Milwaukee, Wisconsin is currently known as the “Brew City” and once known as the Beer Capital of the World. There are many well known beer brands that called Milwaukee home like Miller, Schlitz, Blatz and Pabst. Pabst Brewing has a long history in Milwaukee and you could easily dedicate a whole day to the history of the beer and family that made Pabst famous.
The Brewery District: The former site of the Pabst Brewery is one of the newest neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Located in the northwestern part of the city, this area has been transformed into a sustainable, mixed use district which includes apartments, hotels and restaurants. The area is beautiful, they did a great job in adding some new modern buildings while keeping 16 of the historic buildings from the brewery. I don’t know about anyone else, but I always love seeing the contrast of the new and old buildings together in a city.
If you are looking to learn more about Pabst Beer, along the sidewalk in the Brewery District is a timeline of the history of Pabst Brewery.
But if you have more time, I highly recommend heading to Best Place at Historic Pabst Brewery for a fun and informative tour on the history of Pabst Beer.
Best Place at Historic Pabst Brewery: Here you will find Best Place Coffee & Spirits for a little pick me or a beer that made Pabst famous, whichever you choose Make sure to check out the Vintage Gift Shop which not only sells Pabst items but items from all the beer brands that made Milwaukee famous like Schlitz, Blatz and Old Milwaukee. During the warmer months, they have live music in the courtyard. There are also banquet facilities in the historic brewery for weddings and other events. Throughout the entire place is Pabst memorabilia.
The highlight of Best Place at Historic Pabst Brewery, is definitely the Beer History Tour. On this hour long tour, enjoy a free beer (preferably a Pabst Blue Ribbon, aka PBR) or soda, hear about the history of Pabst beer and Milwaukee beer history in general, see the Blue Ribbon Hall and the former corporate offices of Pabst Brewery.
Beer History Tour: The tour starts in Blue Ribbon Hall where you learn some history while enjoying your free beer or soda. Pabst was the first of the great beer brands to come out of Milwaukee when Jacob Best started Best Brewery in 1848. The name of the beer, Best Beer, what a great name, nothing like heading up to a bar and say give me the Best Beer! In the 1850’s Jacob’s son Phillip Best takes over running the company. In 1863, Phillip’s German son-in-law, who was a ship captain made a career move and became a partner in the company. His name, Frederick Pabst, the name sake of the famous Pabst beer!
A fact I learned during the tour was that Chicago used to be the beer capital, but then the Great Chicago Fire happened in 1871 and it helped the breweries in Milwaukee and soon after Milwaukee became the beer capital of the world. Even with Frederick Pabst as partner in the company, it remained Best Brewing Company until 1889 when the name of the company was changed to Pabst Brewing Company. Prior to the name change they were selling Best Select beer which had a blue ribbon around the neck of the bottle. So in 1889, Pabst Blue Ribbon (othewise known as PBR) was born.
During prohibition, breweries were hit hard. Pabst did what it could to stay afloat, they did what any true Wisconsin company would do and switched from selling the state beverage to selling the state food, cheese! After prohibition ended they went back to selling beer and eventually their cheese operation was purchased by Kraft.
Pabst was the largest American owned brewery and was a great place to work with some wonderful benefits including a beer every 3 hours at work! Where can I send my resume for that job? 😉 In 1996, they abandoned their brewery in Milwaukee and are currently located in San Antonio, Texas.
There are still 16 buildings left in the Pabst Brewing complex and the tour takes you into what used to be the corporate offices of Pabst Brewing. You can see Frederick Pabst’s office and desk. There is plenty of old Pabst momentos in the former corporate offices and they are used as a location for weddings and other events today. It’s really a great historic spot for an event.
Then the tour goes down to the basement where there is a bar and where one of the many safes at Pabst Brewing was located. It’s another great spot that can be rented for smaller events.
Pabst Mansion: Now that you know who Frederick Pabst and his history, why not drive a little over a mile west and visit his mansion. Take a guided tour of this beautiful mansion that has been standing since 1892. The Pabst Mansion took two years to build and costs $254,000 to build, which was definitely quite the big amount of money in the 1890s.
The Pabst lived in the mansion until their deaths in 1904 and 1906. In 1908, their descendents sold the house to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee to be used as a residence for the archbishop. From beer to the church, the mansion has certainly had an eclectic past. It remained a residence for numerous archbishops for sixty seven years. Then in 1975, after almost getting torn down to build a parking lot for a hotel, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and became a museum.
The guided tour was a great way to see the mansion and learn more about the Pabst family and personal lives. I found it interesting that the different rooms were done if different styles from different time periods, it definitely gave the house an eclectic feel.
There were so many interesting unique artifacts in the house, alot of which had to do with drinking. I guess that’s to be expected in a mansion owned by an owner of a brewery.
And one of my favorite things that I saw was the stained glass ceiling above the staircase.
The history of the Pabst family and their beer business was very interesting to me. It’s a huge part of the history of Milwaukee and helps to give you and idea of what made this city successful. Now I just need to find a job that gives me a free beer every three hours. 😂
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