It’s the end of a brewing era in Milwaukee, or at least the end of a remnant of a craft beer pioneer.
Today, a crew from Veit Construction is dismantling the Walker’s Point smokestack painted with the Sprecher Brewery logo.
The stack is the last remaining bit of a power station adjacent the building at 730 W. Oregon St. where former Pabst brewery Randy Sprecher launched the city’s first craft brewery in 1985.
The building was located where the south branch of the Menomonee River splits into two canals.
"It was a chemical building," Sprecher told me when I did a story on the brewery in 2018, "the heaviest-built building in the whole Pfister and Vogel Tannery complex. It was the biggest tannery in the world. I was there, 80-100 hours a week.”
The building, he said, suited his needs well.
"I saw a way to do it here," he said, "with all my building and engineering skills, and I was a big auction guy, (so) I got stuff for peanuts, got the whole place going. We built our own gas-fired stainless kettles.”
Sprecher moved out of the building and into its current digs in 1994.
"I didn't outgrow it," Sprecher recalled. "The canal wall fell in that one day, because of the tugboats that were pushing the cement barges around. And then the whole parking lot fell in the canal, I couldn't get in my door cause it was up in the air, over the water.
"They had to build a cantilevered thing to get us in there, then they worked really hard on getting me out of there. It went down as soon as I got out of it, they knocked it down."
The Sprecher logo on the stack, which was visible from the high rise bridge and other locations, was a reminder of the earliest days of craft brewing.
Photographs of the demolition were taken and posted on Facebook this morning, appropriately, by George Bluvas, who is the brewmaster at Water Street Brewery, a similarly pioneering beer business in Milwaukee.
When it opened in 1987 it was the city’s first brewpub.
Our photo came from Guy Rehorst, who founded the state’s first distillery since Prohibition when he opened Great Lakes Distillery in 2004.
Even if we're a little sad to see the smokestack go, we're happy Sprecher survives.
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.