Pabst Brewery


“Sixteen million dollars is enough to make a man’s hair stand on end – but I have been walking around this plant and I’m kind of proud of it. No you can’t have it. I am going to stick to it and give Milwaukee the largest brewery in the world.”

-Captain Pabst
(commenting on the offer of a buyout by a British syndicate)



 

 

 

 

 

 

The history of the Pabst Brewing Company can be traced to 1842 when Jacob Best, Jr. and his brother Charles Best immigrated to America from Mettenheim, Germany.  Once they arrived in Milwaukee, they began a small vinegar works and seeing the possibilities in the fledgling frontier town, in 1844, Jacob Best, Sr. created the brewery of Best and Company with his four sons, Jacob, Jr., Charles, Phillip and Lorenz being partners in the new enterprise. Production in these early days consisted only of 300 barrels per annum.  In 1850, Charles and Lorenz Best left the family business to start their own brewery, which they named the Plank Road Brewery, which eventually became known as the Miller Brewing Company.  Jacob Best, Sr. retired in 1853, and by 1859, Phillip was the sole proprietor, thus changing the name to the Phillip Best Brewing Company. Best’s daughter, Maria met Frederick Pabst in 1860 and married him two years later.

In 1864, Pabst purchased a half interest in the brewing company for $21,057.05 and became vice president.  After the marriage of Best’s second daughter, Lisette in 1866, her husband, Emil Schandein also purchased the remaining half interest from Phillip Best.  Production of beer had reached 14,139 barrels by 1866.  Phillip Best died shortly thereafter in 1869.  The year 1873 was a milestone for the company when the brewery was legally incorporated and capitalized at $300,000 with a production of 100,593 barrels per year.

Pabst and Schandein both had an astute understanding of the business and more importantly, marketing.  The company became known for always embracing the latest technology in production.  Artificial ice machines were added in 1880, incandescent lights in 1882 and Phillip Best Brewing Company was one of the first breweries to open itself for public tours.  Schandein died in July of 1888 while on holiday in Germany leaving Pabst with complete control of his brewing and real estate empire.  The company’s name remained the same until March 12, 1889, when the name was officially changed to the Pabst Brewing Company.

The 1893 Colombian Exposition, also known as the 1893 World’s Fair, was held in Chicago and became a significant event in American history. The Pabst Brewing Company hired noted architect Otto Strack to design a trade pavilion just for this event. Located in the fair’s Agricultural Building, it was used to display Pabst Brewing Company products.  At its center stood a thirteen square foot model of the Pabst Brewing Company’s buildings atop an elaborate platform supported by gnomes.  The model, originally washed in gold, is said to have cost Captain Pabst $100,000 and was highly regarded at the fair for its beauty of presentation.  The entire structure is of tan terra cotta emblazoned with symbols of the brewing industry including hop vines, beer steins, and the god and goddess of wheat and barley. The entire exterior of the pavilion was highlighted with gold leaf and crowned by a magnificent art glass dome.  In November of 1893, the Pabst Brewing Company was awarded the Gold Medal for Brewing Excellence at the Exposition. (Sorry, there was no blue ribbon.) After the fair, Captain Pabst had the entire structure dismantled, crated and sent to his Milwaukee residence during the summer of 1895.

Captain Pabst was not content being the leader of the world’s largest brewing company.  Rather, he was keenly interested in developing new avenues to not only market his product, but also enhance the image of Pabst beer on a national scale.  He was one of the first executives to understand and utilize a national advertising campaign.  More importantly, Pabst realized that he needed to make his product and insignia available and visible everywhere.  He managed this by creating a real estate empire that stretched from coast to coast, border to border.  Over a period of twenty-five years, hundreds upon hundreds of Pabst taverns or tied houses were created and leased all over the country.  These tied houses were to serve Pabst Brewing Co.’s products exclusively and display the Pabst logo proudly. The red circle and hop leaf emblem was to be seen in every major American city by 1900. Real estate was considered to be a sound investment and Pabst Brewing Company staked its reputation on it.


Milwaukee

Pabst Theater

 

Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort

 

Pabst Building (Milwaukee’s 1st skyscraper)

 

Pabst Hotels (St. Charles & Kirby House)

 

Empire Block

Gargoyle Restaurant

New York

Pabst Coney Island Loop

 

Pabst Harlem

 

Pabst Grand Circle (Central Park)

 

Pabst Hotel (now known as Times Square)

Chicago

Union Hotel

Minneapolis

The Kaiserhof

San Francisco

The Pabst Cafe


Today the Pabst Brewing Company lives on through contract brewing with large facilities for distribution all over the United States and China. Pabst currently owns over two dozen labels and Pabst products continue to be made right here in Milwaukee.