Milwaukee Area and Beer

September 04, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

For our time in East Central Wisconsin, we save Milwaukee for last and traveled down from Fond du Lac on Labor Day weekend for some history in German immigration, beer, and more. 

Our first stop was Germantown's Dheinsville Settlement, which dates back to 1842.


Dheinsville, WI - BarnDheinsville, WI - BarnPhoto by Kathy Alexander.


Dheinsville, WI - Barn SiloDheinsville, WI - Barn SiloBarn and Silo around the Dheinsviille Settlement just outside Germantown, Wisconsin. Photo by Kathy Alexander.


Barn and Silo around the Dheinsviille Settlement just outside Germantown.


Dheinsville, WI - CemeteryDheinsville, WI - CemeteryDheinsville, Wisconsin may look like a ghost town, but still has several businesses operating. This is their cemetery dating back to the 1850s behind the 1862 Christ Church. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Dheinsville, Wisconsin may look like a ghost town, but still has several businesses operating. This is their cemetery dating back to the 1850s behind the 1862 Christ Church. 


Dheinsville, WI - Christ Church MuseumDheinsville, WI - Christ Church MuseumThe Christ Church in Dheinsville, Wisconsin was built in 1862 and serves as a museum today. Photo by Kathy Alexander.


The Christ Church in Dheinsville was built in 1862 and serves as a museum today.


Dheinsville, WI - Germantown Mutual Ins Co 1870Dheinsville, WI - Germantown Mutual Ins Co 1870The Germantown Mutual Insurance company was established in 1870 in Dheinsville, Wisconsin. Photo by Kathy Alexander.


The Germantown Mutual Insurance company was established in 1870 in Dheinsville.


Dheinsville, WI - Silo BellDheinsville, WI - Silo Bell


Dheinsville Settlement was established in 1842 by the Philip Dhein family.  It is Germantown's oldest crossroads settlement that contains original half-timber buildings, reflecting the architecture of the immigrants from the Hunsruck area of Germany that came here.  

After Dheinsville we made a quick pass through Menomonee Falls.


Menomonee Falls - Bank Memories FlowersMenomonee Falls - Bank of Memories & Flowers


A suburb of Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls was established in 1892 on the Menomonee River, which the city has damned creating a waterfall. The downtown area has kept its historic charm despite the influx of population from the city over the years.


Menomonee Falls - WaterfallMenomonee Falls - WaterfallA suburb of Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls was established in 1892 on the Menomonee River, which the city has damned creating a water fall. The downtown area has kept it's historic charm despite the influx of population from the city over the years. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


The region around the confluence of three rivers, the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic, into Lake Michigan, was originally inhabited by several Native American tribes, including the Fox, Winnebago, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, Sauk, Menominee, and Mascouten. European missionaries and traders were passing through by the late 17th and early 18th centuries. French Canadian Alexis Laframboise established a trading post here in 1785.

The rivers saw the first official European settlements around 1818, with French Canadian explorer Solomon Juneau establishing Juneautown. It was in competition with two others that formed quickly after, Kilbourntown and Walkers Point.

Leading up to 1840 these settlements went through some intense rivalries that culminated in what is now known as the "Milwaukee Bridge War". Mainly between Juneautown on the east side of the Milwaukee River, and Kilbourntown on the west side, the trouble began when Kilbourntown tried to isolate Juneautown to make it more dependant on them. A planned bridge over the river threatened Kilbourntown's plans, and in 1845 Byron Kilbourn, founder of his settlement, destroyed part of the bridge under construction.  Two smaller bridges were destroyed by men of Juneautown in an attempt to cut off Kilbourn from the east and south side.  It was after this that they decided the best way forward would be to make better efforts to cooperate, and in 1846 the three settlements united into one city as Milwaukee.




Milwaukee, WI - Art MuseumMilwaukee, WI - Art MuseumMilwaukee's Art Museum on Lake Michigan serves over 350,000 visitors a year and displays over 30,000 works of art. Photo by Kathy Alexander.


Milwaukee's Art Museum on Lake Michigan serves over 350,000 visitors a year and displays over 30,000 works of art. 

The name Milwaukee comes from a Native word meaning "Gathering place by the water" and was known in the early days as Milwacky, Milwarck, Milwauki, and even Melleorki.


Milwaukee, WI - ArchitectureMilwaukee, WI - ArchitectureDoors, above a door? Photo by Kathy Alexander.


The architecture in Milwaukee was interesting.  Like this building's doors.  Which are above the door of the building.  

German immigrants made up a large portion of Milwaukee's early growth. So much so that clubs and societies created here made a lasting impact on American life.  Did you know it was the Germans that created Kindergarten? They also incorporated sports, music, and art into regular school curriculums. By the turn of the 20th Century, Germans made up a third of Milwaukee's population.


Milwaukee - BeachMilwaukee - Beach


We toured a bit of Milwaukee on Labor Day weekend, and despite the fog off Lake Michigan, there were plenty of beachgoers.


Milwaukee - Beach VolleyballMilwaukee - Beach Volleyball


Milwaukee - Downtown FogMilwaukee - Downtown FogPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


Milwaukee's downtown skyscrapers peaked in and out of the fog during our visit. 


Milwaukee, WI - Harley Davidson Corporate CampusMilwaukee, WI - Harley Davidson Corporate CampusPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


At the turn of the 20th Century, young 20-year-old William S. Harley teamed up with childhood friend Arthur Davidson in their hometown of Milwaukee to work on an engine designed to use on a regular bicycle frame. After it was finished in 1903, they discovered it didn't have enough power to make it up steep hills, so they built a better one, this one with a bigger engine and loop-frame design that would be at the forefront of future motorcycle designs. Thus was the beginning of Harley Davidson Motor Company. Today, Harley Davidson employs 6,000 and is still headquartered in Milwaukee where the company began. 

Milwaukee, WI - Lake Michigan Jet ToyMilwaukee, WI - Lake Michigan Jet Toy


Kathy captures a person riding some kind of jet toy in Lake Michigan during the Labor Day weekend celebration in Milwaukee.


About those German immigrants... let's talk Beer.

Railroads helped shape the city's future with Milwaukee becoming the largest shipper of wheat in the world in 1862. This of course brought the 'suds'.  Milwaukee was at one time the leading producer of beer in the world, home to four of the world's largest breweries; Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller. It has since declined in this regard but is still home to the major brewer Miller Brewing Company, the second-largest in the U.S. Coors also has a brewery in Miller Valley, the oldest still-functioning major brewery in the country. You may recognize some of these breweries as they were used as the backdrop in many scenes of the popular sitcoms Happy Days and Lavern and Shirley, which were set in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee, WI - Miller BinsMilwaukee, WI - Miller BinsPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


Frederick Miller brewed his first barrel of beer in America in 1855. Hailing from a family of politicians in Germany, Miller came from wealth. He learned the trade from an Uncle in France, working in several aspects of the brewery, gaining knowledge along the way. 

Milwaukee - Miller ValleyMilwaukee - Miller ValleyPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


Frederick Miller, his wife Josephine, and young son Joseph migrated to America during unrest in Germany in 1854, and after spending a year in New York City he ventured out to find a new home for his family. Shortly after his arrival in Milwaukee, he paid $8,000 for the Plank-Road Brewery, which at the time was west of Milwaukee. Because Frederick Miller's first brewery was so far from town, he opened a boarding house next door for his unmarried employees. 

Milwaukee, WI - Miller High LifeMilwaukee, WI - Miller High Life Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


By 1857 Frederick Miller opened a new beer hall on Water Street in Milwaukee, and in 1864 he built a new brewery on land purchased near Bismark in the Dakota Territory. Bum luck though as Dakota Territory went dry by law the day before it was to open.

Frederick Miller went through several personal hardships during his time as a beer king in Milwaukee. He lost his wife Josephine in 1860, then after remarrying, lost several children with his new wife Lisette. Other children from that marriage though would go on to lead Miller Brewing Company into the 1960s.


Milwaukee, WI - Miller Brewing Visitors Center-BusMilwaukee, WI - Miller Brewing Visitors Center-BusPhoto by Dave Alexander.


In 1966, the Miller family sold most of their stock to W.R. Grace Company. Phillip Morris Inc. purchased the company in 1969 and the rest of the stock a year later.


Milwaukee, WI - Miller ParkMilwaukee, WI - Miller ParkPhoto by Dave Alexander.


Built in 2001, Miller Park replaced Milwaukee County Stadium and is home to the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. Miller Brewing made a $40 Million dollar deal to sponsor the stadium through 2020. 

Milwaukee, WI - Miller Park-2Milwaukee, WI - Miller Park-2Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


The Miller Park Stadium built in 2001 has North America's only fan-shaped retractable roof, which can open in less than 10 minutes. Glass in the roof allows for natural grass on the ball field. 


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Building DoorMilwaukee, WI - Pabst Building DoorPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


Jacob Best founded the Empire Brewery in 1844, and later the Best and Company brewery. They produced 300 barrels of Best Select lager in their first year. His son Phillip took control in 1860, starting the Phillip Best Company brewery on Chestnut Street Hill in Milwaukee.


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst AlleyMilwaukee, WI - Pabst AlleyPhoto by Dave Alexander.


In 1863, Phillip Best's Son-In-Law Frederick Pabst, a steamboat captain, bought a share in Phillip Best Brewing. The company began bottling in 1875 under the name Best Select, and by that time it was the nation's second-largest brewer. Captain Pabst also took over as President of the company.

These buildings that used to house the Pabst Brewery appear to be slated for demolition (during our visit in 2014). 


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst BreweryMilwaukee, WI - Pabst BreweryPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

In 1882, having earned awards at U.S. and international competitions, Frederick Pabst begins hand-tying a blue silk ribbon around the neck of each Best Select beer to identify it as a first-place winner.

In 1889 Pabst renames the company in honor of himself and Pabst Brewing Company is born. With sales increasing, the company purchased nearly one million feet of silk ribbon by 1892, which workers all tied by hand to the bottles.


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Brewery AlleyMilwaukee, WI - Pabst Brewery AlleyTouches of color in Kathy's image of the Alley between buildings at the old Pabst Brewery.


In 1895, when patrons keep asking bartenders for the beer with the blue ribbon, the phrase "Blue Ribbon" is added to the Best Select name on the label. In 1898 the beer's name is officially changed to Pabst Blue Ribbon.


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Brewing PubMilwaukee, WI - Pabst Brewing PubPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Frederick Pabst died in 1904, leaving the company to his sons Frederick Jr. and Gustav. The practice of putting a blue ribbon on each bottle didn't end until a silk shortage during World War I.


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst LanternMilwaukee, WI - Pabst LanternPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


During Prohibition, Pabst Brewing switched to cheese, soft drinks, and malt extract to stay in business. After Prohibition ended, Pabst sold the cheese operation to Kraft and went back to making Beer, and putting silk blue ribbons on the bottles. In 1935 they cracked the export market by developing keg-lined Tap-a-Cans, becoming one of the first to offer beer in a can.


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst SignMilwaukee, WI - Pabst SignPhoto by Dave Alexander.


Through the purchase of other breweries, by the late 1940's Pabst had operations throughout the country. The blue ribbon was officially removed and became part of the label in 1950. By 1960 the company was producing 4.7 million barrels of beer, which more than doubled just 10 years later. At it's peak in 1977 the company sold 18 million barrels.

We wonder what will happen to the Pabst Sign once the old Brewery is removed?


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst WelcomeMilwaukee, WI - Pabst WelcomePhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


In 1985 Paul Kalmanowitz buys Pabst for $63 Million. It was under his leadership that the flagship brewery in Milwaukee closed. He also ended all advertising for the beer. In 2010, the Metropoulus family acquired the company, which is currently headquartered in Los Angeles.


Milwaukee, WI - Schlitz Brew HouseMilwaukee, WI - Schlitz Brew HousePhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


German immigrant August Krug began brewing beer in the basement of his Milwaukee restaurant in 1849. The next year Krug hired 20-year-old Joseph Schlitz to manage his restaurant and brewery's bookkeeping.


Milwaukee, WI - Schlitz Building at Schlitz ParkMilwaukee, WI - Schlitz Building at Schlitz ParkPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


By 1853 what Krug started in the restaurant basement was producing 300 barrels of beer a year. Joseph Schlitz took over the brewery when Krug passed away in 1856, and just three years later was selling about 2,000 barrels a year under the name Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. 

"The Beer that Made Milwaukee Famous" was how Schlitz Beer was described after Jospeph Schlitz sent hundreds of barrels of beer to Chicago in support of the city after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871


Milwaukee, WI - Schlitz Park - Logo on BuildingMilwaukee, WI - Schlitz Park - Logo on BuildingPhoto by Dave Alexander.


In 1902, with over one million barrels sold, Schlitz becomes the largest brewery in the world. In 1911 the company introduces the brown bottle, which inhibits light from spoiling beer as quickly. 

Following a downturn in the business due to rationing during World War II, Schlitz regained international prominence in the 1950s, selling over six million barrels in 1952.

Among a series of firsts in packaging, Schlitz introduced the first 16oz flat top beer can in 1954, the first aluminum "soft top" can in 1960, and the first "pop top" can in 1963.


Milwaukee, WI - Shlitz BuildingMilwaukee, WI - Shlitz BuildingPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


In 1970 the company expanded to North Carolina with a 4.4 million barrel annual production. That would rise to 21.3 million only three years later.

In 1982 the Schlitz Brewing Company was purchased by Stroh's, then in 1999, the brand became part of Pabst Brewing Company, which is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Schlitz Park is now a business complex, and you can still see the company logo on many of the buildings.


Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran ChurchMilwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran ChurchPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Polish immigrants had an impact on Milwaukee too, especially in its churches, with steeples that dot the skyline providing some beautiful views with breathtaking architecture.


Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church Steeples 2Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church Steeples 2Photo by Dave Alexander.


Church Steeples near the old Pabst Brewery have a couple of seagulls perched on either side standing sentinel over the city.

Milwaukee boasts the fifth-largest Polish population in the U.S. to this day (around 45,000), but it was as high as 100,000 in 1915.

Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church Steeples 3Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church Steeples 3Photo by Dave Alexander.


Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church Steeples near BreweryMilwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church Steeples near BreweryPhoto by Dave Alexander.


As you might have noticed, we found this church near the old Pabst Brewery to be one of our favorites to photograph.

Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church-2Milwaukee, WI - Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church-2Photo by Kathy Alexander.

Trinity Evangeline Lutheran Church


Milwaukee, WI - St. Francis ChurchMilwaukee, WI - St. Francis ChurchPhoto by Kathy Alexander. St. Francis Church


Milwaukee, WI - Pabst MansionMilwaukee, WI - Pabst Mansion


The Pabst Mansion sits near Marquette University and downtown Milwaukee amidst modern surroundings. 

Other nations' immigrants were also attracted to the city on Lake Michigan, and by 1910 Milwaukee was tied with New York City as having the largest percentage of foreign-born residents in the U.S. The city's overall population peaked at around 800,000 in the 1960s, however as many started moving to the burbs, the city's population dropped to around 600,000 by 1980. With its historic districts and rich immigrant history, the city survived and is on its way back through re-vitalization and efforts to attract new business. The city saw a population increase over the past decade, its first since 1960.

There is a lot to see and do in this city, whether touring the famous breweries, enjoying the many attractions downtown, or even a dip in Lake Michigan on one of the beaches. Depending on your cup of tea, this could be a weekend-long adventure, or you could just be a drive-through history buff like us and spend a day taking in the architecture and sites. We don't normally do large cities and like to write about the smaller places in American History the most, but whatever your taste, there is something for everyone in Milwaukee.


On our way back to Fond du Lac


Our final stop of the day was Cedarburg about 20 minutes outside Milwaukee. 


Cedarburg, WI - Covered BridgeCedarburg, WI - Covered BridgePhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


The Covered Bridge (once called the Red Bridge) outside of Cedarburg is one of the state's last Covered Bridges.


Cedarburg, WI - Covered Bridge-2Cedarburg, WI - Covered Bridge-2Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander


It was built in 1876 and used until 1962 when it was retired. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since the early 1970s, you can still walk across it.


Cedarburg, WI - FirehouseCedarburg, WI - Firehouse Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Founded in the early 1840s by Irish and German settlers on Cedar Creek, Cedarburg has carefully preserved the city's original structures and the downtown looks much as it did over a hundred years ago. In fact, more than 200 buildings of historical significance remain in the town and remain in use as shops, homes, museums, and more.

Industries here included a woolen mill, lumber, and flour mills, a nail factory, and a brewery, all of which prospered after the railroad arrived in 1870. Although its area population is around 11,000, Cedarburg has kept its old-world charm.


Cedarburg, WI - Main StreetCedarburg, WI - Main Street Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Cedarburg, WI - Woolen MillCedarburg, WI - Woolen MillPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Next up we moved on to Door County Wisconsin for some relaxing times on the Bay and Lake Michigan.  Cya on the Road!

Also See: 

Our Wisconsin Photo Print Galleries

When Wisconsin was Discovered


For RVers 

At Fond du LacAt Fond du LacAn old friend of Kathy's from her teen days showed up at our campground at Fond du Lac.

While in this area we stayed at Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds in one of their 18 full hookup sites. $20 a night, and only a few other campers there.  Not a place if you are into scenery, but was great for our purposes.  No wifi, but we had excellent AT&T data here (4Glte).  Fond du Lac has a lot to see and is fairly large compared to what we typically do.  The downtown has a market on certain days, and there's lots of history in this area.  Appears it is sometimes difficult to get into a spot at this fairground. As of this writing (September 2014) you really need to arrive when they are in the office. 


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