After visiting the Pabst mansion, we walked to the site of the Pabst Brewery. The plant ceased operations in 1996. The brewery was massive and consisted of twenty-eight buildings. Some are in disrepair and many are gone. A parking garage is on the site of a few buildings.
The buildings that housed the corporate offices and the visitor’s center still remain. Pabst tours were very popular, partially because the center apparently served unlimited beer. In the courtyard there is a very large statue of Frederick Pabst.
In 2001, Jim Haertel, a genial, local entrepreneur, purchased these buildings and is slowly renovating them. He has named the facility Best Place as a historical nod to the founder of Pabst Beer, Jacob Best Sr. You pay seven dollars at the gift shop, which existed when the brewery was in operation.
You are then brought into a large tavern. The bar serves many of the beers that Pabst owns, such as PBR and Schlitz, but they also serve craft beers. I had a Hopdinger from O’so which is located in Plover, Wisconsin. It was really good and had a great hop flavor. We also got pretzels.
Besides the free beer and pretzels, your seven dollars gets you a viewing of old commercials, which were mostly Schlitz, and a talk by the owner. In his talk, Haertel briefly recounted the history of Pabst and the story of his purchase of these buildings. After his talk, he took us upstairs to see the offices which are not in great shape.
Seeing the massive complex that comprised Pabst Brewery in such disuse and disrepair tells the story of American business in general and the brewing industry in particular in the late twentieth century. Pabst is a virtual brewer; all of its brands are brewed by Miller. The corporate headquarters are in California. Haertel hopes they may relocate to Best Place.