Six Milwaukee bars recognized nationally

  • Six bars in Milwaukee were named among Draft Magazine's "Best Beer Bars in America" last week.
  • The bars are County Clare, Fat Abbey Biercafe, Milwaukee Ale House, Old German Beer Hall, Palm Tavern and Sugar Maple.
  • County Clare boasts a comfortable Irish ambiance, Fat Abbey is dedicated to the full beer experience, and Milwaukee Ale House brews its own signature beers.

Six bars in Milwaukee were included in Draft Magazine's list of "Best Beer Bars in America," released Feb. 4. Bars were judged according to beer, ambiance, service and food.

Those that made the cut were County Clare, Fat Abbey Biercafe, Milwaukee Ale House, Old German Beer Hall, Palm Tavern and Sugar Maple.

Paul Ward, assistant general manager of County Clare, said the staff and customers deserve most of the credit for the establishment's success.

"Our staff is second to none," Ward said. "They are fully trained right down to the pouring of the pints, but they also aren't afraid to talk to customers."

Ward said he has heard customers call County Clare a home away from home, with beer taps. The staff makes an effort to remember customers' names and pints. Newcomers sense the comfortable ambiance and want to be a part of it, he said.

"Our TV stays off so people leave here saying they had a great pint and a great chat, and that is the true spirit of a pub," Ward said.

County Clare's most popular beer is Guinness. Sales average 12 barrels per week, which amounts to 88, 20-ounce pints per barrel.

"We have been open since 1996 and have beat every other bar around in Guinness poured," Ward said. "We have poured well over half a million pints."

County Clare is also known for its home-style cooking. Ward said everything is made from scratch and nothing is pre-packaged or from a box.

"We stick out in the city as a solid place of comfort," Ward said. "The food is not pretentious, the prices are not pretentious and there is no cover charge at the door."

He said customers often come in with questions about Ireland and heritage and they always get answers. He said County Clare even helps customers find travel deals to Ireland. Some staff members are from Ireland and the owners also own Castledaley Manor, a similar establishment in Ireland.

Fat Abbey Biercafe's co-owner Mike Eitel said Fat Abbey is one of the best beer bars in America because of its commitment to serving the best beer in the world in its signature glass and because of the staff's knowledge of and passion for beer.

"Plus, where else are you going to find giant pink elephants, gnomes, trolls and drunken monks painted on the walls?" Eitel said.

He said the staff ensures that the "beer experience" is complete. They work to make all components conducive to a good beer-quaffing experience.

Fat Abbey's Belgian beer, Triple Karmeliet, is the most popular selection.

"It is the nectar of the gods, but watch out, it's 8.5 percent alcohol by volume," Eitel said.

Eitel said Fat Abbey was a popular subject of conversation last fall at a giant Belgian beer festival in Brussels.

Milwaukee Ale House is another well-known beer establishment, partly because it is a brewpub, said Head Brewer Robert Morton.

"We are designed and dedicated to beer and brewing," Morton said. "You can only get the beers we brew at our restaurant and a select few other bars."

He said Milwaukee Ale House also features some of the most popular bands in Milwaukee. Wednesday through Saturday nights feature more well-known bands.

"Louie's Demise is our flagship brand," Morton said. "It is a medium-bodied amber ale with notes of caramel and toffee and a slight hop background."