Meet The Captain!
Milwaukee is the town that beer built.
So while my wife was busy being a famous author at her book signing/reader event I decided to get a feel for the town and what better way to start then by touring the old Pabst Brewery.
Pabst has been brewing beer since 1844 and their flag ship brew Pabst
Blue Ribbon (or PBR for short) is still a crowd pleaser. As I learned, the brewery closed in 1996 and currently 90 percent of PBR is currently brewed on contract with MillerCoors.
The brewery sat empty until 2001 when an entrepreneur named Jim Haertel purchased the huge brewery complex. With blood sweat and beers he restored Blue Ribbon Hall, The Great Hall, the Captain’s Courtyard, the Guest Center, the King’s Courtyard, and the Gift Shop all back to their original glory. Jim sold off all the other buildings to Joseph J. Zilber who is currently developing the area into the cities newest, sustainable, historic neighborhood.
The remaining part he named Best Place after German immigrant Jacob Best Sr. who established the brewery in 1844 with his four sons.
The Best Place is used for weddings, events and is a popular stop for brewery tours.
I was fortunate enough to have Jim himself as my tour guide. Most brewery tours end with drinking beer samples but this tour started with enjoying pints in Blue Ribbon Hall. Even our tour guide was enjoying a beer as he played us some old commercials, one that showed the very table and chairs I was sitting in, and discussed the history of Pabst.
I found out that two of the Best sons, Charles and Lorenz, left the business and started the Plank Road Brewery located north of the Pabst Brewery on a road that was originally made out of planks. In 1855 this brewery was purchased by Frederick John Miller which he grew into one of the largest breweries in the world the Miller Brewing Company. So the Best family not only started Pabst but had a hand in starting Miller as well. A picture of the original Plank Road Brewery is on every bottle of Icehouse.
Blue Ribbon Hall
Jacob’s son Phillip Best became the sole proprietor in 1859 and sold half the company to his new son-in-law Steamboat Captain Frederick Pabst after the Captain married this daughter.
Captain Pabst eventually took over the brewery by himself and on March 12 1889 he changed the name to Pabst Brewing Company and the rest is history.
One other interesting story was how Pabst survived prohibition by selling cheese, soda and malt extract. An advertisement for the malt extract read “good for nursing mothers”. Not sure that campaign would fly in todays market.
My tour started with beers and history then ended by taking pictures with the Captain himself or at least his bronze likeness.
So next time you are in Milwaukee stop by The Best Place. Make sure to say hi to Jim, take a tour and take a selfie with the Captain. And when the bartender asks “what’ll you have?” make sure you respond Pabst Blue Ribbon!