Jacob Best Sr., a German immigrant, established the Best & Company brewery in 1844. Under the guidance of his son Phillip Best and Phillip’s son-in-law, Captain Frederick Pabst, this small local producer became America’s largest brewery in the growing frontier town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from the late 1800s until 1946.
Jacob Best Sr. retired in 1865, after running the business and pioneering the copper kettle-brewing method. Later, he sold the family company to his son-in-law, Captain Frederick Pabst. In 1889, when Captain Pabst gained control of the company, he renamed it and the brewery was officially known as Pabst Brewing Company. As a marketing ploy, blue ribbons were affixed on bottles of Best Select beer, soon known as Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
By the 1990s, the brewery business declined, transforming from a major brewer of its own brand to a contract brewer of other beers. Finally, the complex closed in 1996. The 27 buildings, equal to 7 city blocks, remained empty until 2001, when Jim Haertel, one of the original founders of the Brew City Redevelopment Group, offered to purchase the complex for $11 million.
The Pabst Brewing Company Former Corporate Office Building & Visitor’s Center have been reopened as “Best Place,” in reference to the brewery’s founders Jacob Best Sr. and Phillip Best (Figure 1). The building was originally opened in 1858 as a public elementary schoolhouse and became part of the brewery in 1886, where Captain Pabst installed corporate offices (Figure 2). Mr. Haertel restored the first floor to a 1944 German beer hall, complete with frescoes by Chicago’s Edgar Miller (not related to the beer brewers), period furniture, and black wrought iron chandeliers. He has also brought back the brewery’s tasting room with its terra cotta stone floor, fireplace, original piano, and restored bathrooms. The building contains two enclosed courtyards, one hosts a statue of Captain Frederick Pabst, the other a statue of King Gambrinus, the unofficial patron saint of beer.
The Pabst Complex is reputed to host several paranormal events. Michael Brown, the director of the 2014 documentary film: “Haunted State: Whispers from History Past” reported technical difficulties while on site, electronic voice phenomena (EVP; see box below) and an image of a little ghost.
Other reported activities:
- There is what looks like a watermark in the shape of the “P” in the Pabst logo in the corner of the old boardroom table. It appeared one day and nobody knows how it got there. There was no water leaking from the ceiling above it.
In the part of the building that was the original schoolhouse, employees have heard the sound of children laughing near the staircase. This is where the plaster fell during the investigation.
- The owner, after toasting Captain Pabst while alone in the bar, felt what seemed to be the back of his neck being touched.
- People have reported eerie feelings in the coat check area.