The bottles that make up Thief Wine's diverse inventory are not stolen, but they may as well be. The shop's name—a reference to the long tube or "barrel thief" used to sample maturing wines waiting to be bottled—reflects the air of mischief shoppers experience in encounters with otherwise inaccessible wines that makes each of the shop's selections feel like the product of a thrilling cellar heist. The fruits of Thief's careful wine curation decorate the walls of Thief Wine's two locations with more than 500 selections, which mix familiar labels with artisanal up-and-comers from around the globe. At each location's wine bar, certified sommeliers pare down the hulking inventory to about 30 essential bottles, which slosh into thematic tasting flights or full glasses to flank small plates of cheese and charcuterie.
Since 1851, the Wisconsin State Fair has annually showcased the state's finest resources, stuffed fairgoers with an aromatic selection of world-class foods, and entertained guests with live bands and terrifying tractor flyovers. In between hot-stepping to the Steve Meisner Polka Band on August 9 and singing along to "Cracklin' Rosie" with Eric Ebert's Tribute to Neil Diamond on August 11, fair browsers will get their choice of day to frolic manfully among a ton of food stalls, games, thrill rides, outdoor events, interactive activities, and competitions. If your trio of the fair's famous cream puffs—whose airy creaminess is just as legendary in this reality as it is in alternate realities where Wisconsin won the Civil War—doesn't fill you up completely, test your gut's maximum occupancy with August 9's brat-eating contest (4 p.m.), which is best washed down beforehand with the root-beer-float-drinking contest (3 p.m.). Kids, meanwhile, can plummet down the fair's 200-foot giant slide, take splatter-art to messy new places at the Kohl's Color Wheel, or watch the state's fastest pigs race for the coveted frosted oatmeal cookie.
The tastings at Ray's Wine & Spirits invite alcohol enthusiasts to sample the world's most exquisite beverages and rub elbows with the people who produce them. Wine aficionados can aficionadify their palates by tasting Concha Y Toro's legendary Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc and chatting with its creator, Enrique Tirado, during the Don Melchor tasting (Wednesday, September 8 at 6:30 p.m., $20/person). For brewsky buffs, the Sam Adams tasting (Tuesday, September 28 at 6:30 p.m., $15/person) with Brewmaster Andrew Lamont offers an in-depth look at the Boston brewery's Winter Lager, American Rye Ale, new Imperial White, and more. Justify sewing French flags onto the backs of British children’s jackets at the Tour of Burgundy tasting (Wednesday, September 29 at 6:30 p.m., $25/person), which will showcase the vino of Nicolas Potel and allow fermentation fanciers to inspect varieties including Volnay, Gevrey Chambertin, and the $129.99-a-bottle Grand Cru, Echezeaux. Regularly check Ray's schedule for a monthly listing of tempting tastings.
Milwaukee Ale House echoes with notes of live music and the laughter of pub goers, but the building is also the site of serious work. Beyond a pair of glass doors, the pub's stainless steel fermentation tanks bubble with Milwaukee Brewing Company's creations. When they're ready, these beers make the short leap from brew room to bar tap, forming a beverage selection that Esquire described as, "plentiful and tasty, complementing the top-notch food."
The menu sports a convenient pairing chart that helps diners match prime rib, pulled-pork sandwiches, and spicy beef-and-chorizo burgers to house brews. Ideal with chicken, Louie's Demise exudes the smooth maltiness of a typical amber ale but with a balanced kick of Perle and Tettnanger hops, A meat-and-potatoes porter, the Admiral Stache ages for one month in bourbon barrels, lending a toasty vanilla flavor to subtle notes of milk chocolate and dried fruit.
Situated in the heart of the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee Ale House's century-old building provides the main dining room and patio areas with waterside views of the Milwaukee River. The pub's decor exudes its own historic charm with exposed brick, a scattering of empty wooden barrels, and vintage beer signs. When live bands aren't performing, focus turns back to the bar area, where the taps form an ornate centerpiece built to resemble a copper-topped wooden vat. Around the vat hang white mugs belonging to members of the Mug Club and office workers who "got lost" during their coffee break.
From their vantage point inside the InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel, diners at Kil@Wat can treat themselves to panoramic vistas of the city, including the bright lights of the neighboring Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Inside the kitchen, chefs use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to craft elegant meals fit for the awe-inspiring views. This focus on freshness and seasonality translates to a menu of upscale American comfort dishes such as pan-roasted whitefish from Lake Superior and braised short ribs with roasted garlic mash and wild mushroom jus. A staff pastry chef puts her own inventive twist on dessert, concocting delicacies such as peanut-butter-and-chocolate cheesecake with pretzel bark for an added crunch.
These gourmet morsels unite with the restaurant’s elegant décor to forge a luxurious, memorable dining experience. Vibrant chartreuse accents compliment orange suede chairs and crisp white tablecloths. Large light boxes cast a soft glow over people as they sip wine from the extensive list or pose as window washers to get in without a reservation.
You could call Vino 100 a wine boutique or a wine bar, but you might also view it as something of a wine library. Each bottle in the collection has been scrupulously cataloged according to the Wine Barometer system. Its tag decodes the complex flavors along two scales: flavor (dry to fruity) and body (light to full to solid). Buyers apply other selection criteria, too: the company guarantees it'll stock at least 100 bottles priced at $25 or less at all times, and that all those bottles will come from artisanal, limited-production wineries. Shoppers who can't wait to taste the evidence of the system's accuracy can take a bottle over to the wine bar for a small corking fee. Vino 100 also hosts wine classes and trivia nights to slake the thirst for knowledge.