Pabst Brewing Co. leaving Milwaukee, again

Will close downtown Milwaukee microbrewery, taproom

Captain Pabst Pilot House, located at 1037 W. Juneau Ave.

Last updated on December 2nd, 2020 at 01:39 pm

Twenty-four years after closing its Milwaukee brewery and three years after making a return to that complex, Pabst Brewing is leaving Milwaukee again.

The Captain Pabst Pilot House will permanently close its doors in downtown Milwaukee’s Brewery District on Dec. 21.

Pabst Brewing Co. announced the news Tuesday, citing business challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All associated brewing activities at the Milwaukee brewery will relocate to Pabst’s head office location in San Antonio, Texas. 

“This has been an extremely difficult year for all hospitality and tourism businesses, and it has been no different for the Captain Pabst Pilot House,” Matt Bruhn, general manager at Pabst Brewing Co. said in a news release. “Unfortunately, with no signs of the business improving, the company has come to the difficult decision to close the Captain Pabst Pilot House operation effective December 21.”

The Pilot House halted operations for two months this spring at the onset of the pandemic. It began a phased reopening in late May, initially with carryout beer only and later transitioning to outdoor seating. Its indoor space reopened this fall at 25% capacity, among other COVID-19 policies.

The taproom and microbrewery first opened in 2017 in the former First German Methodist Church, located at 1037 W. Juneau Avenue. Pabst had used the 145-year-old building for decades as a restaurant and employee training center until the legacy brewer shuttered its Milwaukee brewery in 1996, leaving behind the 21-acre downtown campus. Most of the site and its dozen buildings have been redeveloped in recent years.

Pabst returned to Milwaukee in 2015 and spent the following two years renovating the historic church building. Its first-floor brewing facility has capacity for 4,000 barrels per year, focusing on experimental, craft and historic beers. The 140-seat taproom on the second floor includes a performance stage, which hosts concerts and other ticketed events. The venue also includes an outdoor beer garden and mezzanine area.

“This is an amazing space,” said Adam Powers, general manager at the Pilot House. “It’s a sad day for me, my team and Pabst lovers here in Milwaukee. But it’s my sincere hope that once we move beyond the pandemic, that someone with a love of Milwaukee brewing history will work to make this facility a thriving, viable business moving forward.”

The closure comes less than a year after the venue rebranded as Captain Pabst Pilot House from its original Pabst Milwaukee Brewery & Taproom. The name change, which coincided with the launch of Captain Pabst Seabird IPA, paid homage to Captain Frederick Pabst’s “adventurous spirit and willingness to push the boundaries,” according to its website. 

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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