Unofficially, every week of the year is Beer Week in Milwaukee. Between the staggering number of drinking establishments, ever-present standing among the drunkest cities in America on inane lists, rampant local breweries, and our unique knack of incorporating alcohol into almost every activity, Milwaukee definitely earns its Brew City moniker. However, this week officially marks Milwaukee Beer Week. From April 26 through May 3 (so actually eight days), literally hundreds of special events at dozens of bars and restaurants in every corner of the city (and Waukesha for some reason) make America’s beer bastion even better.
With a cluster of limited tappings, free tastings, specialty beer cocktails, lambic pie, hard root beer floats, food pairings, and a firkin ton of other beer-based events, making an itinerary for Milwaukee Beer Week can be a daunting ordeal. Rather than try to pick highlights from the innumerable amount of hoppy happenings, Milwaukee Record bravely consumed 10 of the worst (or most overrated) Wisconsin brews to help you map out your Beer Week through the process of elimination.
Design is important, and when a beer-can design reminds you of those generic potato chips they served you in grade school (the ones simply marked “POTATO CHIPS”), you know you’re in trouble. Brewed by the Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin, Boxer Lager looks bad and tastes worse. “Synthetic liquid corn” is probably the most succinct way to describe the Boxer drinking experience, though that would do a huge disservice to people who enjoy slurping down cream corn. And kudos to anyone who actually gets to the Boxer drinking experience: one whiff of the way-too-sweet, chemical-y fumes that emit from a newly opened can will send you driving straight to Monroe to enjoy the refreshing Limburger cheese smell of the Chalet Cheese Cooperative.
Like other ice beer, Classic Ice—brewed by the City Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin—is the go-to choice for catching a quick, low-level buzz. It’s the kind of beer that comes over to your place on a Sunday afternoon to play some video games, and offers itself up to drink because, hey, it’s here already and it’s the only beer in the house. It’s the king of crisp, tasteless, watered-down beer. (Okay, maybe just a prince.) A faint taste of rust is the only truly bad thing that can be said about Classic Ice, but after two or three cans of the stuff over two or three games of NHL ’94 on the Genesis, you’ll hardly notice.
Horny Goat Baby Got Bock
If craft beers like He’Brew (“The Chosen Beer”), The Big O (an O’so wheat ale), and Hanson’s American IPA called Mmmhops! aren’t proof enough, craft breweries love to call their beers all kinds of weird shit. Milwaukee’s own (or Stevens Point, if you care to get technical) Horny Goat Brewing Co. takes naming liberties to another level, though. In addition to naming its brewery a double entendre that suggests a farm animal is fixin’ to bone, Horny Goat is also eager to slap half-functional puns on the majority of its beers. There’s Hopped Up ‘n Horny, HornyCopia Pumpkin Ale, and Horny Blonde. But the most frivolous nomenclature goes to its seasonal Baby Got Bock. To be fair, the bock is perfectly fine. It’s a middle of the road beer seemingly adapted from a home brewer’s manual (think a better, much more douchey St. Francis Brewery product). In all, we can’t help but wonder if Horny Goat—with its stupid names and labels that sexualize goats—is a bad pun factory that just so happens to brew uninspired beer on the side.
Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy
From its ubiquitous presence at Miller Park, you’d think Leine’s Summer Shandy would be the perfect brew for taking in a baseball game and watching the next unsuspecting player walk into Ryan Braun’s practice swing. You’d be wrong. Yes, lemonade is the perfect summer concoction, but this lemonade-flavored beer brewed out of Chippewa Falls leaves something to be desired. Maybe it’s the overpowering citrus flavor, or maybe it’s the way its aftertaste has more of a lifespan than Dick Leinenkugel’s political career, but nothing about Summer Shandy screams “summer,” “baseball,” or “drink me.” Hunt down other Miller Park offerings (or other parking lot offerings) instead.
MillerCoors’ latest beer is meant to appeal to people who don’t drink beer, and who instead imbibe in “spirits.” Unfortunately, Miller Fortune’s rollout couldn’t have been more baffling. Was it a bourbon-infused beer, as early media reports suggested? No, it wasn’t bourbon-infused. Was it bourbon-flavored? Not really. Instead it’s just an average-tasting beer meant to appeal to the rocks-glass set. We tried it in a rocks glass (actually a McDonald’s promotional glass for Batman Returns), and found it to be resoundingly average—nowhere near as gross as Miller Lite in a glass, but nowhere near as good as a Bulleit Bourbon on the rocks. It’s more marketing buzz than buzz-worthy beer.
Milwaukee’s Best Ice
Some beers are all about the journey, while others are about getting you good and shitty as quickly (and cheaply) as possible. The latter is where MillerCoors’ Milwaukee’s Best Ice comes in. With a 5.9 ABV, it’ll get the job done, no questions asked, especially if you’re shotgunning it around a campfire with seven dudes in sleeveless shirts. Will it taste even remotely good going down? Fuck no. Still, Best Ice is fairly inoffensive in the taste and aftertaste departments, making for a slightly metallic, not-good-but-not-Boxer workhorse of a beer. Hell, they don’t call it the “Beast” for nothing.
Like many of you, we first encountered this putrid lager when it was known by a different name, Mountain Creek. The dirt-cheap beer—we got four 16-ounce cans for $2.19—is something of a rite of passage for poor college kids or impartial underage drinkers looking to get blotto for a bargain. Even those two sects quickly learn there are better ways to tie one on such as: snorting store brand mouthwash; inserting a tampon soaked in rubbing alcohol into one’s rectum; anything else. Like Boxer, this beer is “brewed” (using the term in the most generous sense) by Minhas in Monroe, which could’ve occupied every slot on this list. At first sip, Mountain Crest evokes the flavor of a used Band-Aid that’s accented with the aroma of a different, bloodier used Band-Aid. At second sip, it elicits a promise to one’s self that there isn’t going to be a third sip. If you apply one lesson from college to your everyday life, make it an ardent pledge to keep never drinking Mountain Crest.
Olde English 800 (Shatter Proof)
From the malt liquor magnate who brought you a disgusting 40-ounce beverage in a glass bottle comes the new shatter proof Olde English 800. You know how beer is almost never available in plastic bottles? Yeah, there’s a reason for that. The Miller Fortune of MillerCoors’ malt liquor arsenal, Olde English has never tasted worse than this. Not only is the bottle plastic, it’s also clear, allowing in all that wonderful taste-augmenting fluorescent light from liquor store coolers. Worse yet, the only appeal of this charcoal filtered ipecac alternative (having 8.0 percent ABV) is null. This version has been busted down to 5.9 percent ABV, which is still above average, but not worth the terrifying torture inflicted upon taste buds. We wish we could’ve shattered this.
Up until a few years ago, Schlitz was part of a unique brotherhood. Along with Pabst (back when few wanted to recognize it had ever come from here, let alone seek to have it return), Old Milwaukee, Blatz, and so many more, Schlitz was the star of an unsavory ensemble of iconic-yet-decidedly shitty brews. Though it alleges it “made Milwaukee famous” and that might be somewhat true, the brand became infamous as more (and significantly better) beers flooded the market. In truth, Schlitz isn’t bad beer. Yet it’s also nothing special in the slightest, which makes the beer’s sudden resurgence altogether baffling. Presently, the same beer snobs who chortle when they overhear someone order a Blatz or Hamm’s at a bar are choking down a Schlitz or Pabst, oftentimes for double the price, having totally bought in to the rebranded—and new recipe—brew’s exercise in targeted marketing. Take your gusto, new logo, and vintage pinup posters. We’ll take the cheaper toll road to shitty beer inebriation and crack a Blatz instead.
Steel Reserve Blk Berry
Though its headquarters are in Irwindale, California and it was formerly brewed in Fort Worth, Texas, Steel Reserve is now brewed right here in Milwaukee, as one of the brands with which MillerCoors isn’t exactly broadcasting its affiliation. Since its 1998 inception, Steel Reserve has experienced some other changes, namely the recent addition of a “Blk Berry”-flavored malt beverage in the brand’s Alloy Series. A 16-ounce can (broken up from a four pack by the liquor store, which is always a good indication of sell-ability) set us back 99 cents. We overpaid. Admittedly, the first sip wasn’t too bad—like a worse Sparks or much better Four Loko—but a harsh, metallic flavor settled at the bottom leaving us with a slight headache and tingling hands by the time we’d (miraculously) finished the 8.0 percent ABV swill. Maybe it was the “extra gravity” it touts. Fort Worth can have this one back.
*Some of these are malt beverages, which aren’t technically beer. Most of the actual beers listed here shouldn’t be considered beer because they’re gross.