Pabst Mansion

pabst brewing company

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 and eventually became known as the Miller Brewing Company when it was purchased by Frederick Miller.  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 eldest 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 youngest daughter, Lisette in 1866, her husband, Emil Schandein essentially purchased the remaining half interest in the company 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 in complete control of the 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 Milwaukee architect Otto Strack to design a trade pavilion just for this event. Located in the Fair’s Agricultural Building, the pavilion was used to display Pabst Brewing Company products.  Within the pavilion’s interior 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 was constructed of tan terra cotta emblazoned with symbols of the brewing industry including hop vines, beer steins, and the god and goddess of barley and hops. The exterior was also highlighted with gold leaf and crowned by a magnificent art glass dome.  In November of 1893, the Pabst Brewing Company was presented with a certificate for brewing excellence at the Exposition, not the often thought blue ribbon.  After the fair, Captain Pabst had the entire structure dismantled, crated, sent to his Milwaukee residence and rebuilt as a private conservatory.

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 national advertising campaigns.  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.