace" or "Spider", not "Mr. Bradley".

4) I exclusively stay at the Pfister Hotel. A great old hotel with outstanding service, the Pfister is where all visiting sports teams seem to stay. The best part? It's really reasonable. The last two times I stayed there Rickie Weeks went up the elevator with me, Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff sat next to me at breakfast, and I almost spilled a beer on Randy Wolf. I resisted the temptation to bitch out Huff, who is absolutely killing me in a high entry price NL only fantasy league. I don't know, maybe I should have reached out to him. Don't you think he would have responded to a guy ten years older than him saying, "Excuse me? Mr. Huff? Mr. Huff? Ummm, you know, you're on my fantasy team... yeah, I have had you for two years now and... Um.... Where are you going?" That would have been pretty cool. Or how about, "So, Aubrey... I love betting the games, and I was wondering if you had any insight how Sanchez's shoulder was feeling? If you want, I can get some action down for you too. Hey, where are you going?" It's always better to play it cool even though I was excited like a ten year old boy to sit next to my beloved Giants.

5) It is fun to sit right behind home plate. The second game I had tickets in row 2 behind the plate. It was a great game, but the Giants lost 3-2 on a suicide squeeze in the 9th. It was my second favorite Giants loss I have ever seen, as sitting that close to the plate is the best view possible. You are close enough to the players that when Pat Burrell is in the on deck circle, you can see him think "Why is that dude from breakfast sitting this close to me again. Should I get a restraining order?"

6) There's a place called the Squirrel Cage in Milwaukee that is one of my new favorite dive bars. It's a small room with a pool table in a residential neighborhood that hasn't changed in 30 years. There are ancient Pabst signs, an Andecker Beer sign, and stuffed squirrels behind the bar. The squirrels are so brazen from being fed by the bar owner that they come in the bar to eat peanuts, hence the bar name. Rich Heming bought the joint from his girlfriend's parents in 1977, and runs it like you stopped over at his house. He drives a cement truck during the day, and stays open until his patrons leave or he has to go to bed to go to work the next day. After talking to him a bit, he offered up two of his specialty shots he mixes up. The Milwaukee Slammer is some kind of sweet alcohol punch. It was pretty good. The Apple Pie however tasted just like a slice of really good pie but had Everclear in the mix. Allegedly some crazy friend of his cooks it up and brings it in a metal pot every once in awhile for him to sell. This is a great dive bar. Highly recommended.


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