Part of Milwaukee’s past will now be part of its future, as the Pabst Brewing Company is back after leaving Milwaukee 20 years ago.
The new Pabst Brewery on West Juneau Avenue will be on a much smaller scale than in its glory days. The brewery, taproom and restaurant will occupy a 140-year-old building that was once a German church.
It was bought by Pabst a long time ago as a bar for its employees. It was repurchased and will now serve as a test brewery for the whole country.
“The idea of being able to renovate a piece of that and rebuild our brewing traditions here is something that started about 2 years ago," said Pabst CEO Simon Thorpe.
Thorpe said the decision to come back to the historic site was about honoring the past while looking to the future.
“This is something that we've set out to be unique, not just in Milwaukee, but in craft brewing," he said.
It will pour a combination of new beers along with classics from the archives dating back to 1844.
"It was part of the reason why Milwaukee was known as Brew City and the home of beer," said Ben Barbera with the Milwaukee Historical Society.
Barbera said Pabst brewing site was once arguably the largest in the nation. The downtown location employed several thousand until new ownership and advertising cuts, followed by a downturn in the 1980s and 1990s.
“The new owners were less interested in maintaining the Milwaukee roots and character," Barbera said.
The plant closed in 1996.
"It was a sudden, we're closed get out and that was it, the city was stunned," he said.
This new brewery will be producing on a much smaller scale at about 4,000 barrels a year.
"It's also a unique vision of what we want to be as a company for the next 170 years," Thorpe said.
The brewery opens to the public on Friday.
At one time Milwaukee was home to some of America’s largest brewers: Pabst, Miller, Schlitz and Blaatz.
Today, Milwaukee has about 20 micro and craft breweries.
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