Michael Horne
Bar Exam

Pabst Mansion Beer Garden

Historic mansion was home to Milwaukee beer baron Captain Frederick Pabst.

By - Aug 20th, 2021 04:31 pm
Pabst Mansion Beer Garden. Photo taken August 13, 2021 by Michael Horne.

Pabst Mansion Beer Garden. Photo taken August 13, 2021 by Michael Horne.

Since July Milwaukee’s day drinkers have been able to enjoy outdoor refreshments Thursday through Monday from noon to 6 p.m. on the grounds of the Pabst Mansion, 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The “Beer Garden” is in the front of the 1892 mansion built for Milwaukee Beer Baron Captain Frederick Pabst and his wife Marie. The 35-room home, designed by Ferry & Clas, is set back from the street, while large buildings on the east and west lot lines are built right up to the street, blocking views other than those directly ahead. Those views are of busy W. Wisconsin Ave., a hectic 21st century world removed 13 decades from the one you now inhabit, Pabst beer in hand.

The mansion itself has had a liquor license since it opened to the public in 1978. But COVID-19 shuttered the place until April this year, when tours and events resumed. The management decided that there might be an outlet for further revenue by setting up an outdoor stand — no admission fee required — and the Beer Garden was born, with the minimal startup costs limited to the acquisition of some folding tables and benches. These were set up on the asphalt plaza that fronts the symmetrical Flemish Revival pile of stone, brick and terra cotta, that looms grandly and formidably above. It was more a spot for a wedding photo than for slamming a sixteen-ouncer. Then some customers had an idea. though some customers had a different idea.

The Public Acts

Gary Strothmann is the Director of Guest Services at the mansion who has long overseen the scheduled events held there. With the opening of the beer garden, he added some spontaneity to his responsibilities. One hot day some guests asked if they could haul their table and benches a couple dozen feet west so as to be under the shade of mature trees on the lawn there. Before too long, all of the tables and benches found their way to the sylvan glade. In addition to the welcome shade, the site is within sight of the bartender, whose simple stand is set up beneath the porte-cochère, sheltered from both sun and sudden storms.

Behind the bartender’s station, and with a good inside view of the comings and goings of the horse-drawn coaches alighting and embarking at the porte-cochère lies the home office of Captain Pabst. Few rooms are so indelibly intertwined with their occupants, with the possible exception of the business office of Captain Pabst, now the Great Hall of the Best Place Milwaukee. That space too afforded the brewer an opportunity to keep an eye on his domain. It is easy to conjure his spirit doing so today as random visitors — some of them pilgrims — show up to drink beers on benches on his front lawn.

A Draw for Tour-goers

The outdoor beer garden has also proven to be a draw for tourgoers of the mansion itself. On Aug. 13 members of the Elmbrook Rotary Club held their August social event with a “Mini-Tour” of the Pabst Mansion from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Members happily emerged from the home and headed straight for the beer garden. The beer garden is also a good place for non-tourgoers to rest while the remainder of their party goes through the house. Other museums and cultural institutions might consider this opportunity.

On Tap - Sponsored by Lakefront Brewery

  • City Lights Hazy IPA
  • Eagle Park IPA
  • Lakefront East Side Dark
  • Lakefront Riverwest Stein
  • Miller
  • Miller Lite
  • Old Milwaukee
  • Schlitz
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  •  Pabst Stronger Seltzer

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The Verdict

  • Trade Name: Pabst Mansion Beer Garden
  • Location: 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave., City of Milwaukee
  • Neighborhood: Avenues West
  • Subdivision: Certified Survey Map No. 3243
  • Architect: George Bowman Ferry & Alfred Charles Clas
  • Phone Number: 414-931-0808
  • Website: https://www.pabstmansion.com/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pabstmansionmke
  • Twitter: @PabstMansionMKE
  • Description: Historic mansion near downtown has been open for tours and events since 1978. This year a seasonal outdoor beer garden was added to the repertoire, affording a rare opportunity to drink outdoors in a sylvan setting on a busy street, where the best of the 19th century confronts an evolving 21st.
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Year Established: Open to public, 1978; Beer Garden, 2021
  • Year Building Constructed: Building permit issued 1890; occupancy 1892
  • Building Owner: Pabst Mansion, Inc. (Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc. 1978-2019)
  • Estimated Annual Rent: N/A. Operator owns building
  • Property Assessment: Exempt. However, since 2018 the Assessor has assigned an exempt valuation for the property. The 45,171 square foot lot is assessed at $204,040 ($4.51 per square foot) and the improvement is assessed at $1,295,960 for a total assessed valuation of $1,500,000. 2011 Assessment: $0
  • Property taxes: $4,831.25 Current on the Installment Plan. First payment of $1,080.74 is due by January 31st, so get in there and drink!
  • Business Owner: Pabst Mansion, Inc. Pamela William-Lime, President. Agent, 0% owner. DOB 03/16/1959
  • Business: Non-Profit Historic Mansion Cultural Organization  0% food, 100% alcohol sales
  • Walk Score: 83 out of 100 “Very Walkable” Most errands can be accomplished on foot. City Average: 62 out of 100
  • Transit Score: 62 out of 100. “Good Transit” Many transit options. City Average: 49 out of 100
  • Aldermanic District: 4th, Robert Bauman
  • Police District: District 1
  • Bike Racks: Nay
  • Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory Record: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Property/HI30265
  • Maps: 1894 Map vol. 2 Sheet No. 157; 1910 Map vol. 3 sheet 319

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