Cream City. Brew City. Beertown. Miltown. Call it by any name, but Milwaukee is outfitting its grand old buildings with a new set of clothes at a prodigious rate. Nowhere is this trend more evident than on the city’s west side, at the 20-acre site of the former Pabst Brewery that operated there for about 150 years. An empty ghost town after the last batch of beer was churned out in 1996, the brewery complex is now being resurrected. And in a sustainable way, with specific goals for water conservation, energy efficiency, and building reuse. In fact, the former factory has earned the rare distinction of being certified as the highest level (platinum) of LEED for Neighborhood Development.
The heart of the Pabst operations, the brewhouse itself, is among the 16 buildings still standing. Since 2013, it has been a one-of-a-kind, spacious, six-story hotel called TheBrewhouse Inn and Suites. Its 90 rooms surround an atrium topped by a vaulted glass roof that is a replica of the original. The brewhouse’s huge shiny copper kettles still anchor the second floor, and they are flanked by the same elegant black cast iron columns that were there during its heyday.
Hints of the former factory are everywhere at the hotel: headboards and conference room tables of reclaimed wood, old pipes fashioned into towel racks, heavy machinery recycled into breakfast tables.
Outside, rainwater is collected and filtered in roof gardens and sidewalk bioswales, or captured underground in detention reservoirs that serve the other Brewery buildings as well. This approach prevents stormwater from running off-site and into the sewer system.
A short walk away from the hotel are other historic and green Pabst-era buildings including the old Boiler House, Tank Building, and Bottling Building, turned into, respectively, an office building, University of Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health, and soon-to-be-completed student apartments.
The smokestacks are gone, but the spirit remains. And for those craving a pint of Blue Ribbon, a new Pabst brewery is slated to open this year in none other than the German Methodist Church located around the block from the Brewhouse Inn.