MILWAUKEE – Pabst Brewing Co. will again brew beer in Milwaukee at the site of its historic former brewery, which the company shut down nearly 20 years ago.
The company will open a microbrewery, including a tasting room, at the former Pabst Brewing complex. Most of the former brewery buildings have been redeveloped into a hotel, apartments, offices and other new uses, with more projects in the works.
The new brewery and tasting room will open in a former church that was later used as an employee training and conference center by Pabst Brewing.
The brewery and tasting room, with around five to 10 employees, will be on the building's ground floor. A restaurant and tavern, operated by Milwaukee restaurateur Mike Eitel, will be on the second floor, said Michael Mervis, spokesman for Blue Ribbon Management LLC, which is buying the building and will lease space to Pabst and Eitel.
Pabst plans to have the brewery operating by summer 2016, said Eugene Kashper, chairman and chief executive officer. The long-vacant building's redevelopment, which will include an addition, will amount to an investment of roughly $3 million to $5 million, Kashper and Mervis said Wednesday.
The company will use the brewery to experiment with Pabst recipes for discontinued brands such as Old Tankard Ale, Kloster Beer and other beers made before Prohibition. There are old recipes in Pabst archives at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Golda Meir Library, and at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Kashper said.
"It's very exciting for us to have this innovation laboratory, and to be back in our hometown," Kashper said. "There's so much loyalty and passion for the brand."
Pabst might also use the brewery to create some new brands, he said.
"But we will always try to tie that back to our roots," Kashper said.
Finally, the tasting room will provide a chance to meet customers face to face, he said.
Mervis said Eitel's restaurant, totaling about 3,000 square feet, would include a beer garden south of the building. The restaurant likely would have around 50 employees.
Eitel said more information about the restaurant would be released this summer. He said the bar area will focus on Pabst Brewing's brands.
"The fact that Pabst is coming back to brew at the original site, but in such a unique spot, is thrilling for me," Eitel said.
Pabst's Milwaukee history
Pabst began with the 1844 launch of Best and Co., a brewery operated by Jacob Best and his four sons, including Phillip.
Phillip Best's daughter married Frederick Pabst, who took control of the business in 1888. The company's name was changed to Pabst Brewing, and it became among the country's dominant brewers for several decades.
It bought the former German Methodist church that will become its new microbrewery in 1898. Pabst had a bar and restaurant for its employees there until 1971 and used the building as a training center into the 1980s.
Pabst's sales began declining during the 1970s. It was sold to California-based S&P Co. in 1985. S&P closed the Milwaukee brewery in 1996. Pabst moved its headquarters to San Antonio and later contracted with Miller Brewing Co. and other firms to brew its brands, including Pabst Blue Ribbon, eventually closing its remaining breweries. Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings LLC, a partnership between Kashper and TSG Consumer Partners LLC, bought Pabst for an undisclosed amount in November.