Lee and I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Milwaukee. It is very aptly named “Brew City” and not just because you can get Schlitz on tap. Craft breweries and beer bars abound, and we set our goal to sample as many of the local brews as possible. Lee and I ordered flight after flight of Wisconsin’s finest, usually accompanied by cheese or sausage or cheese AND sausage. How many beers did we try? Lee kept track on the beer app Untappd and on the first day alone, we sampled twelve different beers. By the end of the trip we had sipped on over thirty new brews.

Brewing and drinking beer are an integral part of Milwaukee’s history. Breweries have peppered the municipal landscape since the mid nineteenth century and the city has recently recreated the lush beer gardens that were once a popular place for families to gather. One modern beer garden we visited, built along the Milwaukee river, was tranquil and empty on a late Wednesday afternoon, but we were told that on weekends these venues fill up with locals swaying their steins to the sounds of a polka band.

Later in the week, we toured the Lakefront Brewery. Readers of this blog will know that one reason I was so eager to visit this brewery (in addition to sampling their fantastic beer) was because I wanted to visit the shrine of Bernie Brewer’s Chalet. After taking the requisite photo we enjoyed the sounds of a swinging polka band in the brewery’s beer hall. Lee, good Cajun that he is, can waltz with the best of them, but his dancing education lacked experience with the polka, so I grabbed the closest Milwaukeean over 70 (those are the gentlemen who really know how to dance) and got my polka fix. Breathless, I returned to our table, quaffed a beer and surveyed the beer garden’s dance floor. In that moment Lee and I realized that Milwaukee had more in common with Southern Louisiana than we had initially believed:

Celebratory drinking both indoors AND outside? Check.

Delicious sausages and cured meats? Check.

All consumed to the sounds of a band featuring an accordion? Check.

While dancing? Check.

Later that week, when Lee and I attended a Brewer’s baseball game,  it came as no surprise that when the crowd stood up for the seventh inning stretch, we were all exhorted to sing The Beer Barrel Polka. While nibbling on sausage. And, of course, drinking beer.

We have hopes to return to Milwaukee next summer and not just because the temperatures ranged from the mid 50s to the high 70s. Beer and sausages and dancing await. And Lee has promised, in the interim, to master the polka.

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