In this March 24 photo, Susie Seidelman stands outside the
Pabst brewery complex in Milwaukee. She is part of a group
wanting to raise money to try to bring the brewery's
headquarters back to Milwaukee, after hearing reports the
company may be up for sale.
- Long before it was known for fine cheddar cheese or the Green
Bay Packers, Wisconsin was famous for beer, especially the
national brands brewed in Milwaukee: Schlitz, Blatz and Pabst
tradition started by Milwaukee’s German immigrants in the 1800s
endured for more than a century, until industry consolidation in
the 1980s and ‘90s began sending familiar brands to other
companies and cities.
Now a small
group of Milwaukee residents wants to revive part of that proud
history by buying Pabst Brewing Co. from a California executive
in hopes of returning the brand to its birthplace, possibly as a
appears to be a distant long shot, requiring hundreds of
millions of dollars to acquire the 170-year-old beer best known
as PBR. But Milwaukee officials like the idea enough to talk
about it, and at least one industry analyst says the plan is not
beyond the realm of possibility.
think about Pabst being anywhere else but Milwaukee, it just
doesn’t make sense,’’ said Susie Seidelman, an organizer of the
‘‘Bring Pabst Blue Ribbon Home’’ effort. ‘‘Milwaukee made this
beer what it is. ... It’s right on the can.’’
with its pale gold color and light, fizzy taste, has become
especially popular over the last decade among urban hipsters, in
part because it’s one of the cheapest on the market.
In this March 24 photo,
Jim Haertel sits at the desk of Frederick Pabst, who started
the Pabst Brewery in 1884, in Milwaukee. He bought the
company’s former administrative building and another one in
2001. He supports an effort to try to raise money to bring
the company’s headquarters back to Milwaukee.
that started in Milwaukee in 1844 is now headquartered in Los
Angeles after being bought by food industry executive C. Dean
Metropoulos in 2010 for a reported $250 million.
surfaced last month suggesting that Pabst might be looking for
buyers. Organizers of the group want Metropoulos to give them
first rights of sale so they can begin raising money toward any
representatives would not comment on any potential sale or the
efforts to bring the brand back to Milwaukee, saying only that
they ‘‘are considering financial alternatives’’ that will help
Pabst ‘‘aggressively pursue its next phase of growth through
for just a moment’
The effort to
buy Pabst has a core of seven people with various business and
nonprofit backgrounds. It also has a Facebook page titled
‘‘Milwaukee Should Own Pabst Blue Ribbon’’ and a website at
bringpbrhome.com, which lets visitors sign a letter to
Metropoulos. The letter acknowledges that the purchase proposal
might seem ‘‘crazy’’ but asks readers to ‘‘humor us for just a
‘‘We want to
bring PBR home,’’ reads the letter, expected to be sent next
Pabst headquarters left and beer production ceased at the
company’s main complex in downtown Milwaukee, opening a ‘‘gaping
hole in our city’s economy,’’ according to the letter. PBR is
now brewed in another part of town as part of a deal with
Pabst back is less about the beer and more about ‘‘investing in
the city of Milwaukee,’’ Seidelman said.
A letter to
the Milwaukee mayor and city council asks them to consider the
purchase of Pabst using a community ownership model similar to
that of the Green Bay Packers, in which the public buys stock
that does not increase in value and pays no dividends. But,
Seidelman said, they are also considering other options,
including forming a cooperative.
This image provided by the Pabst
Mansion museum shows a postcard depicting the Pabst Brewery
around 1900 in Milwaukee. A small group of Milwaukee
residents want to revive the city’s beer brewing tradition
by buying Pabst Brewing Co. from a California executive in
hopes of returning the brand’s headquarters to its
organizer, Erika Wolf, said the group wants to hold
town-hall-style meetings and online chats about how to buy and
run PBR. The first meeting is scheduled for April 23.
the business structure chosen, they want to put the profits back
into the city, she said.
website was put together by the great-great granddaughter of
brewery founder Frederick Pabst. Bridget Byrnes, a Web designer
in Missoula, Mont., volunteered after seeing the Facebook page.
The return of Pabst back would hopefully create jobs and ‘‘bring
Milwaukee back to the beer city it was.’’
The plan is
being floated at a time when some Great Lakes cities are trying
to develop a ‘‘blue economy’’ by attracting industries that rely
on water. As growing water scarcity casts a shadow over the
economy in warmer states, many northern communities want to use
their abundant freshwater to attract businesses, including
a spokesman for Milwaukee’s development department, said city
officials know little about the effort so far but look forward
to discussing any plan with the organizers.