Kathy Flanigan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee County Historical Society is moving a popular brewing exhibit into The Shops of Grand Avenue — where you’ll be able to get a beer with your history lesson.

In the spot formerly occupied by Applebee’s, where people might have munched chicken wings, patrons will be able to learn about the history of the Blatz family. Or take a peek at a vintage Grant, a huge machine that once pushed flowing Miller beer in lautering tanks.

Brew City MKE, a version of the successful exhibit, will open in Grand Avenue at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The 2,700-square-foot space won’t just look backward: It will be tapped off with a first-of-its kind Milwaukee Beer Bar, featuring eight local taps and a selection of 12 to 15 Milwaukee beers available in bottles and cans.

The popularity of last year’s “Brew City MKE: Craft, Culture, Community,” a deep-dive look at the Milwaukee County Historical Museum’s vast collection of artifacts, texts and images, inspired the one-year pilot project.

The new exhibit is a key part of the Grand Avenue’s overall redevelopment by its new owners.

That larger project includes the recent start on converting part of the mall’s historic Plankinton Arcade into 50 apartments, as well as attracting new office tenants that include Watton Law Group and Fresenius Medical Care.

Unlike last year’s exhibit, everything at Brew City MKE will be from the museum’s collection and will change from time to time.

 The idea is for visitors to come in, look around and leave with some knowledge of Milwaukee’s brewing roots. Exhibits are divided by category: brewing, the brewing process, the culture, brewing families, advertising and supporting businesses, such as barrel-makers. One part of the display is hands-on and allows visitors to touch and smell barley.

A bonus is that the museum’s $10 entry fee includes a beer at the Milwaukee Beer Bar.

“With broad interest in beer across the nation and with Milwaukee’s reputation as Brew City, it seems only natural that this city would become home to a beer and brewing heritage destination that explores Milwaukee’s deep beer and brewing roots,” said Ben Barbera, curator at the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

 For others who don’t have time to view the exhibit or just want to wet their whistle with a Milwaukee beer, the bar will be open. Even there, they’ll get a good picture of beer in Milwaukee, said Mame McCully, the museum’s executive director.

A giant blackboard lists the beers by name, style, alcohol by content and also by neighborhood. Even the restrooms feature images of Milwaukee’s brewing past and maybe a couple of its present brewing state.

Brew City MKE will host tap takeovers and panel discussions during the year and will be available for rentals and bus tours. There also will be a Milwaukee-focused gift shop near the bar area.

Admission to the museum is $10 and is also good for a visit to the Milwaukee Historical Society, 910 N. Old World 3rd St., on the same day. Brew City MKE will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. See brewcitymilwaukee.com for more information.

Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Daykin contributed to this report.