Milwaukee locals want to bring Pabst back

The historic Pabst Brewery buildings and sign in Milwaukee, Wi. 

Milwaukee residents are fighting to save, and repurpose, many of the old industrial brick buildings at Pabst headquarters.

Back in the day, Milwaukee was known as the Beer Capital of the World. But if there were ever a beer that truly represents the city, local Susie Seidelman says Pabst Blue Ribbon is it.

"Pabst is from Milwaukee, and so much of the brands authenticity, its draw, its appeal, its marketing has to do with Milwaukee," she says. "It’s right on the can, it’s all over the website, all over the promotional material. We really made this beer what it is."

Seidelman is part of a Facebook group called “Milwaukee Should Own Pabst Blue Ribbon”. It has more than 4,000 members.

Pabst might have been born in Milwaukee, but for the last four years it’s been headquartered in Los Angeles. It’s owned by investor C. Dean Metropolis. He’s the guy responsible for bringing Twinkies back.

The Pabst brand is worth a lot of money—anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion. Seidelman says coming up with that kind of cash would take a lot of people willing to part with their money.

“We would have the brewery be community owned by the city of Milwaukee, we would put the call out to hundreds of thousands if not millions of investors asking for small support in the form of purchased share.”

Local business owners like Jim Haertel are rallying around the movement. He has a special interest in Pabst.

“We have their former corporate offices. We have Captain Pabst’s old office, even his roll top desk, which we would gladly save for the president.”

Haertel says he had to fight to save many of the old industrial brick buildings at Pabst headquarters. He even opened a bar in one. He says he has space to accommodate the new Pabst if it comes back to Milwaukee.

“Pabst is certainly the first of the great Milwaukee brewers, Schlitz would share some of that fame. The two of them really duked it out over the years,” Haertel says.

But now Pabst owns Schlitzand Blatz and brands like Colt 45. And the company does all this without even brewing its own beer; it pays MillerCoors to do that. But Pabst does have one thing going for it.

“Pabst is still the largest American owned brewery," says Jim Kupferschmidt, who owns the Milwaukee Beer Museum.

He says that’s because MillerCoors and Anheuser Busch are both now owned by foreign beer makers. He says there’s a good reason beer companies are buying out competitors: “You want as much shelf space on the liquor store and in the tavern as you can possibly get.”

As for Milwaukee’s push to bring Pabst back, Susie Seidelman says she knows it’s a bit of a pipedream. But she says it’s not about the beer. In fact, she doesn’t even drink Pabst: “I’m more of a Miller High Life person myself.”

Seidelman says Pabst never should have left. She says this is about righting a wrong.

Milwaukee residents are fighting to save, and repurpose, many of the old industrial brick buildings at Pabst headquarters.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...