Calendar of Events
Where it all began
Jacob Best, Sr. is born in the Rhineland, an area of Germany known for its beer and wine. He owns a brew house and winery in Mettenheim and trains his four sons in brewing, wine making, and distilling.
Birth of an Empire
German immigrant Jacob Best and his sons establish a brewery on Chestnut Street (now West Juneau) Hill in Milwaukee, WI. They produce 300 barrels of lager, as well as ale, porter, rye and corn whisky, and vinegar in their first year. Presumably they celebrate with a pint.
Best and Co. buys some adjoining property in 1847 to expand operations and in 1850 they produce 2,500 barrels of beer. Charles, and later Lorenz, Best establish the Plank Road Brewery, which eventually becomes Miller Brewing Company.
Jacob Best, Sr. retires from what has become known as the Empire Brewery and his son Phillip takes over. During the 1850s the Bests build a beer hall and new larger brick brewery.
Jacob Jr. retires in December, 1858. Phillip takes sole control of the brewery and renames it Phillip Best & Company.
In the late 1850s and early 1860s the brewery struggles due to a financial crisis and the Civil War. In 1860, now steamship Captain Frederick Pabst meets Phillip Best’s daughter Maria. The couple marries in 1862 and Pabst moves into the Best’s home when not aboard ship.
Emil Schandein marries Phillip Best’s younger daughter Lisette in 1866. Phillip retires and Pabst and Schandein become equal partners in the brewery retaining the Phillip Best – Empire Brewery name.
Best & Company becomes the largest beer producer in Milwaukee and holds that position for the rest of the century.
C.T. Melms, owner of the third largest brewery in Milwaukee, dies and Pabst and Schandein buy his up-to- date brewery on Milwaukee’s south side. This signals a pattern of purchasing other breweries that served the brewer very well over the years. Schandein takes over the brewery, now known as the South Side, and moves into Melms’s house next door.
The great Chicago Fire in 1871 destroys most Chicago breweries. Milwaukee breweries greatly increase their sales by providing beer to thirsty Chicagoans and Milwaukee becomes the biggest beer producer in the country for a time.
10,000 Barrels of Beer
Phillip Best Company produces 100,000 barrels, becoming the largest brewery in the United States.
The First Gold Medal
Pabst’s Best Select lager wins a gold medal at the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia, marking the first of many awards the beer will win throughout its 150+ year lifespan. In 1878 Best beer wins a gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris.
A Blue Ribbon on Every Bottle
Having earned awards at US and international competitions, Pabst begins hand-tying a blue silk ribbon around the neck of each Best Select beer to identify it as a first-place winner. You know, because it was.
After suffering failing health Emil Schandein dies while on a trip to Germany. This greatly strengthens Captain Pabst’s position in the company. Lisette Schandein serves in her husband’s role as vice president until 1894.
Another New Name
Pabst follows in his father-in-law’s footsteps, changing the brewery’s name to honor himself. The Pabst Brewing Company is born. That same year Captain Pabst refuses an offer of $14 million in cash to sell the brewery without its real estate to a British led syndicate.
One Million Feet of Silk
As production rises, so does the demand for blue silk ribbon. The company purchases nearly 1 million feet of silk ribbon per year, which workers tie by hand around each bottle of Best Select.
After two major fires, Falk, Jung, and Borchert Brewing Company, the fourth largest brewer in Milwaukee, is purchased by Pabst for cash and executive positions for its leaders.
The Pabst Building is built in downtown Milwaukee.
America’s Best Beer
At the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the most important product fair in America, Pabst wins five special medals plus the highest award for beer.
What'll You Have?
Patrons keep asking bartenders for the beer with the blue ribbon, and the nickname sticks. The phrase “Blue Ribbon” is added to the Best Select name on the label.
The Pabst Theater, an important center of culture in Milwaukee, re-opens after a disastrous fire and remains in business today.
A New Name for the Classic Beer
The beer’s name is officially changed to Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the brewery produces one million barrels. Pabst begins exporting heavily to New York, even opening its own hotels, theatres, and restaurants that, oddly enough, do not serve rival Schlitz beer.
The First Brewery Tours
The company invites visitors to receive tours of the brewery. Soon after, 75,000 people a year are touring the complex.
Pabst Blue Ribbon wins the highest award at the International Hygienic and Pure Foods exposition in Antwerp.
There’s No Ration Slip for Silk
World War I leads to a worldwide silk shortage that puts an end to the practice of hand-tying blue silk ribbon around each bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The United States enters Prohibition as the brewing of beer is prohibited on May 1 and on July 1 beer sales are prohibited.
Back to Brewing
When Prohibition ends, Pabst sells their cheese operations to Kraft and gets back to the good stuff—brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon and tying iconic blue silk ribbons around them. The beer is as popular as it was before Prohibition. (And likely during.)
An American Export
Pabst develops keg-lined Tap-a-Cans, with “Brewery Goodness Sealed Right In,” becoming one of the first breweries to offer beer in cans. Oddly, the canned product is called Pabst Export Beer, while the Pabst Blue Ribbon is reserved for the bottled beer.
The stockholders of Premier-Pabst Corporation vote to change the name back to Pabst Brewing Company with Fred Pabst as chairman of the board of directors.
Pabst sales exceed 2 million barrels
Pabst on the Radio
Pabst had advertised on radio, but suspended it in 1935. Radio becomes a popular advertising medium for Pabst, with several Hollywood celebrities, including Ben Bernie, Danny Kaye, Groucho Marx, Orson Welles, and Eddie Cantor, promoting Pabst Blue Ribbon on their radio programs. Oddly, they’re never seen drinking the beer.
Pabst's Northeast Stronghold
Late in the year Pabst purchases the Hoffman Beverage Company in Newark, NJ, allowing the company to serve the northeast more efficiently.
Pabst is the leading supplier of beer to the armed forces during World War II, shipping 450,000 barrels to the troops overseas in 1945 alone.
Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts
From 1948 to 1955, Pabst was the title sponsor of Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts, a weekly boxing match that aired on major television networks. The program featured many fights from top US arenas, as well as regular title bouts.
No More Blue Silk Ribbons
The blue ribbon is officially removed from around the necks of Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles, but earns a permanent spot on the label. Production soars to 3.4 million barrels, making Pabst one of the nation’s top five brewing companies.
Production and sales continue to soar in the early 1950s, but after the retirement of Fred Pabst sales started to slip for Pabst Brewing Company. Several advertising campaigns stabilize Pabst’s sales and then lowering prices helps in the short term as Pabst Blue Ribbon known as “The Premium Beer at a Popular Price.”
Pabst begins brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon at the Los Angeles Brewing Co. facility they purchased in 1948. With breweries now located throughout the entire country, Pabst is truly a national brand.
Pabst purchases Milwaukee rival Blatz Brewing Company. However due to anti-trust laws Pabst is not allowed to operate two breweries in Wisconsin and sells the Blatz name and equipment to Heileman Brewing Company of LaCrosse.
James C. Windham, the former president of Blatz becomes president of Pabst and brings the brewery, which had been losing market share, back to the third largest brewer in the nation.
100 Millionth Barrel
Pabst celebrates its 100 millionth barrel with an elaborate ceremony featuring a golden barrel, a plane trip for 60 to Jacob Best’s hometown in Germany, and a modicum of fanfare.
Pabst announces plans to return to Milwaukee with a small brewery on the site of the original brewery. This will take place in the former German Methodist Church, built in 1873 and purchased by Pabst in 1895. By 1898 the Forst Keller restaurant was running out of the ground floor and the upper floor was used for employee training. Forst Keller closed in 1973.
Today, Pabst Brewing Company is the largest owned and operated American Brewery. Pabst Brewing Company maintains the rights for over 80 iconic beer brands and is actively brewing and marketing over 30 of those brands. Pabst Blue Ribbon, the company’s flagship brand remains the choice of non conformist, individuals everywhere looking for a great beer at a fair price. Other marquee National brands include Old Milwaukee and Colt 45. Stand out Regional brands include Rainer in the Pacific Northwest, Old Style in the Midwest, Lone Star in Texas, and various other strong regional and local brands across the United States. Small Town Brewery’s Not Your Fathers & Not Your Mothers brands continue to drive innovation, like Not Your Father’s Root Beer, and push the boundaries of brewing and taste profiles. Numerous partnerships and business relationships exist, all uniquely structured, with breweries such as Dog Tag Brewing (TN), New Holland Brewing (MI), Tsingtao Brewery (China), and Cerveza Minerva (Mexico).
- 1037 West Juneau Avenue
- Milwaukee, WI 53233
Thursday: 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Friday: 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Saturday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Sunday: 12:00pm - 5:00pm
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Sun: 11:00am - 4:00pm
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