Pabst Brewing Co.

Five favorites for Doors Open Milwaukee

Doors Open Milwaukee was held Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th. About 200 locations, many normally closed to the public, were open for visitors. Here are five of my favorite places to visit during this annual event.

1. Former Pabst Brewery

Although the area is undergoing rapid development, some of the original Pabst buildings remain. Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Although the area is undergoing rapid redevelopment, some of the original Pabst buildings remain. Photo by Carl Swanson

Tour a speakeasy (actually, the former plant infirmary and ancient storage tunnels) at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, 901 W. Juneau Ave. The speakeasy is open if the red jelly jar light is illuminated at the doorway marked “J.C. Haertel Real Estate & Financial Consulting.” The Pabst Brewing Co. was the subject of this Milwaukee Notebook post. (more…)

Drinking Pabst in Whitefish Bay

The Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort was a favorite summer destination for Milwaukeeans, as famous for its planked white fish dinners as it was for ice cold lager. Carl Swanson collection

The Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort was a favorite summer destination for Milwaukeeans, as famous for its planked whitefish dinners as it was for ice cold lager. Carl Swanson collection

In the 1880s, Captain Frederick Pabst built a magnificent beer garden, restaurant, hotel, and amusement park on 200 wooded acres atop a bluff in Whitefish Bay. With 1,000 feet of lake frontage and about 1,100 feet on Lake Drive, the new Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort occupied what real estate experts of the time called the finest piece of property north of Lake Park. It was also then far out in the country, distant from the heat, smoke, and noise of the city but still close enough to reach by steam train, horse and carriage, or by one of several boats making regular trips between downtown Milwaukee and the resort.

For much of its history, Henry Konopka, formerly the manager of the Pabst Co. store room, operated the resort under a lease arrangement. He made sure a fine dance band was always on hand and his planked whitefish dinners (the fish being caught in the nearby bay) gave the resort a nationally famous signature dish. Surprisingly, for a beer garden, there were days the company’s famous lager was not available. The resort was a popular spot for school picnics, and it was an iron-clad rule of Capt. Pabst that no beer was to be served while a school group was on the grounds.

(more…)

Blue Ribbon memories

Although the area is undergoing rapid development, some of the original Pabst buildings remain. Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

Although the former Pabst brewery complex in Milwaukee is being converted into a mixed-use development, some of the original buildings remain. Photo illustration by Carl Swanson

When I moved to Milwaukee 25 years ago I did what everyone does. I toured the Pabst Brewery. Because, free beer.

Of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon is not in the same class as Riverwest Stein, but what is?

I arrived five minutes after the day’s last tour had departed, which is pretty much the story of my life. However, the people at the visitor’s center were very nice. A group from Germany had arranged for a private tour but they probably wouldn’t mind me tagging along.

The tour was led by a young woman who was good at her job but rather hampered by the German group’s overbearing leader. The Pabst guide would say one or two sentences then we all stood around for 10 minutes or so to let Mr. Bossy-Britches harangue his merry band of Krauts.

(more…)