The Brewhaus

When was still living in Milwaukee, I got a call from my roommate one afternoon. A mutual friend of ours had founded a photography club, and he had somehow managed to befriend the security guard of the Pabst Brewery complex and convinced him to let the club tour the old Pabst Brewhaus. The roommate wanted to know if I wanted to come along.

A bit of background: for those who don't know, beer is kind of a big deal in Milwaukee, historically speaking. The city was once the largest German city in the world after Berlin, and the German Beer Barons who built the city's legendary breweries -- Miller, Blatz, Schlitz, and Pabst are the best remembered -- were major celebrities in their day. Many of their elaborate Flemish mansions still stand. And while microbreweries are nearly as ubiquitous as corner bars in the Brew City, Miller Brewing Co. is the only one of the historic brewers left (Pabst still exists, but brewing operations have been contracted out to Miller).

The Blatz and Schlitz complexes have both been converted into residential and office complexes. Pabst's 20-acre complex, however, which sits isolated on a hilltop at the far northwestern corner of downtown, remains empty. With its great smokestack, gothic spires, and the huge red "PABST" lettering that hangs from a skybridge connecting it to a neighboring structure, the 1872-vintage Brewhaus is an imposing landmark on the skyline.

Did I want to come along on a tour of the building? Of course I did. A year and a half later, the complex is finally being rehabilitated and sold off piece by piece in a unique historic preservation redevelopment by Zilber Ltd. While I'm ecstatic to see this fabulous complex so carefully brought back to life, I will probably always remember the Brewhaus as it was the afternoon that I first went inside: broken, decrepit, and devastatingly beautiful. The following photos were taken with an older digital camera (an Olympus D-380, I think) that I've since managed to lose. I couldn't use the flash and had no tripod, so there's a bit of haze in some of these...whether or not that adds to or subracts from the images, I will leave the decision up to you. And so...

(Click the thumbnails for full images.)

The Brewery

Zilber Ltd.


Neath said...

Great pictures!

Brendan Crain said...

Thanks very much. :-)

In all fairness, it was one of those places where it's hard to take a bad picture.