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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Marketplace

Best Place is loaded with leaded glass, including this piece showing a sloppy gnome.

In Marketplace

Best Place owner Jim Haertel with Michele Mewissen (left), director of customer relations, and Suzanne Ehlke, director of sales and marketing.

Best Place offers a drink of Pabst history

After years of road blocks and negotiations, the old Pabst brewery is finally a livable, workable space called The Brewery. Located on 21 acres of land in Downtown Milwaukee, The Brewery has a three-pronged commitment to provide the city with the opportunity to "live, work, learn."

Already, the redevelopment is home to the Blue Ribbon Loft Apartments, two completely rented office buildings and a satellite campus for Cardinal Stritch's College of Education and Leadership.

But for Jim Haertel, the best is yet to come.

Haertel, along with his business partners, spent 10 years trying to seal a deal to own the former brewery and finally secured a portion of the brewery called Best Place, 901-917 W. Juneau Ave.

Best Place, originally the hospitality area for the Pabst Brewing Company, houses a gift shop, corporate offices, Blue Ribbon Hall, a courtyard and a tour center. The buildings will open to the public on Sunday, Oct. 4 with a benefit for Hunger Task Force.

"After a 10-year quest, my reward for the hard work is these beautiful buildings," says Haertel. "It looks and feels like an Old World European mansion smack dab in the middle of Downtown."

The Best Place buildings will be open to the public and serve as a museum for Pabst beer, as well as a tribute to German heritage. The structures are adorned with stained glass windows, hardwood details, high ceilings and original wall murals featuring drinking-related German proverbs and a detailed depiction of the brewery's history. Haertel and a crew of workers handled most of the restoration and made very few changes.

Best Place's crown jewel, Blue Ribbon Hall, features a massive bar, dozens of tables and a 50-seat theater. The hall will be available for rental -- with catering options -- and Haertel hopes to secure a liquor license in the near future.

"This is a banquet hall for all kinds of special events, from a modest pig roast to a lovely wedding reception, and everything in between," says Haertel.

Earlier this summer, Haertel celebrated his 30-year wedding anniversary at Best Place.

After Haertel purchased Best Place, he found massive amounts of inventory, all of which will be for sale in the vintage gift shop. Items for purchase include canceled Pabst stock certificates, coasters, postcards, patches, buckets, unused bottle caps, books and more.

Best Place features a beautiful, paved courtyard with a statue of Captain Frederick Pabst. Pabst married the granddaughter of Best Brewery owner, Jacob Best, and later became the president of the corporation. In 1889, he changed the name to the Pabst Brewing Company.

The Milwaukee brewery closed in 1996.

Best Place -- named after Jacob Best -- also features a guest center that will offer tours, some of which Haertel will conduct. The cost will be $8 for adults and $4 for kids. The tour schedule will be announced soon.

Haertel, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, says he always had an appreciation for vintage real estate and that he fell in love with the Pabst buildings at first sight. He later learned that his family has a history of brewing, and that his great grandfather worked in Milwaukee's now defunct Gettleman Brewery. (Miller purchased Gettleman in 1960.)

Haertel says it was while receiving his MBA at Marquette University that he learned the secret to success was to follow your passion.

"I would rather have my dream than a bunch of money," he says. "Although, it would be nice to have both."


East_Side_D | Aug. 31, 2009 at 8:35 p.m. (report)

An earlier plan for the buildings included a brewpub licensing Hofbrau of Munich beers. Did this idea fall through? I hope it is just on hold as it sounded like a great idea.

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WestsideTide | Aug. 31, 2009 at 5:38 p.m. (report)

Good luck! I can't wait to visit.

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