Monday, May 6, 2013

The Brewery Landscape in Milwaukee

When the Pabst Brewing Company shut their operations down in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after 152 years of doing business in the city in December 1996, a long brewing legacy had finally come to an end.

The brewery complex consists of 22 acres
(seven whole city blocks), and each block was filled with buildings, some dating back to the late 1800s. The brewery sat vacant and untouched for 10 years, right near the heart of downtown, just blocks away from Milwaukee's business and entertainment districts. I've lived in the Milwaukee area for a few years now, and when I finally found the chance to check out this old brewery complex, I didn't realize just how close it was to the Milwaukee County Courthouse and Milwaukee Central Library, places that I had been going to for the my brewery research.

It boggles my mind that such a large amount of land filled with a bunch of buildings, sat barren for so long in Milwaukee. Exploring the area, I noticed that there's an area to the east of the complex that looks just as greatly disappointing. Several large city blocks that are just empty patches of land, waiting for progress to finally come over. Although, I'm not fully sure what was once there, since
a lot of old buildings have been torn down or in the process, and so many new buildings are being built in their place. After some research, it appears that the area was intended for the now failed Park East Expressway that was supposed to wrap around the city and connect to the various other major roads.

It wasn't until 2009 that the Pabst complex came to life again when a tavern and visitors center opened up in what was once the Pabst brewery offices. The place highlights the history of the Pabst brewery. Since then, the old complex, is now named The Brewery, due to a real estate developer taking over the property, and various building developments have taken shape, and that's pretty awesome. A hotel has opened up in the former brew house, with old brew kettles being part of the decor in the main lobby area. Haven't had a chance to check out the Brewhouse Inn & Suites, but I am really looking forward to it.

During the early stages of my research, out of all the old breweries in Milwaukee, for a time, I became deeply fascinated with the Gipfel Union Brewery Building, started by David Gipfel, followed by his son, Charles. There were two buildings that existed as part of the Gipfel Brewery. The Gipfel building that brewed beer was demolished in August 2006. The building portion that was considered to be Milwaukee's oldest existing brewery building, the Gipfel Saloon and Boarding House, was moved to several empty lots over a period of several years and was finally demolished in 2009. That building had been moved to one of those empty lots that I had mentioned earlier, fairly close to the Pabst.

Besides the former Pabst, Schlitz and Blatz brewery buildings, there's still a surprising decent number of Milwaukee's old breweries that still exist. I've been able to uncover these through extensive research:

- The John Graf Weiss Beer Brewery, (2201 W. Greenfield, Milwaukee). The brewery operated from 1883 to 1920, now home to the Siemann Sign Company.

- The Excelsior Weiss Beer Brewery (S. 15th and W. Becher St., Milwaukee). The brewery was established by J.F. Cruscynski in 1884.

- The Munzinger Weiss Beer Brewery (428-2432 Burrell St., Milwaukee). The building was built in 1890.

- The Falk Brewery (S. 29th St and W. Pierce St. Milwaukee)

- The E.L. Husting Brewery (N. 5th and W. Vliet St., Milwaukee). The site is now home to the Great Lakes Archaeological Research Center. Original buildings date back to 1877.

- The Northwestern Brewery (Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. and W. Vine St., Milwaukee). The brewery was established in 1856 by Phillip Altpeter.

Former Schlitz Saloon (2501 W. Greenfield, Milwaukee)

I came across the Drink Schlitz tiled advertisement when researching the tied houses that the breweries built all across Milwaukee. Tied houses were saloons that the breweries used to exclusively sell their product. Such places were on street corners nearly everywhere you looked, in industrialized areas and neighborhoods. There were thousands of saloons that were in Milwaukee at one time. When digging through the 1859/60 Milwaukee City Directory at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, I didn't realize until later what I had uncovered when taking research picture notes of all the breweries..... that there was a listing for bowling saloons.  There are a few old bowling alleys that are still around in the basements of several bars, one of which is Holler House, which is a very eccentric place and worth a visit from what I've heard. I'll have to do some more research and check into those some more.

The following is a list of all the old saloons that were once owned by the breweries that are still standing. It's pretty awesome looking them up on Google Maps.

Locations of Former Brewery Tied Houses in Milwaukee
- Schlitz Saloon (2414 S. St. Clair St, Milwaukee) (Three Brothers)
- Schlitz Saloon (2501-07 S. Superior St, Milwaukee) (Club Garibaldi)
- Schlitz Saloon (N. Humboldt Boulevard and E. North Avenue, Milwaukee)
- Schlitz Saloon (1758 N. Water St., Milwaukee) - Built in 1890
- Schlitz Saloon (1900 W. St Paul Ave, Milwaukee) (Sobelmans Restaurant)

- Schlitz
Saloon (2501 W. Greenfield, Milwaukee)
- Schlitz Saloon (N. Holton St. and E. Clark St., Milwaukee)
- Schlitz Saloon (E. Brady St. and N. Astor St., Milwaukee)
- Schlitz Saloon (3425 W. North Ave., Milwaukee)
- Schlitz Saloon (3418 N. Martin Luther King Drive, Milwaukee)
- Schlitz Saloon (322 W. State St., Milwaukee) - Built in 1889

- Schlitz Saloon (1032 E. Center St., Milwaukee) (The Uptowner) - Built in 1884

- Miller Saloon (N. Hubbard St. and E. Garfield Ave, Milwaukee)
- Miller Saloon (N. Hubbard St. and E. Vine St., Milwaukee)
- Miller Saloon/Beer Hall
(1579 S. 9th St, Milwaukee) (Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge)
- Miller
Saloon (N. Holton St. and E. Glover Ave, Milwaukee)
- Miller
Saloon (234 E. Vine St., Milwaukee) - Built in 1902 
- Miller Saloon (182 E. Lincoln Ave., Milwaukee)  

- Pabst Saloon (300 S. Water St, Milwaukee) (Irish Pub)
- Pabst Saloon (1006 E. Brady St, Milwaukee) (Regano's Golden Coin) - Built in 1890
- Pabst Saloon (338 1st St., Milwaukee) (Slim's)
- Pabst Saloon (7616 W. State St., Wauwatosa) (Bartolotta Restaurant)

- Pabst Saloon (1338--1340 W. Juneau Ave., Milwaukee) (Church) - Built in 1896
- Pabst Saloon (2461 S. St Clair St.,  Milwaukee) (Puddler's Hall) - Built in 1872