Pabst Brew House

Have a Steampunk Stay at the Brewhouse Inn and Suites

The six copper brew kettles that once were the heart of America’s largest brewery went silent 17 years ago in Milwaukee. The Pabst Brewhouse, known as building #20, a towering monolith on the city’s skyline for over a century, was left to decay.

Today, however, there’s life in the place that made Pabst Blue Ribbon a household name. In late April, the Brewhouse Inn and Suites opened in the historic building.

I had to be one of the first to stay there. So I booked a room just after it opened. “It’s as much of a museum as a hotel,” says general manager Pete Northard.

The hotel is on the western edge of downtown, with views of downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan. Inside, the huge copper brew kettles and stacks are at the center of a five-story sky-lighted atrium, surrounded by 90 guest rooms.

The main entrance is a floor below what was the main brewery floor. As you register, you’re actually standing under one of the kettles. When I signed in, I glanced upward into the polished insides.

The brewhouse was constructed of Cream City brick in 1882 by some of Milwaukee’s finest masons and ironworkers. At the time, Milwaukee had limited electricity, so the more than 300 windows were needed for light during the brewing process. Today they give nearly every guestroom a view of the city.

At the west end of the Kettle Atrium, a large stained glass window filters in colored light. The window depicts King Grambrinus, the unofficial patron saint of brewers. Rather miraculously, it avoided serious damage while the building sat vacant from 1996 to 2011. (It had been boarded over to protect it from weather and vandalism.)

The massive renovation project lasted nearly two years and cost $20 million. The brewhouse is also on the National Registry of Historic Places, so the developer, Gorman & Company, had to take extra steps to maintain the original integrity of the building while transforming it into a hotel. Gorman was able to take advantage of historic preservation tax credits while working closely with the Wisconsin Historical Society to maintain many original fixtures. The in-room tables and headboards were repurposed from wood salvaged during renovations. The wood is from timber harvested from the Sheboygan area in the 1880s.

The Brewhouse Inn is composed mostly of one- and two-bedroom suites. The sixth, and top, floor includes the Baron suites, each with private terraces and incredible views of the city. Accommodations go for $189-$399 per night.

Each room has a fully equipped kitchenette, including microwave, refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. The decor is based on steampunk, an elaborate take on Victorian technology. A daily continental breakfast is offered in the Blue Room, the brewery’s former break room, where workers once relaxed and enjoyed a beverage directly from beer taps. (Its name comes from the habit of Milwaukee police officers coming by for a beer after their shifts while still in uniform.)

Attached to the hotel is Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub, in what was building #21, the former milling house where the grains were ground before being added to the brew kettles. It has 30-foot-high ceilings and a replica of the original tin ceiling. The restaurant, with its attached beer garden, features a full menu and a modest selection of micro- to big-brewery beers — including, of course, PBR. On Brewers game days, the pub offers a shuttle to and from Miller Park.

Reservations have exceeded initial projections, and include many beer-oriented tourists. Interest from those who enjoy traveling to breweries and searching for local beer has surprised Northard, who says the project was designed more with the extended-stay corporate guest in mind.

“We definitely underestimated that when a brewery festival or beer event is going on, they all want to say with us,” he says. “I didn’t know that such a subculture existed, and there are a lot more of those guests out there than you would believe.”

I wondered what founder Capt. Frederick Pabst might say about the changes to the brewery he built. As a teenager, Pabst landed one of his first jobs as a busboy in a Chicago hotel, so he might feel at home. Northard thinks the Captain is probably smiling about it all: “If it couldn’t be a brewery any longer, I think he would find a hotel a fitting tribute.”

Staying at the Brewhouse Inn is a great way make a brewery history weekend in Milwaukee. Visit the Best Place, once part of the brewery offices, on the opposite corner. Grab a beer in the bar there and take a tour with current building owner Jim Haertel. You’ll walk through much of the building that is yet to be renovated, so it appears as it did in the days leading to Pabst’s closure in 1996. You’ll even get to see the original roll-top desk that Pabst used when he ran the brewery.

The Pabst Mansion was the home of Capt. Pabst. It’s located about a mile up Wisconsin Avenue, west of the Brewhouse Inn. It was built in 1892 and has been meticulously restored. A guided tour is a great way to learn about Pabst’s life. And don’t forget today’s modern craft brewery, Lakefront, which isn’t far from the Inn.

Brewhouse Inn and Suites 1215 North 10th St., Milwaukee, 414-810-3350;

Pabst and Milwaukee Becoming Synonymous Again

Peter Northard is the General Manager of The Brewhouse Inn & Suites in Milwaukee. He has served on the Board of Directors of several organizations including VISIT Milwaukee, and the Greater Milwaukee Hotel Lodging Association, twice serving as President of the WHLMA.

In 1996, the Pabst Brewing Company shuttered their operations in Milwaukee, ending the company’s more than a century of brewing beer in the city. In Milwaukee’s early days, Pabst had been an integral part of the growth of the city. At one time it was the largest brewer in the world, one of the city’s leading employers and hosted countless visitors to Milwaukee for brewery tours. Pabst was more than a brewery, it was a Milwaukee icon. In its heyday the brewery covered 20 acres of downtown Milwaukee, and at the time of the closing, included 21 buildings, many of which were built before the turn of the 20th century.

As the fortunes of the Pabst Beer brand declined, so did the site of the former brewery. Abandoned for a decade, it was not until 2006, when Milwaukee philanthropist Joseph Zilber bought the entire Pabst complex that the rebirth of the site began. Determined to give back to the city that had given so much to him, Zilber set out to create an entire community at the Pabst complex, one built with sustainable building practices, which would save and repurpose as many of the historic buildings as possible.

The result of Zilber’s vision was The Brewery, one of five LEED Platinum sustainable neighborhoods in the world. Home to the UWM Zilber School of Public Health, Cardinal Stritch University, apartments, professional offices, and the soon to open Brewhouse Inn & Suites and Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub, The Brewery fulfilled the late Mr. Zilber’s dream for the area.

As The Brewery began to rise from the rubble, the Pabst brand had a rebirth of its own. Discovered by the twenty something crowd, in recent years PBR has experienced some of the fastest growth of any mainstream beer in the country. It is only fitting that as the Pabst brand has risen, the building where it was brewed for over a hundred years is coming back to life as well.

Opening on April 25th, The Brewhouse Inn and Suites occupy the former brewhouse and mill house buildings at The Brewery. The Brewhouse retains many of the original features including the five-story kettle atrium with six enormous copper brewing kettles, wrought iron spiral staircase, and the two-story stained glass window of King Gambrinus, the patron saint of brewing.

Built in 1882, the hotel now has modern room amenities including a fully equipped kitchen with microwave, refrigerator, electric cooktop, and dishwasher. The headboards and dining tables in each room are made from timbers repurposed from the building during the renovation. Harvested near Sheboygan in the 1880’s, they are a perfect example of how the hotel has reused as much of the original building as possible during the process of converting it from a brewery into a hotel. The Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub is perfect for a quick refreshment or a full meal. In summer, the outdoor beer garden will be the perfect spot to end the day and take in some live entertainment.

The Pabst name is associated with several other must see attractions in Milwaukee.

The Pabst Mansion, located just west of The Brewery, was the home of the brewery’s namesake Captain Frederick Pabst. Built in 1892, this 20,000 square mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been meticulously restored to its original splendor. It houses many of the families original papers and photographs, which offer a unique perspective on the life and times of one of Milwaukee’s original beer barons.

Another must see is the Pabst Theater, which was built in 1895 by Captain Pabst as a gift to the community after the opera house, Das Neue Deutsche Stadt-Theater burned down. Today a non-profit corporation spearheaded by another Milwaukee philanthropist, Michael Cudahy runs the Pabst Theater. It is a perfect place to catch new musical talent or get reacquainted with old favorites making a regular stop on national tours.

Finally, The Best Place at The Pabst Brewery is a great spot to learn more about Pabst and the brewing history of the city. Proprietor Jim Haertel gives tours and explains the history from the founding in 1844 by Jacob Best, to its spot today as the twenty something beer of choice. Each tour includes a large sample of PBR or Schlitz, two of Milwaukee’s most famous products. With a gift shop stocked with Pabst memorabilia, visitors are certain to find a part of Milwaukee to take home with them.

If you like history, or enjoy a cold brew now and then, be sure to make a visit to Milwaukee part of your plans this summer.

Peter Northard is the General Manager of The Brewhouse Inn & Suites in Milwaukee. In his thirty-year hotel career, Northard has managed numerous branded properties such as Holiday Inn and Radisson, as well as boutique hotels including The Brewhouse Inn & Suites. He has served on the Board of Directors of several organizations including VISIT Milwaukee, and the Greater Milwaukee Hotel Lodging Association, twice serving as President of the WHLMA. He currently resides in Grafton with his wife Lynne and their Bichon Frise Sophie. A lover of Wisconsin summers, when not working, he can be found biking the Ozaukee Interurban Trail or golfing on one of Wisconsin’s many magnificent golf courses.

Brewhouse Inn KettlesBrewhouse Inn Kettles

Brew House Inn preps for opening at former Pabst complex

Brew House Inn preps for opening at former Pabst complex

Mike De Sisti

The Brew House Inn & Suites, at W. Juneau Ave. and N. 10th St., is the second extended-stay hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

Milwaukee’s hotel growth continues with extended-stay option

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

March 2, 2013

After downtown Milwaukee’s former Pabst Brewery closed in 1996, the bottom portions of its big copper brewing kettles were removed – likely sold as scrap.

But what remains of the kettles has been cleaned and polished, and is now part of the lobby and atrium décor at the new Brew House Inn & Suites, a 90-room hotel created within the former Pabst brew house and adjacent mill house. The extended-stay hotel opens April 25, and its restaurant, Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub, is to open May 16.

Along with the six brewing kettles, the hotel’s features include the atrium’s restored stained glass window featuring King Gambrinus, the unofficial patron saint of beer; stone and brick arched doorways in the lobby; a spiral staircase connecting the lobby to the second-floor atrium; guest rooms with exposed brick; and tables and other furniture in guest rooms made from the brew house’s old floor joists.

The Brew House Inn has strong advanced bookings from both business and leisure travelers, including wedding parties, said Laura Narduzzi, regional manager at Oregon, Wis.-based Gorman & Co., the hotel’s devel oper.

“There’s a lot of excitement about this building,” Narduzzi said during a recent tour.

The six-story hotel has five two-bedroom rooms, some with rooftop terraces offering views of downtown’s skyline. The remaining rooms are divided roughly 50-50 between studio rooms and one-bedroom rooms. All rooms include kitchens.

The Brew House Inn will include a fitness center and two small meeting rooms, and guests will park at the nearby parking structure in the center of The Brewery, the 20-acre redevelopment of the former Pabst complex.

Hotel resurgence

The hotel, at the northwest corner of W. Juneau Ave. and N. 10th St., is part of a surge in new downtown hotel development, including the 128-room Hilton Garden Inn, which opened in November; the 200-room Marriott, opening this fall, and the recent announcement that Kimpton Hotels will open a 158-room hotel in summer 2015.

The Brew House Inn will be one of only two extended-stay hotels in downtown Milwaukee. That will help it better compete with other downtown hotels with well-known brand names that are tied to national reservation systems, Narduzzi said.

The building’s history also will help attract guests, she said.

Downtown’s other extended stay hotel, Residence Inn by Marriott, has a strong business, and Brew House Inn will have to do a good job of marketing itself, said Greg Hanis, who operates Hospitality Marketers International Inc., based in New Berlin.

The Brew House Inn’s lack of a national brand name will affect the hotel’s competition for guests who aren’t seeking extended stays, he said.

“Its location will be unique,” Hanis said, “but its service to the guest and overall product it offers will have to also be exceptional to overcome the lack of brand to position it.”

Foreign financing

Gorman financed the hotel through the EB-5 program. That program allows foreign citizens to obtain U.S. residency visas by investing in job-creating projects. The two-year visa can be converted into a green card, which provides permanent U.S. residency privileges for the investor, the investor’s spouse and children.

Opponents of the program say it distorts the market by providing the green cards as an investment incentive.

The hotel will be the second of three developments Gorman has at The Brewery.

Gorman operates Blue Ribbon Lofts, a 95-unit apartment building, and plans to begin construction this spring on a 60,000-square-foot office building just west of the Brew House Inn.

The Brewery also is home to the newly opened Brewery Point senior apartments, with 48 units; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zilber School of Public Health; office buildings; Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Education and Leadership; and Best Place, which includes the restored Blue Ribbon Hall and tavern.

Also, New York-based White stone Realty Capital LLC is raising $37 million to convert the former malt house and grain warehouse into 127 assisted living apartments.

The hotel’s opening is welcomed by Jim Haertel, who operates Best Place. He anticipates that additional business generated by the Brew House Inn and other new developments will allow him to keep the tavern open beyond its current Thursday through Sunday schedule.

“I think the more things we have going on at The Brewery, the more people will come, and park and visit all the establishments here,” Haertel said.