For the first time since 1996, Pabst Brewing Co. is producing beer at its historic complex just west of Downtown.
In fact, for years the Los Angeles-based company has not actually brewed its own beer at all, producing 6 million barrels a year at contract brewers, including MillerCoors in Milwaukee.
The press was invited to a sneak peek Monday at a new microbrewery in a former Methodist church at 1037 W. Juneau Ave. The building, which Pabst bought in the late 1800s, has been a ratskeller and training center for Pabst employees and a German restaurant called the Forst Keller. It has now been remodeled into a brewery and gastropub, with a beer garden in the works out back. The brewery is in the basement, with the pub above, in the former sanctuary of the old church, a light-filled, high-ceiling room with a bar, three large copper serving tanks, long tables and additional seating in the former choir loft. The business plans to open to the public on April 14, “Milwaukee Day” (4/14). The design was done by DUB Studios of Los Angeles, where Pabst is now based, with Engberg Anderson Architects involved locally.
The brewery has the capacity to brew 11 different beers at a time, said John Kimes, head of brewing. On Monday, the microbrewery’s two brewers were working on a Belgian tripel. The facility won’t be brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon, “but it will be served upstairs,” said Kimes. Brewers will tackle Belgian-style beers, along with some old Pabst specialty brews such as Andeker and Old Tankard Ale. Other styles to be brewed, said Kimes: honey wheat, dunkel weisse, a northeast IPA (“a cloudy IPA with really tropical juicy hops”) and something called a biere de mars (or beer of March, appropriate because they’ve started brewing here in March, Kimes said).
The brewery is set up to put its beers in kegs; the gastropub upstairs will also sell so-called crowlers, 32-ounce cans filled like growlers from the beer taps.
As for the restaurant, it’s being described as an “upscale gastropub, focused on local and sustainably produced foods,” according to a fact sheet from Pabst. Think “Milwaukee dive bar, upscale,” said Rebecca Berkshire, “experience manager” for the restaurant. It will serve “the kind of things that you can picture in a Milwaukee dive bar,” she said. “Pickled eggs, beef jerky, things like that… We want to keep everything very approachable.”
The brewery is part of the former Pabst Brewing complex, now a development called The Brewery, which includes a hotel, housing and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health — not to mention Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery.