Drinking In the City's Brewing Heritage
By Toni Dabbs
Milwaukee," said the Northwest Airlines flight attendant as the plane taxied
to the gate. "Local time is... Miller time."
The flight attendant
might have been more serious than the laughing passengers realized because,
to put a spin on the old Schlitz slogan, it's beer that made Milwaukee
famous. And beer remains a major contributor to the local economy, with
Miller Brewing Company headquartered at a virtual city within the city.
Other historic breweries have closed, but their legacies live on.
the beer barons who built Milwaukee was Frederick Pabst, a dashing steamship
captain who married the daughter of Phillip Best in 1862. Two years later,
he bought half interest in Best's modest brewery, which produced 5,000
barrels a year. By 1873, he increased the company's output to 100,000
barrels and became its president.
The Pabst Mansion (2000
West Wisconsin Avenue), built in the Flemish Renaissance style between 1890
and 1892, is a testament to his success. Many of the 37 richly fashioned
rooms beneath its traditional German gables have been accurately restored
and may be toured.
The captain also left
his name on the Pabst Theater (144 East Wells Street), built in 1895 and now
a National Historic Landmark. The theater is still a popular venue for
musicals and plays, and tours are available.
massive Pabst plant now sits empty, with some possibility of redevelopment
along the lines of the Blatz Brewery Complex (bounded by Broadway, Highland,
Juneau Avenue and Market Street). Blatz evolved from a small brewery founded
in 1845 by John Braun, who died six years later. Braun's widow married the
ambitious brewmaster, Val Blatz, and renamed the company for him. By 1900,
Blatz was the city's third-largest brewery.
buildings remain of what was once a huge complex, and most of those have
been revitalized as offices and apartments. The Art Moderne ceramic-clad
bottling plant (1025-47 North Broadway) is now part of the Milwaukee School
of Engineering, as is the former administrative center (1120 North
Structures that once
belonged to Schlitz Brewing Company also have been recycled. In the late
19th and early 20th centuries, Schlitz owned hundreds of taverns as sales
outlets for its beer. Among the handful that still survive in the guise of
other businesses are: Schlitz Brewing Company Building/Elsa's Restaurant
(831-33 North Jefferson Street), the first large-scale commercial building
to be constructed on Jefferson Street facing Cathedral Square; Schlitz
Tavern/Three Brothers Bar and Restaurant (2414 South St. Clair Street); and
Schlitz Tavern/Club Garibaldi (2501-07 South Superior Street).
was another beer baron who married into the industry. He was bookkeeper for
August Krug, a restaurateur and brewer, when Krug died in 1856. Schlitz
immediately assumed management of the operation and, two years later, took
Krug's widow as his wife, changing both her name and the brewery's to his
The well known Schlitz
slogan resulted from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed most of
that city's buildings, including its water works and breweries. Schlitz
shipped large quantities of his product to Chicago to quench citizens'
thirst, creating a demand for "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous."
Schlitz was purchased
by Stroh Brewing Company of Detroit in 1982, but the name is commemorated in
the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (1111 East Brown Deer Road), a 255-acre
wildlife sanctuary on the shore of Lake Michigan. The facility features
seven miles of trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing,
trails for physically challenged people, a 60-foot-high observation tower,
exhibits and a nature store.
Of course, the
biggest brewing name in Milwaukee today is Miller. Frederic Miller studied
beer making in his native Germany and in France before arriving in Milwaukee
in 1855. He re-opened the Plank-Road Brewery, a five-year-old plant that had
been abandoned by its owner a year earlier.
Miller Brewing (4251
West State Street) is now the second-largest beer producer in the United
States. Complimentary walking tours of its extensive Milwaukee property
begin at the Girl in the Moon Gift Shop and end at the Bavarian style Miller
Inn, dating from 1892, with free samples for guests 21 years of age and
older. In between, participants visit the brew house, packaging area,
shipping department, and the historic Miller Caves Museum.
The company's name now
graces Miller Park (One Brewers Way), new home of the Milwaukee Brewers
baseball team and the only ballpark in North America with a fan-shaped
convertible roof and natural grass playing field. Behind-the-scenes tours
are wheelchair accessible and include the dugout, clubhouse, press box,
broadcast booth and luxury suites.
Although many of the
big names in brewing are gone, Milwaukee has a flourishing brewpub
community, with a number of establishments located on or near the recently
developed RiverWalk, which meanders through downtown along the Milwaukee
House (233 North Water Street) occupies a century-old former saddlery and
sail making facility, with a rear terrace overlooking the river. The
atmosphere is cheerful, the food delicious, and the beer excellent. The
malty amber Louie's Demise is a crowd pleaser, and the Orange Blossom Cream
Ale is a summer specialty.
Public House (777 North Water Street) is situated in an 1874 bookbinder's
shop. Decorated with vintage signs from Milwaukee's brewing legends, its own
creations include the full-bodied Tavernor Nut Brown Ale and an unfiltered
Yodeler Weisse made with 100-year-old yeast strains imported from Germany.
For those who prefer
the city's mainstay, there's the Miller Time Pub (509 West Wisconsin
Avenue), where waitresses wearing dirndls serve locally made Usinger
sausages, sandwiches piled high with turkey, beef or pork, and well chilled
beer. Needless to say, the pub is one place where "Anytime Is Miller Time."
IF YOU GO
The Park East Hotel:
Located in a quiet neighborhood between the downtown core and the shore of
Lake Michigan. On-site dining. Complimentary downtown shuttle service. 916
East State Street, phone 800-328-7275/414-276-8800,
Transit Trolley: Three routes
provide access to many of the city's attractions. Trolleys run every 10 to
12 minutes and cost just 50 cents per ride, 25 cents for seniors and the
disabled. Phone 414-344-6711,
Tours: A guided cruise on the
Milwaukee River includes stops at three microbreweries to sample their
products. Pere Marquette Park, phone 414-283-9999,
by Toni Dabbs
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Convention and Visitors Bureau
101 Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee WI 53203-2501
Ph: 1-800-231-0903 or 1-414-287-4254
Copyright 2002 by Toni
Dabbs. This work, including photographs, is protected by copyright and may
be used only for personal non-commercial purposes. All other rights are
reserved, and commercial use is prohibited without permission of the author.