Thanks to so many dedicated people and businesses, Downtown is the heart of Milwaukee. This week, OnMilwaukee presents Milwaukee Downtown Week, sponsored, aptly, by Milwaukee Downtown. For seven days, the site will share articles, videos and photography profiling some of the neighborhood's best offerings and celebrating those who give it so much love.
Last summer, we took you inside the former Pabst distribution facility right after it emerged that Milwaukee Brewing Co. was purchasing the building at 1150 N. 9th St. as its new home.
On Tuesday, Milwaukee Brewing hosted an official groundbreaking for the project, which will include a 50,000-square foot brewery, an indoor tasting room, an outdoor patio and a rooftop bar and event space that will offer dramatic views of Downtown, including the adjacent new Arena District.
The plan also includes a retail store.
The transformation of the sprawling, windowless former Pabst shipping building into this new facility was designed by Rinka Chung Architects.
Founder Jim McCabe expects the new brewery – which will initially allow Milwaukee Brewing Company to brew and package as much as 30,000 barrels’ worth of beer annually, with room to grow – will be running within a year.
At Tuesday's groundbreaking event, before he, co-owner Jim Hughes and other dignitaries took ceremonial whacks at the building with sledgehammers, McCabe said, "We started 20 years ago in the Third Ward with no expectation of this.
"It's going to be a landmark and real treasure for Milwaukee in the beer world."
Matt Rinka, of Rinka Chung Architects, takes a ceremonial whack at the new brewery building.
McCabe celebrated the work of Rinka Chung, saying, "We had a vision for this that was bare bones, but what they have come up with here goes way beyond what we could have originally contemplated."
Mayor Tom Barrett – who opened his remarks with the new Milwaukee toast – said that with this ceremony, every parcel of land in the former Pabst Brewery has been built upon or is now being built upon.
"We have reached our destination in the renaissance of this neighborhood," Barrett said.
The sentiment was echoed by Zilber Property Group's Dan McCarthy, vice president of the Brewery Project development.
"It's a dream come true for us," he told OnMilwaukee. "To have one of the most respected craft brewers in the city, and to have Pabst come home ... I couldn't have imagined that."
Right now, Milwaukee Brewing Co.'s Walker's Point brewery, 613 S. 2nd St. – which according to the company's marketing director Hannah Falk – is "at capacity," brews 14,000 barrels a year.
The company currently has 57 brewery employees and plans to add 22 full-time and 25 part-time positions in the expanded operation.
McCabe says the company’s Walker’s Point brewery will remain open and will serve as a pilot brewery. Added capacity there created by the new brewery will allow for expansion of MKE Brewing’s barrel-aged and sour bee lines in Walker’s Point.
The new brewery will maintain its DNR Green Tier certification by using advanced energy recovery and green outdoor systems to minimize environmental impacts, including Milwaukee’s underground steam system.
Milwaukee Brewing Company began life as the small brewery operation at the Milwaukee Ale House, 233 N. Water St., in the Third Ward, in 1997. In 1998, McCabe opened the Walker’s Point site as a 50-barrel packaging facility.
With its arrival, Milwaukee Brewing Company becomes the second brewer to open a brewing facility on the site of the former Pabst Brewery. Pabst returned to Milwaukee earlier this year to open a small brewery, taproom and restaurant.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.