Timeline: August 22-24
Originally, we’d hoped to get a bike ride in before heading off to be tourists, but we woke to rain that would clear later in the day. So we did other things around the house, worked on the blog, some yoga for Joanna and then with the rain slackening took off to get to the Pabst Mansion for the 11am tour. We planned to visit the house and then run over to the site of the brewery by the same name for a 1pm tour there.
It would be a tight turnaround so after parking the car, Joanna went to buy our house tour tickets while I hustled up the street a couple of blocks to a Taco Bell (the only food establishment in sight) to grab us a bite to eat so we wouldn’t run out of energy during what could be a long afternoon. We don’t eat a lot of fast good, but find Taco Bell to be an OK choice as a few of their offerings are vaguely healthy. That being said, we’ve had our share of customer service hiccups with them and this visit was no exception.
I had a little under 15 minutes before the tour and placed my order, one combo burrito. I waited and saw a couple of other orders go out and was beginning to wonder about ours when an employee asked me if I had ordered. I responded yes and she state that it hadn’t shown up on the system. Frustrated I asked if she’d cancel the order and refund my money and she said she could get me one quick. Sure enough in little time she handed me a bag that included an extra burrito to make up for the error. So not a bad outcome for yet what seems to always be inconsistent service through this franchise’s outlets.
I ate my burrito as I walked back to the mansion, Joanna hastily consumed hers and then we began the tour. It was built by Captain Frederick Pabst, Milwaukee’s famed beer baron in 1892 at a cost of a little over $254,000 — including the house, furnishings and artwork. After the passing of Captain and Mrs. Pabst, the house was sold in 1908 to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to be used as the residence of the archbishop for the next sixty years.
When it was sold in 1975, the mansion was nearly torn down to make way for a parking lot but after a three-year crusade for its preservation, it was spared demolition and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. What makes this unique is that the church did little to change the interior of the house, indeed all of the first floor furniture was sold along with it, and so restoration as a museum presented us with a residence that very much depicted it was when the Pabst’s lived there.
Our docent was very knowledgeable and gave a great tour, full of the history of the house and the Pabst family. Finished at the mansion, we drove a short distance to the site of the former Pabst Brewery for a tour there. We’d last been here in 1984, a year or so the brewery was closed and did the complete tour of the brewing operation. This time around it was a completely different experience.
The price of the tour included a beverage and we figured we’d wait until the end to drink ours, but when ushered into the event hall we were encouraged to grab it then as we’d be sitting for about twenty minutes during a presentation. They had a number of interesting choices, mostly old brands that have been resurrected (Pabst, Hamm’s, etc.) and so I chose a beer my father used to drink, Schlitz. Honestly, it was pretty darn good.
The presentation was about the history of the brewery and the efforts of our tour guide (we were lucky he was doing the show) to buy and preserve a few of the remaining buildings, as all of the others had been torn down or repurposed as part of a redevelopment project. Finished with the exhibition, we then walked for about twenty minutes through the building we were in and the one next door, which housed the original office of Captain Pabst. All in all, it was a fine experience, one different than our last visit, but worthwhile none-the-less.
From there we drove back towards the house to meet with a group of Joanna’s Milwaukee based cousins on her Dad’s side. We’d last seen them in 1984 as well, when we spent a few nights in town with Joanna’s now deceased paternal grandparents. We met at the Bonefish Grill, our first time at this chain and we came away impressed with the service, the quality and quantity of the food and the overall value presented to us.
We split a bowl of the Corn Chowder & Lump Crab Soup (with a hint of bacon), rich and delicious. I ordered a Florida Cobb Salad (wood-grilled chicken, avocado, mango, tomatoes, Blue cheese and citrus herb vinaigrette) while Joanna got the winner, one of that day’s specials, four large Divers Scallops on a bed of creamy risotto. Best of all was we were there early enough to qualify for happy hour drink pricing, which included the $3.50 highly palatable house Chardonnay we enjoyed. Multiple times.
It was great to see these folks again and to regain contact. Addresses were exchanged and promises made to stay in touch. We’ll make sure another 30 plus years doesn’t pass by before we see them again. On the way back to the house we stopped at Murf’s to sample a desert product famous in Milwaukee and the Midwest, frozen custard. This tasty treat is different than ice cream in that the high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk gives frozen custard a thick, creamy texture and a smoother consistency than ice cream. And that my friends is all you need to know about that.
Our drive to Spring Green the next day would be fairly short, approximately three hours and with that in mind and good weather predicted, we confirmed we could check out an hour or two late and planned to take a bike ride in the morning. The weather did cooperate and under gorgeous conditions, we took off towards downtown.
We rode from the house down Burleigh a mile or so before turning right onto Menomonee River Parkway, which led us to the Oak Leaf Trail. This is flat riding on streets or bike trails with little traffic and in no time we arrived at Miller Park and then rode a mile or two beyond it to the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory.
We’d visited here in 1984 but only one of the three domes was now open due to some renovation work being performed. We decided that with time running out, we wouldn’t push on to downtown and so turned around and rode back to the house for a total of about 24 miles, a great way to end our stay in Milwaukee.
We’d covered quite a bit of ground during our short stay and now have a bunch of reasons to return including all of those long lost cousins. Oh and Black Husky Brewing. Next, on to Spring Green and Taliesin.
Pabst Mansion: http://www.pabstmansion.com/
Pabst Brewery Tour: http://www.bestplacemilwaukee.com/index.php
Bonefish Grill: https://www.bonefishgrill.com/locations/wi/brookfield