Lowlands Group is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week. Since opening Cafe Hollander on Downer Avenue in 2006, the restaurant group has ballooned to seven locations—with another set to open next year—and, over time, has markedly differentiated itself from its Milwaukee bar and restaurant counterparts by placing an unparalleled focus on Belgian beer (or “bier”).
To mark hitting double digits, Lowlands recently remodeled its flagship site. When Cafe Hollander Downer reopened Sunday, the restaurant had a new floor on both levels and an updated menu with new items and cameos from retired favorites. Most importantly, more draft lines were added. Now boasting 36 taps, Cafe Hollander Downer (and all other locations residing beneath the Lowlands umbrella) will pour an impressive batch of holiday biers.
A total of 14 holiday options—with an overwhelmingly Belgian leaning—have been scattered across all Lowlands’ sites, five of which are “Lowlands Group Exclusive” biers that can’t be found anywhere else in the state, if not the country. The most notable of the new batch is a special collaborative with, you guessed it, a Belgian brewery. Santa Rampage, is a sweet, semi-spiced dubbel named after the kitschy bike race that takes over Milwaukee streets every December. Toting notes of fig and a caramel undertone, it drinks much smoother than its 9 percent ABV would suggest, and it’s a winter brew worthy of sharing a name with the strange local tradition.
Lowlands Group isn’t alone in pulling out the stops for the holidays. Between rare tappings, boozy benefits, Lakefront’s Black Friday release, and even a couple events hosted by yours truly, there’s no shortage of unique and fun ways to sip straight through the holiday season in Milwaukee.
Wednesday, November 23
Bell’s Deep at Burnhearts
Thanksgiving Eve is a night that brings old friends together—oftentimes at a bar. In that spirit, Burnhearts and Bell’s Brewery will come together again to release a few rarities, along with a familiar friend. The Kalamazoo brewery’s best-known expert, Two Hearted Ale, will be joined by a special firkin of Bell’s Double Brown, and appearances by Quinannan Falls Lager, and some barrel-aged Hell Hath No Fury.
Friday, November 25
Lakefront Brewery’s Black Friday release
Once again, Lakefront Brewery will give beer aficionados something worth buying on the biggest shopping day of the year. Supplies of Lakefront’s annual bourbon barrel-aged Black Friday Imperial Stout are limited, so as other relatives are gathered around department stores, wait in the cold to purchase something that really matters. Based on the response in previous years, you’ll want to get to the brewery early.
Black Friday Brunch at Stubby’s
Once you’ve either scored some Black Friday at Lakefront or waited in vain, continue east to either celebrate your purchase or drink your sorrows away at Stubby’s Black Friday Brunch. Starting at 11 a.m., the gastropub will tap a holy trinity from Chicago’s Goose Island. The bounty includes Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon County Barley Wine, and Bourbon County Stout Coffee.
Sunday, November 27
The North End Holiday Round Robin IV at various Bay View bars
Going on, uh, whatever IV means in Roman numerals, the North End Holiday Round Robin will bring a bunch of Bay View bars together to indulge in the holiday spirit. For $20, patrons can enjoy special holiday-themed drinks and snacks at Newport, The Tonic Tavern, LuLu, D14, Boone & Crockett, Revel, and Urban in 45-minute spurts. All donations will go to the Bay View Community Center.
Tuesday, November 29
Drink For Good: Feeding America at Good City Brewing
“Drink for a purpose. Seek the good,” says the event listing for Good City Brewing’s “Drink For Good” event. From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., all tips will go to benefit Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. Enjoy new brews from one of Milwaukee’s most promising young brewers, and leave a tip to help those in need.
Thursday, December 1
Secret Milwaukee Record event TBA at Company Brewing
Speaking of beer releases with a beneficial bent, you won’t want to miss this. Expect more details Wednesday.
Saturday, December 3
Holiday Toy Drive Party at Vanguard
Congratulations! You’re hereby invited to Vanguard’s holiday party. There’s one small catch: Cover is either $10 or a donated toy. Money and toys will be given to Children’s Hospital Of Wisconsin. The goodwill and cheer will continue both inside and outside the bar. A portion of beer sales will also benefit Children’s Hospital Of Wisconsin, as will tree sales on the patio, and all proceeds from the “Shots For Tots” program. To be clear, shots will not be given to tots. Rather, sales from specific shots will benefit children.
Wednesday, December 7
Beer Tapping And Toy Drive at Rock Bottom Brewery
Could anything be better than two beers and a food pairing for just $5? Yes, if that $5 goes to benefit a worthy local organization. All beer sales will go to Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, including Rock Bottom’s just-tapped Blitzen Tripel Belgian. If you’re feeling extra generous, on-site toy donations are also being accepted.
Wednesday, December 14
Milwaukee Record Beer Club — Meeting #2 at Garage
Milwaukee Record and Lakefront Brewery cordially invite you to join us for the next Milwaukee Record Beer Club event, presented by Lakefront Brewery and Milwaukee Record. This time around, we’ll be meeting at East Side favorite, Garage. After the keg is tapped at 7 p.m., enjoy complimentary Warm Front Extra Pale Ale until it’s all gone. RSVP HERE.
Thursday, December 22
Eat Like The Dickens! Bier Dinner at Cafe Hollander Downer
Let’s finish where this all started. The night after the restaurant’s Holiday Rarities lesson in its monthly Bierklasse series, Cafe Hollander Downer will encourage patrons to “Eat Like The Dickens!” during a five-course meal inspired by the eponymous scribe’s famed A Christmas Carol, complete with holiday bier pairings. As Dickens famously penned, “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”