I was in Milwaukee last weekend for a family get-together and we decided to swing by the Pabst Mansion, which is always beautifully decorated for the holiday season. A different designer donates their time to decorate each room in a unique way. For example Mrs Pabst’s parlor, designed in the French Rococo style, was decorated all in pink. The mansion is used year round for things like Captain Pabst’s birthday celebration, Pabst trivia night, as well as wine and bear tastings.
The Pabst family came to America when Frederick was 12 years old and when he was 14 he went to work on a steamer owned by the Goodrich Steamship Company. He eventually worked his way up to Captain and followed the route between Chicago, Milwaukee and Manitowoc on Lake Michigan. He met Maria Best aboard ship and married her in 1862.
Maria’s family owned the Phillip Best Brewing Company. In 1864 Captain Pabst retired from the sea and bought a half interest in the brewing company for $21,057.05. They lived near or on the brewing plant property until 1892 when they moved into their new mansion where the whole family would eventually live (they had five children).
The brewing company became legally incorporated in 1873 and full ownership went to Captain Pabst in 1888 when his in-law died on holiday in Germany. The name was changed to the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889. Pabst was a keen marketer and over a period of 25 years he built a network of taverns across the country that exclusively served Pabst products and displayed the Pabst logo on the premises. Some of these were major properties like the Pabst Hotel in Times Square, the Union Hotel in Chicago, the Kaiserhof in Minneapolis, and the Pabst Café in San Francisco. The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee is still in operation today. He was also the first to offer public tours of the brewery.
The beer started to win awards and in 1882 they started tying blue ribbons around the bottles to represent all the awards it had won. By 1892 they were buying a million feet of silk ribbon each year and hand tying them around the necks of the bottles. People started asking for the beer with the blue ribbon and PBR was born. Silk was hard to get during World War I so the practice stopped.
The Captain died in 1904 and his wife followed two years later. His sons Gustave and Frederick took over the business after his death. Over the years the brewery was bought and sold several times and in 1996, after 152 years, the Milwaukee brewery closed and production moved to the Stroh Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Pabst eventually moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, California and after suffering some hard times it made a dramatic comeback over the past ten years.
In September of this year it was announced that a Moscow-based Russian company, Oasis Beverages, had purchased Pabst for $700 million in cash.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.