Aug 17, 2020

Signs you’ve stumbled into a really good Wisconsin dive bar

I may just be a commoner, but I’ve traveled enough of the country and set foot in enough watering holes to know not all dive bars are created equal.  Further, what makes a good dive bar in one part of the country doesn’t necessarily work everywhere.  That’s especially true in Wisconsin which seems to me to have a bar culture uniquely its own. 

After looking back over several stops from numerous trips to Madison, Sheboygan and places in between, here are a few signs I’ve spotted to know I’ve stumbled into a really good Wisconsin dive bar.

The Brazen Head Pub in West Bend proudly serves Pabst Blue Ribbon on draft. 

The best-selling tap beer is a Wisconsin-made product, but it may not be made in Milwaukee (if not, chances are strong it’s New Glarus Brewing Company’s Spotted Cow). 

The House of Heileman's on Big Cedar Lake blends right in with the cabins
and summer homes surrounding the water.   

The closer you get to the north woods, the more likely everything in the bar is made of wood or old timbers.

The spacious beer garden behind the House of Heileman's

If it’s a bar in the country, the beer garden has a scenic view that rivals most state parks.
  If you’re lucky, you also have a view of a lake.   

A week's specials are listed on the sign outside the Scenic Bar in Sheboygan.

Fish fries are mandatory on Fridays (and smelt on another night of the week if you’re lucky).

Two-for-one old fashioned are a good way to try variations on a bar's recipe.

Old fashioneds are the specialty drink of the house.   Bonus points if they’re two-for-one during happy hour. 

One of my favorite places for an old fashioned -- Frankie's Pub & Grill in Sheboygan.

Speaking of old fashioneds, be prepared to specify your order – sweet or sour, whiskey or brandy, cherry or some other garnish (some locals swear by marinated mushrooms).

Duck fries served with honey mustard dipping sauce from Jug's Hitching Post in Kohlsville.

Sure, every dive bar menu has cheese curds, but the really good ones also have duck fries. 

A new game of Stump begins at Collin's Deck Bar in West Bend.

Bar games may involve a log, hammer and nails. 

Who needs a handheld menu at the Caribou Tavern in Madison?

Your bar’s food menu is prominently displayed on a sign like this one. 

Hamm's is still the beer refreshing at the Caribou Tavern.

“Old man beer" prices are still ridiculously cheap. 

Looking for a recommendation in a specific location?  Some of the dive bars pictured here have already been featured on this blog, with more to follow.  You can also check out these websites:

House of Heileman’s, Big Cedar Lake

Jug’s Hitching Post, Kohlsville

Caribou Tavern, Madison

Mamie’s Bar and Grill, Milwaukee

Frankie’s Pub and Grill, Sheboygan

Collin’s Deck Bar, West Bend

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