Group wants to bring Pabst back to Milwaukee - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Group wants to bring Pabst back to Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (WKOW) -- A small group of Milwaukee residents wants to revive part of the city's proud brewing history by buying Pabst Brewing Co. and bringing the brand back home, possibly as a city-owned brewery.

The effort appears to be a distant long shot, requiring hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire the 170-year-old beer best known as PBR(Pabst Blue Ribbon). But Milwaukee officials like the idea enough to talk about it and at least one industry analyst says the plan is not beyond the realm of possibility.

"When I think about Pabst being anywhere else but Milwaukee, it just doesn't make sense," said Susie Seidelman, an organizer of the "Bring Pabst Blue Ribbon Home" effort. "Milwaukee made this beer what it is. ... It's right on the can."

The company was started in Milwaukee in 1844 and is now headquartered in Los Angeles after being bought by food industry executive C. Dean Metropoulos in 2010, for a reported $250 million.

Reports surfaced last month suggesting Pabst might be looking for buyers and organizers of the group want Metropoulos to give them first rights of sale so they can begin raising money toward any asking price.

Pabst representatives would not comment on any potential sale or the efforts to bring the brand back to Milwaukee, saying only that they "are considering financial alternatives" that will help Pabst "aggressively pursue its next phase of growth through strategic acquisitions."

There's a Facebook page titled "Milwaukee Should Own Pabst Blue Ribbon" and a website at bringpbrhome.com, which lets visitors sign a letter to Metropoulos, expected to be sent next week.

In 1996, Pabst headquarters left and beer production ceased at the company's main complex in downtown Milwaukee and PBR is now brewed in another part of town as part of a deal with MillerCoors.

A letter to the Milwaukee mayor and city council asks them to consider the purchase of Pabst using a community ownership model similar to that of the Green Bay Packers, in which the public buys stock that does not increase in value and pays no dividends.

One organizer said the group wants to hold town-hall-style meetings and online chats about how to buy and run PBR, with the first meeting is scheduled for April 23. Regardless of the business structure chosen, they want to put the profits back into the city, she said.

The plan is being floated at a time when some Great Lakes cities are trying to develop a "blue economy" by attracting industries that rely on water. As growing water scarcity casts a shadow over the economy in warmer states, many northern communities want to use their abundant freshwater to attract businesses, including breweries.

The Pabst family sold their controlling interest in the company in 1933, and the last family member, August Pabst. Jr., retired from the board of directors in 1983.

One of Milwaukee's tourist attractions is the Pabst Mansion, a masterpiece of Gilded Age architecture that was once home to Frederick Pabst. And one of Milwaukee's main music venues is the Pabst Theater, which was run for many years by the family.

Jim Haertel owns Pabst's old administrative building and bar in the company's former brewery complex. He said he would buy into Pabst if given the opportunity and even scrap his plans to put a bed and breakfast in the building with beer taps in the rooms.

Renting offices would make less money than a bed and breakfast. But, he said, "it just seems like the right thing to do."

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