This is my second visit to the historic tasting room of the old Pabst brewery in Milwaukee, WI. But this time we were set up for a wedding rehearsal dinner, which really showed what this space, still in the midst of a large restoration, can really do.
The courtyard is beautiful and rustic, leading visitors into the main bar area where tours of the brewery used to end. Standing over the courtyard is a statue of Captain Frederich Pabst, the Pabst founder, looking the part of a watchful, turn-of-the-century investor.
In the other courtyard is a less vigilant, but still imposing figure of King Gambrinus, a bit of a local hero. The original sculpture was created in 1857 by American artist Carl Kuehns, but eventually moved to the Miller Brewing (the contract brewer for Pabst) until Jim Haertel, owner of Best Place negotiated a loan for the sculpture’s return.
Click here to see a bunch of people doing their best Captain Morgan impression and desecrating the Pabst statue with Packers helmets and St. Patrick’s day paraphernalia. That’s unfortunate.
Blue Ribbon Hall is where the space really comes to life for events. The restored lighting, murals of the brewing process, as well as small relics scattered around give the hall a bawdy, celebratory feel. Original wooden tables and heavy chairs give you a sense of the golden days of the Pabst fortune. The only thing missing is the cigar clouds.
The bar carries a small, but solid set of regional brews, including a couple from Potosi Brewery (the site of the the National Brewery Museum), Lakefront River West Stein and Batch 19. Billed as a pre-prohibition style lager, Batch 19 comes from a recipe found in the basement of a brewery in 2004, and is now brewed by Coors.
Best Place has started offering tours, which seem like a great compliment to tours of the Pabst Mansion, Theater and Forest Hill Cemetery. And the gift shop is one of the best parts of the visit. Filled with new and old items alike, the real gems are the pieces found during the restoration process, including old bottles, glasses and large signs.