Pabst Brewing Company, Milwaukee, WI

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Pabst BrewingCompany

Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly, copyright 1996

Last Revised 08/16/2015

PABST, Frederick, one of the best known and mostenterprising of Milwaukee’s business men, is of Dutch ancestry, although hisforefathers for several generations have been natives of Germany.

    In 1470 Paul Pabst van Ohorn and his brother,Julius Pabst van Polsenheim, whose father had been executed at Antwerp forparticipation in some revolutionary proceedings, and his estate, doubtlessconfiscated, left Holland and settled in Saxony; and it is to these brothersthat the German family of Pabst trace their origin. Frederick Pabst is the sonof Gottlieb and Frederika Pabst, who were natives of Thuringen in Saxony; and inthe little village of Nicolausreith, which was their home, Frederick was born onthe 28th of March, 1836. The Page 253 father possessed something of an state,and was a man of importance in his native place; but he had heard of the largepossibilities for enterprise and effort in America, and having friends inMilwaukee, he determined to see the “land of promise” for himself.Selling his property in Germany, he, with his wife and boy, sailed for Americain 1848. After a short stay in New York the family came on the Milwaukee. Herthey remained but a few months, when they went to Chicago, as the more promisingplace, specially for the boy. There he found employment in the Mansion House,and subsequently, the New York House, at five dollars a month and board. Thesepositions he occupied for something over two years; in the meantime his motherhad did of cholera, and the boy, now left largely to his own devices for aliving, and having a passion for the traffic that is carried on by water, and anambition to is to importance in that line, he secured a position as cabin boy inone of Captain Sam. Ward’s steamers which were plying on the great lakes. Hesaved his earnings and as he was advanced from time to time to more importantpositions and his wages were increased, he ere long found himself possessed of aconsiderable sum of money. This he invested in the line of his ambition, andbecame part owner of the steamer Comet. By the time he was twenty-one he hadadvanced to the position of captain of the steamer of which he had become partowner. Hence his title of captain. This business be followed for several years;and, as it was then much more profitable than it is now, Captain Pabst ere longfound himself in possession of a handsome property.

    In 1862, Captain Pabst was married to MarieBest, daughter of Philip Best, the early owner of the Best brewery. CaptainPabst, with that business sagacity which has always characterized him, saw inthis brewery the germ of what Dr. Sam Johnson pronounced, in a similar case,”the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice,” andhe determined to change his business, and secure  an interest in it.Converting his steamer and other property into cash, he invested it in thebrewing company, and this was the beginning of his great fortune. From hisconnection with the brewery dates a new era in its history. The captain infusedinto it, at once, something of his own indomitable energy, and it leaped almostimmediately into commanding prominence among the institutions of the kind inthis country. He introduced into it new methods, new machinery, new facilitiesfor the manufacture of beer, and greatly increased the amount of the product andrelatively reduced the cost. His ambition was not satisfied–he wanted a largermarket for the product than merely the local on, and he established agencies inall the leading cities of the country, so that now the consumption of Milwaukeebeer outside of the city is as 9 to 1. This beer is not all consumed in theUnited States, but much of it s exported to foreign countries. It is probablynot true that Captain Pabst is entitled to all the credit for the wonderfulgrowth of this business, but a large share of it is his. When he embarked in thebusiness, he was ignorant of its details, but he went diligently to work tofamiliarize himself with them, and it was not long before he was as wellinformed in all departments of the trade as if he had been bred to it, for hehad studied it from all its sides, and his knowledge was more comprehensive thanthat of the professional manufacturer could be. The capital stock of the PabstBrewing company is ten millions of dollars, and its annual product over onemillion barrels, making it the largest brewery in the world.

    But Captain Pabst is not only a brewer. He isa business man of broad views, and has done much to benefit Milwaukee, both in amaterial and from an artistic point of view. He was the principal force inestablishing the Wisconsin National bank, and among the fine buildings which owetheir origin to him are the present St. Charles Hotel building, the officebuilding on the corner of East Water and Wisconsin streets, and the Pabsttheater, and he has contributed in various ways not only to the beautifying ofthe city, but to its fame as the metropolis of the state and its liberality ingood works. His princely gift of fourteen thousand dollars to Milwaukee for theentertainment of the old soldiers upon the occasion of the meeting of the GrandArmy of the Republic in the city a few years ago will long be remembered by theold soldiers, and by the citizen of Milwaukee, as a deed which stamped him as amost generous man and one who is ready to do great things for the good name andhonor of the city. It was, moreover, a most graceful recognition of what thecountry owes its old soldiers for their services and sacrifices for themaintenance of the government and its sacred institutions.

    In the year 1889, in recognition of theceaseless efforts of Captain Pabst, during the twenty-five years of hisconnection with it, to build the brewery into on of the directors of thecompany, by a unanimous vote, changed the name of the brewery from that of Bestto Pabst, and so it now known all over the country, and in many localities it isnot known by any other name, so rapidly and far has its fame spread.

    Captain Pabst has a family of several sonsand daughters, and his palatial home on Grand avenue is said to contain acultivated and happy family.

    Personally, he is a man of commandingpresence, but genial and kind to all whom he meets. He is a man, as may beinferred from what has already been said, of great energy–one who thinks beforehe acts, when haste is not demanded by the circumstances; yet who can act withgreat rapidity when haste is necessary. He has great schemes in contemplation;and, if he lives, will doubtless surprise his friends and associates with whathe will yet accomplish.

About Pabst Brewing

It was in 1844, when Wisconsin was still a United States Territory, thatGerman immigrant brewer Jacob Best and his four sons opened a brewery onChestnut Street hill in Milwaukee.

The original brew kettle had a capacity of just eighteen barrels. This modestundertaking was eventually to become today’s Pabst Brewing Company, one of thelargest brewers in the world.

In the mid 1850’s Phillip Best set his sights on Chicago, 90 miles to thesouth, and there set up the company’s first branch sales office and warehouse.On his many Lake Michigan boat trips to Chicago, Phillip was often accompaniedby his daughter Maria. It was on these trips that they became acquainted withFrederick Pabst, a steamship captain on the Great Lakes.

Phillip found in the young captain a kindred spirit, with the same belief inthe future of American industry that he had. The brewer was not the only Best totake notice of Fred Pabst.

The dashing captain’s good looks and charm had captivated Phillip’s daughterMaria. She, in turn, had won the captain’s heart, and in 1862 Maria Best andFred Pabst were wed.

When in 1864 Captain Pabst bought a half interest in the Phillip Best BrewingCompany, the plant’s production was 5,000 barrels a year. Nine years later, theoutput was 100,000 barrels and Captain Pabst was President of the Company.

At thirty-seven, the Captain was just beginning to show what he could do. Hewent out after the best brewmasters of his day, even traveling abroad to sellthe virtues of living in America to the men he wanted to work at the Milwaukeebrewery. He increased the capacity of his brewery by convincing the stockholdersthat the profits should be put into bigger and better equipment.

Near the end of the 19th century, the PabstBrewery was turning out more than one million barrels of beer annually, andusing some 300,000 yards of blue ribbon each year to tie around the bottle necksof its popular Pabst Blue Ribbon brand.

Remaining Pabst breweries (Jan 2001) Pearl Brewery,

San Antonio, Texas, andPennsylvania. (only breweriesmentioned, but they do subcontract out to other breweries like Miller)

Pabst affiliates tend to share distinctive bottle caps with a stein logo,featuring a rebus on the inside (when you can’t figure out the rebus, you’ve hadtoo much). Matt Mitchell has a

list ofthese Ballantine rebus puzzles, and Gavin Spomer has alist of puzzles from Lucky Lager caps.

Pabst, Olympia, and Pearl have

a webpage with history and information on various beers,breweries, and companies, and to advertise their contract brewing services.

History: In 1840, Jacob Best, Sr. relocated his brewery from MettenheimGermany to Milwaukee, WI as the Empire Brewery. In 1850, his sons Charles andLorenz left the business and founded the competing Plank Road Brewery (now

Miller).Sons Jacob Best, Jr. and Phillip continued the business, but had a falling out.Steamship captain Frederick Pabst married Phillip’s daughter Maria in 1862. Hesoon joined the business, and in 1865, Pabst and Emil Schandein bought out thebrewery. They expanded the brewery through the 1890’s, and Pabst led U.S. salesbetween 1895 and 1902. After Prohibition, Pabst continued to do well until the1980’s. Heileman was among perspective purchasers, but in 1985, Paul Kamonovitzpurchased the Pearl Brewing Co. (San Antonio, TX) as well as Pabst,Falstaff and General [Apps].

Now, Pabst is owned by S&W, which is overseeing the dismantling of thisonce great brewing empire, running its Omaha and Fort Wayne plants into theground and disbursing its assets, as well as waging war against its own workers,past and present. Although the dispute over cancelled benefits for retiredworkers has been

settled,(Solidarty, August/September 1998), youcan see Tom O’Brien’s web page for more information. CNNhas an articleon the closing of the Milwaukee plant.

The Pabst Theater

The spirit of the Gay 90’s haunts the Pabst Theater. Byopening the heavy, bronze doors and stepping into the ornate, rococo lobby withthe sparkle of the chandelier, you step back in time 100 years. Built in 1895,the Pabst Theater is as important in Milwaukee’s culture today as it was onopening night in November 1895.

The Pabst Theater, on the corner of Water and Wells,sprang from the ashes of the Stadt Theater’s fire in the winter of 1895. OnJanuary 15, 1895, at about 11 a.m., the Stadt Theater, an opera and Germanlanguage theater house, started on fire due to defective wiring. The stage crewand a lady’s club had been decorating for a Charity Ball for that night. Flamesquickly leaped from decorative bunting to the massive drapery, taking onlyminutes to fill the theater with fire and smoke. Everyone made it out safely,with many going to the Die Deutscher Cafe next door to await the outcome.

Losing little time, four fire companies came to fight theblaze within minutes. Though they fought a valiant fight, the water from thehoses froze into sheets of ice and smoke reduced visibility. By 2 p.m., with thefire put out, the Stadt resembled a “black wreck” coated with tons ofice.

People mourned the wreck of the Stadt, as the theater hadbecome a center for Milwaukee’s burgeoning social and cultural scene. In 1895,Milwaukee had a great reputation as the center of German culture in America: 50percent of Milwaukeeans came from German ancestry and 20 percent spoke onlyGerman. The Milwaukee Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal both reported theimportance of the German Theater.

When Captain Frederick Pabst, owner of the Stadt, heard ofthe tragedy, he said only, “Rebuild at once.” The Sentinel expressedgratitude that the Stadt would be rebuilt; and the Journal expressed hopefulnessthat the new theater would also become home to other performance groups, stating”art must be promoted as a matter of necessity.”

By March of 1895, Captain Pabst chose his architect a manfrom his own Pabst Brewing Co. offices, Otto Strack. German born and educatedStrack moved to the United States in 1881, eventually making his way up toMilwaukee in 1888. His reputation for confidently eclectic design and technicalmastery made him a perfect candidate for the job.

Strack took on the daunting challenge presented to him. Hehad to accomplish four things: for starters, he had to fit his plans for thetheater into the Stadt’s former 210 x 80 plot; the new theater had to be asfireproof as technology allowed; it must have great acoustics and thetraditional design must harkened back to the great European playhouses; and,possibly the greatest challenge Pabst wanted it complete by the Fall of 1895.Strack also had his own agenda he wanted to make life easier for stage people.

His clever and innovative stage floor design incorporatedextensive trapping and hydraulically operated risers. With the installation ofthe first all-electric stage lighting system, Strack greatly decreased thefuture threat of fire. An ingenious man, Strack created a t-bar/arbor hoistingsystem which became the standard lifting device for theaters everywhere. Otheramenities included simpler pleasures such as freight elevators and storagespaces on premise.

Strack understood theater form & function; and paidclose attention to detail. Those elegantly sinuous balcony curves and guardrails serve as decoration, but also stiffen and strengthen the cantileveredstructure. Decorative rosettes and plaster molding adorn the Pabst, lookingbeautiful while still performing a practical function they provide irregularsurfaces which help shatter stray echoes, enriching the already wonderfulacoustics. The architect also thought of the patron with generously proportionedand well-lit stairs and aisles; under-seat ventilation; excellent sightlines;complete fireproofing; and an abundance of accessible emergency exits. All ofthese modern amenities do not call undue attention to themselves, combiningtested craftsmanship with the benefits of 19th century engineering. Renovationsin the 20th century have only served to increase the comfort and safety of thePabst Theater.

Local craftsmen and suppliers furnished the Pabst’sbeautiful fixtures, from such names as Stark Brothers and Gimbels. On September21, 1895, the Milwaukee Journal declared the Pabst would become “aplayhouse comparable to any in the world in the completeness of itsappointments, the richness of its decorations and the comfort it will afford toits patrons.” At the theater one could sit in otherwise unaffordable luxuryfor the price of a ticket. The cost of the renovation was $2,500,000, an unheardof expenditure at the time.

Nowadays the Pabst Theater still satisfies many of thecultural needs of Milwaukeeans. Musicians, actors and dancers regularly performon this hallowed stage. Enraptured audiences still find comfort in the big,cushy seats under a bright and sparkling chandelier. And the ladies andgentlemen still wear their finery as they go to the Theater much as they did solong ago.

Legendary stage and screen actress, the late Helen Hayes,said of the Pabst Theater, “The Pabst Theater’s long and illustrioushistory is a credit to Milwaukee, this nation and to the performing arts.”

The Pabst Theater is located at East Wells and WaterStreet and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Please callfor ticket information. Free public tours are given on Saturday mornings at11:30 a.m., private group tours available by appointment. 144 East WellsStreet, Milwaukee / 414-286-3663

The site of the Washington Highlands was originally partof a hops and Percheron horse farm owned by the famous Milwaukee brewer, CaptainFrederick Pabst. In 1871, Pabst purchased 178 acres of land in the Town ofWauwatosa and later expanded the farm to more than 200 acres.


Pabst used the farm for thegrowing of hops used in the brewing of his company’s beer. He also used the farmto breed and raise Percheron horses that were needed to pull beer wagons. The 1888Silas Chapman map of Wauwatosa shows the 217-acre farmthat is traversed by a meandering creek and also locates Pabst’s residence,three dwellings, an office, assorted smaller buildings and six barns. In orderto provide access to downtown Milwaukee, Captain Pabst opened a street in 1891that ran east-west through the middle of his land (today known as Lloyd Street).Right-of-way was granted to the Milwaukee and Wauwatosa Rapid Transit Companiesfor the construction of a streetcar line.

The land north of Lloyd Street was eventually subdividedinto rectangular blocks and developed into residential properties. Even afterCaptain Pabst’s death in 1904, the remaining 133 acres of farm south of LloydStreet remained virtually unchanged. As late as 1910 the fields were stillproducing hops.

Development continued in a westerly direction andeventually surrounded the remainder of the Pabst Farm. The City of Milwaukeeopened the prestigious Washington Boulevard and provided a connecting linkbetween the popular Washington Park and 60th Street. This intersection wouldeventually become the doorway to what would become the Washington Highlands. Theheirs to Captain Pabst’s estate chose to subdivide the farm and hired renownedGerman city planner Dr. Werner Hegemann (1881-1936) to design the subdivision.In 1916, Dr. Hegemann and American landscape architect, Elbert Peets (1886-1968)created a carefully considered land plan using the advanced concepts ofEngland’s Garden City Movement, The Garden City movement forwarded the conceptthat living environments should be healthful, peaceful and free from theintrusions of industrialization. Karl Strauss is one of the world’s most accomplished Master Brewers. In Minden,Germany where his father was the president of a small brewery, Karl was born onbrewery premises and lived in the family quarters at the brewery while he wasgrowing up (hence the claim that he has beer in his blood). As a young man, Karlleft Minden to study in Bavaria where he earned his degree in the science ofmalting and brewing from the Technical University Munich at Weihenstephan.


In 1939, Karl immigrated to the United States wherehe immediately was employed by the Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee,Wisconsin. Karl devoted forty-four years working for Pabst, advancing throughthe ranks of brewmasters until he ultimately became Vice President of Productionand Master Brewer for all of Pabst’s brewing operations, a position he held fortwenty-five years until his retirement from Pabst. At Pabst peak production,Karl was responsible for brewing more than seventeen million barrels of beer peryear.


In his lifetime, he has brewed more than sevenbillion servings of beer, more than enough for every person on earth to enjoy aKarl Strauss beer. Karl is a past president of the Master Brewers Association ofthe Americas (MBAA) and co-author of The Practical Brewer, the definitivehandbook of brewing in America. He is also the only person ever to receive boththe MBAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award of Honor and the Award of Merit,considered to be the two highest honors in the American brewing industry. Karlretired from Pabst in 1983 and began a second career as a brewing consultant.Since 1983, he has traveled internationally to consult for large and smallbreweries on all aspects of production.


As Master Brewer, Karl Strauss designs the breweryoperations and processes used by Karl Strauss Breweries, formulates the beersproduced, and personally trains our brewmasters.

Pabst Brewing’s early history subject of Mansion exhibit

Opening appropriately this month at the historic PabstMansion, 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., is a special exhibition chronicling the earlyyears of Milwaukee’s Pabst Brewing Company when the company was the world’slargest brewer.

‘Prosperity to Prohibition: The Pabst Brewing Company1875-1933’ will run from April 7 to July 30, examining the rise of the PabstBrewing Company and its flamboyant leader, Captain Frederick Pabst who made themansion his home.

John C. Eastberg, historian for the mansion, is curator ofthe exhibit which will detail phases of the company’s early development, fromits participation in the Columbian World’s Fair of 1893 to Pabst promotionalmaterials and its famous ad campaign of 1895-’97.

‘    Captain Pabst was the king of the Americanentrepreneurial spirit,’ comments Eastberg. ‘At one time he even operated one ofthe largest restaurants in America, Pabst Harlem in New York City, which couldaccommodate more than 1,400 in one seating.’

Pabst Brewing Company began using its ‘blue ribbon’advertising slogan years before it had won any brewing awards, notes Eastberg.Then, in 1893, the claim was validated when it received the coveted Gold Medalat the World’s Fair in Chicago.

Eastberg believes the company’s 1895-’97internationaladvertising campaign demonstrated Pabst’s superior marketing skills. In 1895,Pabst ads explained that ‘brewing was invented by the Egyptians’ and showed thePabst logo atop the pyramids. In 1896, Pabst advertised that ‘brewing wasdeveloped by the Germans,’ showing the Pabst logo on
familiar German structures. Finally, in 1897, the company told readers ‘brewingwas perfected in America by Pabst Brewing Company.’

Although Pabst is no longer based in Milwaukee and is nolonger an industry leader, its flagship ‘Blue Ribbon’ brand continues to beproduced here under contract by its historic competitor, the Miller BrewingCompany.

Items in the exhibit include promotional books andpamphlets, silver from the Pabst restaurants, personal items from Captain Pabst,a Reed and Barton silver beer barrel, stock certificates and never-before-seenphotos of the Pabst family.

The Pabst Mansion is open from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesdaysthrough Saturdays and noon-3:30 p.m.

Pabst and Miller reported ready to split up Stroh

Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Stroh Brewery Co. of Detroit is negotiating a sale to PabstBrewing Co., which then would sell some Stroh brands to Milwaukee-based MillerBrewing Co., a newspaper reported today.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that beer industry sources, includinganalysts, vendors, wholesalers and union officials, confirmed a deal was inthe works.
The three-way deal, if consummated, would mean more sales, market share andjobs for Miller, the nation’s No. 2 brewer behind Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis.
The newspaper said spokesmen at Miller and Stroh declined to comment andcharacterized the report as speculation and rumors. William Bitting, chairmanof Mill Valley, Calif.-based S&P Co., Pabst’s corporate owner, wasunavailable for comment.
The sources said the deal would involve the following parts:
* Stroh, the nation’s fourth-largest brewer, would no longer exist. Pabstwould likely close most of Stroh’s seven breweries, but the former G. HeilemanBrewing Co. plant in La Crosse, one of Stroh’s most efficient operations,could be spared.
* Pabst would own several of Stroh’s best-known brands and would produce someof those brands at former Stroh breweries that would stay open, while otherproduction would be done under contract by Miller.
* Pabst would sell some of Stroh’s brands to Miller.



Copyright Oct 29, 1998, TheDetroit News

5/1/99 The sale of Stroh Brewery Co.’s operations to Miller Brewing Co. and

PabstBrewing Co. was completed Friday, ending Stroh’s 149-year historyand starting a new era for both Miller and Pabst.For Stroh’s 555 employees in La Crosse, the deal likely will result in the lossof their jobs by October, assuming another beer company doesn’t buy the LaCrosse brewery. Beer industry sources say that’s highly unlikely.

2/10/99 The sale of Stroh’s Fogelsville brewery to

Pabstunleashed a collective sigh of relief among workers worried about the plant’sfuture. “The workers are relieved at this point,” said Jim Maley,president of Teamsters Local 12, which represents Stroh hourly workers. “Weknew something was in the works, but we didn’t know what it was.”

2/8/99 Stroh Brewery Co. is selling its beer brands to

PabstBrewing Co. and Miller Brewing Co. to concentrate on its real estate businesses.In the deals announced today, Pabstwill acquire the Stroh’s, Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, Schaefer, Old Style,Schmidt’s, Lone Star, Special Export, McSorley’s, Schlitz Malt Liquor, andRainier brands. Miller, a unit of Philip Morris Cos. Inc., is buying Stroh’sHenry Weinhard’s and Mickeys brands.

J. Pabst & Sons Company, Hamilton

Central Avenue

J. Pabst Sons Company,

Originators ofPabst’s Imperial Ginger Ale, 1916 “The J. Pabst Sons Company,bottlers of all kinds of pure carbonated and still drinks, and dealers incidar and vinegar, was organized by Jacob Pabst, Sr., in 1876, and wasincorporated under the above name in 1882. From the beginning the motto ofthe firm has been “Purity and Superiority.” Realizing the greatdemand in this community for a high-grade distilled water, the firminstalled an Aerox Polar Water Still and is now supplying distilled waterfor drinking and other purposes.

The company manufactures a full line of carbonated drinks and with specialpride points to Imperial Ginger Ale which has won a wide reputation. Otherdrinks made by the firm and which are used to quench the thirst of thousands ofpersons are Grape Soda, Orange Soda, Cream Soda, Lemon Soda, Sarsaparilla,Cherry, and Champagne Mist. The firm is also the bottler of the famous Sher-A-Coca.This is highly recommended for indigestion and other gastric derangements,rheumatism, gout, and liver complaint. . .”

The J. Pabst Company was also the first bottlers of Pepsi Cola in the areabeginning in 1910.

Other Reference Sources: AmericanBreweries II by Dale P. Van Wieren; The Register of United StatesBreweries 1876-1976, Vol. I & II, by Manfred Friedrich & DonaldBull; The Pabst Brewing Company – The History of an American Brewer byThomas C. Cochran; Breweries of Wisconsin by Jerry Apps; BadgerBreweries: Past & Present by Wayne L. Kroll.; Men of Progress.Wisconsin. (pages 251-251) A selected list of biographical sketches andportraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Togetherwith short notes on the history and character of Wisconsin.