Browse the storefronts along South Kinnickinnic Avenue (known as “KK” to locals) in the neighborhood of Bay View. Men’s hat shop The Brass Rooster just opened inside the Historic Avalon Theater and is stocked with high-quality porkpies, fedoras, flat caps, and bowlers that owner John McLaughlin will only part with if they look good on the customer. A few blocks away is Sparrow Collective (2224 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue, 414-747-9229), a two-year-old clothing shop/gallery showcasing handmade necklaces, beer soap, screen-printed tees, and other goodies by local designers.
Pass by classic “Cream City” brick buildings with beer baron names like Blatz, Pabst, and Schlitz on your way to Milwaukee Brewing Co. Opened in 2007, the 50-barrel craft brewery taps into the city’s history with suds like the Pull Chain Pail Ale, an ode to the days when workers had union-mandated beer breaks. Sign up for a tour ($7) on Friday evening, when home brewers stop by to talk shop with brewmaster (and CIA grad) Bert Morton and taste some of his herb-infused prototypes. End the night at Lakefront Brewery, which just released its seasonal pumpkin lager and serves up a traditional fish fry to the tune of the Brewhaus Polka Kings.
Catch burgeoning bands like alt-country duo Civil Wars (November 8; $18) at Turner Hall, the smallest (and newest) of three music venues operated by the nonprofit Pabst Theater Foundation inside historic buildings. Built as a social club for German-American gymnasts in 1882, the two-story ballroom resembles an East Berlin relic with its peeled walls and blackened ceiling from fires long ago. Order a PBR Tall Boy ($3) and plant yourself by the sweeping balcony upstairs, where the railing is engraved with names dating as far back as 1920.