, , ,

Pabst Brewery Operations Leaving Milwaukee, Again

Captain Pabst Pilot House Closing, Operations Moving To San Antonio

Pabst brewery in Milwaukee
In this Sept. 9, 1996 photo is the Pabst brewery in Milwaukee. The Pabst Brewing Company, which closed the Milwaukee plant in 1966, announced Wednesday, July 15, 2015 that will open a new brewery in Milwaukee on the site of the original brewery. Mark Gail/AP Photo

After a brief return, the iconic Pabst beer will no longer be brewed in Milwaukee.

The company announced Tuesday the Captain Pabst Pilot House, located in Milwaukee’s Brewery District, will close permanently Dec. 21. All associated brewing activities will relocate to Pabst’s head office in San Antonio. After a 20-year drought, Pabst was brought back to Milwaukee in 2017.

“This has been an extremely difficult year for all hospitality and tourism businesses, and it has been no different for the Captain Pabst Pilot House,” Matt Bruhn, general manager of Pabst Brewing Company, said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, with no signs of the business improving, the company has come to the difficult decision to close.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Captain Pabst Pilot House is located in a 145-year-old former First German Methodist Church on the original Pabst complex at 1037 W. Juneau Ave. just west of downtown Milwaukee.

The taproom opened in mid-2017 and was part of a series of developments at the 21-acre former Pabst Brewery complex, which was once home to one of the world’s largest beer producers.

The facility houses a 4,000 barrel-per-year microbrewery on its first floor, with a taproom area and performance stage on the second floor. It also features an outdoor beer garden and a mezzanine area.

Sixteen part-time and two full-time employees will be affected by the closure.

“It’s a sad day for me, my team and Pabst lovers here in Milwaukee,” Pilot House general manager Adam Powers said in a statement. “But it’s my sincere hope that once we move beyond the pandemic, that someone with a love of Milwaukee brewing history will work to make this facility a thriving, viable business moving forward.”

A Challenging Year For Brewers

Bart Watson is the chief economist for the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association. He said it has been a challenging year for on-premised focused breweries like the Pabst facility in Milwaukee.

“People are drinking differently, so they are buying a lot more beer, wine and spirits at the grocery store and other off-premise locations, but that misses the other piece — that they are buying a lot less beer, wine and spirits at bars and restaurants,” Watson said.

The Brewers Association represents more than 5,300 U.S. brewery members. This year, about 200 breweries have closed, which is less than in 2019 when about 300 breweries closed, he said.

“That’s somewhat surprising given how challenging this year has been, but our sense is that the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan program, to go sales and cost-cutting has helped many breweries survive, albeit in a weaker state,” Watson said. “This winter is going to be a real challenge with no outdoor space.”