Friday, Sept. 21, 2012
Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars & Breweries (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), By Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz
The problem for any book about historic Wisconsin taverns is that there are just so many of them in a state that has always loved to drink. The authors of Bottoms Up acknowledge the impossibility of getting to all of them and narrowed their choices to 70 places, standout bars in most parts of Wisconsin and a few important breweries as well. The travelogue is prefaced by a succinct history of Badger bars (the earliest were housed in log cabins), with interesting details on everything from the ice harvesting necessary to chill the brewery caverns before electrical refrigeration and the many ruses that kept alcohol flowing during Prohibition. Of the 70 venues, most featured in attractive two-page spreads with color photos by Mark Fay, eight are in Milwaukee. Miller and Pabst represent the Beer Baron era. Four of the bars—Wolski’s, Holler House, the White House and Bryant’s—are well-preserved taverns from the first half of the last century. The Safe House remains a popular novelty long after the Cold war and This Is It, founded in 1968, is the city’s longest running gay bar.