The Pabst Brewing Co dates it’s origins to a brewing company founded in 1844 by Jacob Best. A brief history of the Best Brewing Company includes:
- The original brewery called the Empire Brewery and later, Best and Company was located on Chestnut Hill Street in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
- Jacob Best’s son Phillip took control of the brewery in 1860.
- In 1863 Frederick Pabst, a steamship captain and son-in-law of Phillip Best bought a share of the Phillip Best Brewing Co.
- In the 1870’s Frederick Pabst becomes president.
- In 1874 the Phillip Best Brewing Co was the nation’s largest brewer.
- In 1875 they began bottling a lager beer they branded “Best Select” that they had been brewing since the 1860’s.
In March, 1889 the name of the company was changed to the Pabst Brewing Company. The following notice, announcing the change, appeared in several March and April issues of the “Weekly Wisconsin” a Milwaukee newspaper.
Not long after, by 1890, the first references to their signature beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon began to appear.
It was only a year or so later that Pabst established themselves in New York City. Locally, the first listing I could find for the Pabst Brewing Company was in the 1891-92 NYC City Directory at 374 Washington. The first New York City advertisement I could find was in the April 25, 1892 edition of the New York World. The advertisement showed Pabst beating Anheuser-Busch in comparative sales in 1891, calling themselves the “most popular beer ever placed before the public.” You have to appreciate their selective use of font size to help make their point!
One of the first national brands, Pabst apparently tried pretty hard to sell themselves in New York City as “local.” In several May and June 1897 issues of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, they published several different full-page advertisements that stressed, among other things, that they bottled their beer in New York City and were in fact a “local institution.”
WE ARE A LOCAL INSTITUTION
We have our own branch establishment here and WE ARE THE ONLY WESTERN BREWERY WHO BOTTLES BEER FOR THE NEW YORK MARKET UNDER THEIR OWN ROOF AND INTELLIGENT SUPERVISION. We have 117 employees in New York. We purchase large amounts of supplies from New York. We spend with New York business houses, publishers and for rent for our various establishments enormous sums, indeed sums far in excess of the volume of local business. We are therefore a local institution in every sense of the word, a home institution to the Metropolitan district. This feature should be remembered.
The following year, in 1898, they changed their listed address to 606 W 49th St (Between 11th and 12th Avenue) where they remained through at least 1919. The NY manager in these early years was named Eugene Schlep who was listed as a company director in the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories from 1900 to 1919.
A January 26, 1911 advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stressed the value of Pabst Blue Ribbon as a food and also demonstrated that PABST had started using bottles with crown finishes by this time.
With the advent of Prohibition, the Pabst Brewing Company was dissolved and the newly formed Pabst Corporation went off in other directions. A December 8, 1920 article in the New York Times told the story.
The Pabst Brewing Company which, until the advent of prohibition, was one of the world’s greatest breweries, passed out of existence today when the Pabst Corporation, with a capital of $5,000,000 was formed, dissolving the old company.
H.J. Stark, President of the brewing company, announced that the concern was a thing of the past and that the corporation would “manufacture, sell and generally deal in goods, wares, etc…
The Pabst Brewery is still operating on a small scale selling and manufacturing near beer. Milwaukee does not take kindly to near beer and business in this commodity is negligible.
One area that Pabst moved into was cheese production selling more than 8 million pounds of “Pabst-eff” cheese.
When prohibition ended the company went back to selling beer and the cheese line was sold to Kraft. A March, 1934 advertisement for Pabst Blue Ribbon Bock Beer visually signaled the end of Prohibition and the return of their beer with the image of a jumping ram and the phrase “a single leap through 15 years”.
The very bottom of the advertisemnt refers to local distributers so it appears they were no longer bottling their own beer locally. The post Prohibition Telephone Directories confirm this. PABST is not listed in the 1935 Classifieds under beer or brewers. In 1940 they’re listed under brewers but as the PABST SALES COMPANY. They were located on Hudson Street.
Today PABST is a holding company contracting for the brewing of over two dozen brands from defunct companies. Some of the brands I recognize include Ballantine, Heileman, Lone Star, Piel Bros, Olympia, Falstaff, Schaefer, Schlitz, Schmidts and Strohs.
W 49th St between 11th and 12th Avenues is now primarily occupied by a modern warehouse type building housing a Federal Express Shipping Center.
I have found two different type bottles, both machine made. One is a brown champagne style, the other a green export style. They are most likely in the 1910 to 1920 time frame.