Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Pabst

My home city of Milwaukee has a rich history of  beer production and ghost stories.  I'm going to start this post by describing the Miller Brewery Tour, and get to the ghost part later on. Specifically, the ghost of Captain Frederick Pabst.

My Mom and I have a yearly Christmas tradition of taking the brewery tour and watching the light show Miller puts on. The lights are set to blink and move in sync with the music that's playing.

The tour always starts off with a film promoting Miller beer and a short history of the brewery. I'd pretty much memorized this film after years of watching it, so I was surprised to see a new one this time! Normally the film involves men in a bar checking out some woman while a voice says "It's Miller Time!" This time, the focus was on Miller's girl in the moon logo. 

The Girl in the Moon wears sort of a witch-like hat and sits on the moon, while lifting her glass in a toast. The video offered a few possible explanations for the logo. In one story, a Miller employee wanders into the woods during a company party and looks up to see a girl in the moon. In another story, the girl was modeled after Frederick Miller's granddaughter.

After the film, we saw a very cool light show set to music.

I found the following video of this year's show on YouTube. The introduction is completely silly, so you might just want to skip to the 4:30 mark. That's where the hijinks end and the light show begins. If you skip to about the 6:30 mark, things start sounding pretty spooky. I was fine with that, but it still struck me as weird music for a Christmas show!

Then we went down to "the caves" where the beer was once stored and packed in ice from Lake Michigan. This kept it cool. (I just realized that I could probably give the tour by now.) Anyway, an image of Frederick Miller is projected onto the cave wall. He appears like a ghost and explains the caves in his perfect German accent. This is one of the highlights of the tour.

I found a video someone shot of the caves. This one is pretty brief, but you'll get the idea:

Then, it was beer tasting time! We got three different glasses of beer and tons of pretzels. We had Miller Light, which was of course great. Then something called Winter Abbey Ale, which was not so great. It was too sweet and heavy on the caramel flavor. Last was Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown. That one was OK, but not really my style. It was still a little too caramelly for my taste.

That's evidently what I look like when I taste weird beer...

A funny part to the night came when an extremely drunk man approached my Mom, thinking she was his wife. I don't know how he was that drunk on three beer samples, but he was. Or maybe he had little to drink before the tour. I actually got the impression that some people came to the brewery tour drunk! Although, we figured that you could take the tour again and again, if you wanted to keep getting in line all night. I mean, the tour is free. So someone has probably done that. Anyway, the man's wife came over and found it all pretty funny in the way where she was really embarrassed. I think she said something along the lines of "You can have him."

Time for the ghost stories! As I said earlier, Milwaukee has a rich history of beer production. In fact, it was once the beer capital of the U.S. Our city was home to brands like Miller, Pabst, Blatz, and Schlitz. The beer barons from hundreds of years ago may be gone, but their mansions remain. Some people say these mansions are haunted.


This is the Pabst Mansion. It's an impressive Victorian structure, and is decorated to fit that time period. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while might remember the Gothic Grandeur post. The gorgeous mansion in that post was built by Frederick Pabst for his daughter.

I've been to the Pabst mansion at Christmas time and it really is beautiful. The ladies parlor for example:

Some say that the mansion is haunted by the ghost of  Captain Frederick Pabst. I remember one time I visited the mansion with my Mom and a family friend. We were joking about the ghost stories, especially one where Frederick Pabst is said to appear at the top of a staircase. Just as we were joking and pointing to the top of the stairs, a docent walked into that very spot! We all yelled "Ahhh!" The poor guy wondered what was wrong. We said "We thought you were the ghost of Captain Pabst!" He thought it was pretty funny as I recall. Here's what Frederick Pabst really looked like:

I also remember a time when I wandered off in the mansion and found myself in Frederick Pabst's bedroom. I don't think I realized this at the time. A children's school group stopped by the doorway, and the tour guide told them, "Frederick Pabst died in his rocking chair in the corner of that room." Right where I was standing. Yeah, thanks for that!

A favorite old ghost story involving Frederick Pabst goes like this:

A workman, let's call him Joe, comes to the Pabst mansion to fix a few things. Soon Joe is disturbed by a man who says he is overseeing the job. The workman decides to complain to the museum volunteers about the man distracting him. They tell Joe that no one else is in the house. The workman describes the man who has been bugging him about his work. The volunteers recognize his description and show him a photo of Frederick Pabst.  Joe is shocked - The man in the photo looks exactly like the one who was talking to him! 

Pretty spooky story, eh? I ran across some other Pabst mansion ghost stories online. Volunteers at the mansion reported objects moving, doors slamming, and mysterious cold breezes in the house. 

Speaking of ghosts and beer, you know what time it is...


  1. I've only taken the tour a handful of times but I do remember one of them having the "moon girl" movie.

    The tour was a given stop any time my gang of friends went to GenCon. And since I'm not a drinker and don't like beer, more beer for them!

  2. Nice tour. I have heard of "bitter beer face" but never "weird beer face". Nice Ghostbusters spot too ;)

  3. What a great post; really enjoyed it!

  4. Hey, I like weird beer. And your post title. And how you work in Ghosts, Christmas, and Pabst. Score 3 for Justine!

  5. Love your post title! :0)
    Don't like beer but the tour sounds fun. And I shudder to think what the electric bill is for all those lights!
    Thanx for sharing your annual tradition with us. :0)

  6. Dex ~ Hmm... They must have made a few different films about the Girl in the Moon. I'm pretty sure this one was new because of the Miller Coors connection mentioned. How long ago was GenCon in Milwaukee? Maybe a decade ago? I don't think we'd started the tradition that far back, so I probably missed the video you're talking about. The video I was used to was so silly that I had to laugh every time I saw it. Still, I'd grown attached to it over the years.

    That was nice of you to give your beer samples to your friends! Maybe that's why some of the people on the tour seemed so looped. Maybe they had friends like you who shared their beer samples. :)

    wicKED ~ I haven't heard of bitter beer face! Is that where you make a face like you've eaten a lemon or something? I don't remember ever having beer that was too bitter. If anything, the beer on this tour was too sweet! So I guess we could call this "sweet beer face" as well. :) Yeah, I love that Ghostbusters clip! Bill Murray sounds like he's doing a Three Stooges impression for some reason.

    Vanessa ~ Thank you! :) I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

    Marvin ~ Hey! Thanks a lot! I'm glad you liked how I pulled that all together. I was pretty proud of that manouver too. :) As it gets closer to Christmas, spooky blogging becomes a bit of a challenge. You like weird beer? Well, maybe you would have liked what I had on the tour. The second (really bad one) was actually only brewed for Miller's winter tour. So, even if you wanted that one, it isn't available. What kind of weird beer do you like?

    Jeanne ~ Thank you! :) I was pretty happy with that title. The title came to mind first, so I knew I had to build a post around it. Oh, I bet you could still have fun on the tour. The light show is entertaining, as is the tour of the caves. You could still have soda and pretzels, anyway. Oh, I never gave thought to the brewery's electric bill, but I have a feeling they can afford it. ;) I'm glad you enjoyed the tour! By watching the videos people have posted, it's like you guys are actually there!

  7. This post was so interesting, particularly for me, living outside the US. The brewery tour is making me think of the Duff Brewery on 'The Simpsons' - in the nicest possible way of course! :) Is the Duff Brewery stuff based on Milwaukee's beer industry? You'll have to excuse my ignorance on this subject, but is Milwaukee the major centre for beer production, or are other places also known for beer as well?

    It's lovely that you and your Mum have these traditions. The light show was so festive. It made me think of my days living in London. I loved the Christmas atmosphere there, and the fact that it was dark at 4.30pm so the streets were all lit up with twinkling lights, and chestnuts were roasting on every corner. Sigh. It's so different in Australia. It's not dark until 9.00pm, and it's warm and sunny. There's still a party atmosphere at Christmastime, but it's sort of fresh and resort-ish, not white-Christmasy.

    Reference alert: "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" Haha. First thing that popped into my head during the beer tasting portion of the post. (Can't help myself.) I bet people do take the free tour over and over again! Those beer samples would really start to add up. I'm surprised they didn't do an episode about brewery tours on 'That '70s Show'... perhaps they did?! I'm not really a beer drinker, although I do love Coronas with lime in the summer. The beers you were tasting sound like they have been developed for the cold weather, which is interesting because Australians are big beer drinkers, but it's mainly the pale lagers. I'm not familiar with these wintery beers.

    The Pabst Mansion is very beautiful. It would have been cool if you'd really seen the ghost!

  8. This was so interesting and I loved the videos!

    My new art came and I love them! Thank you so much! It brightened my day!

    You look so gorgeous in your pics!


  9. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Glad you found this one interesting! Well, Milwaukee was definitely once THE beer capital of the U.S. I'm sure Germany wins the world capital award. :) With our huge German population over a century ago, there were big cultural reasons for the many breweries here. Some of the companies have sold to other places, so everything is more spread out now. I'm not sure any one city is the capital anymore. We still have a strong history and association with beer for many people.

    I just looked up the Duff tour episode and enjoyed that one. :) I was reading the Duff wiki page and there's a surprising amount of info there! I saw that Duff is sold in European countries now. I do remember seeing bottles of it when I visited Italy! As far as I know, it isn't for sale here. I could be wrong. I just don't remember seeing it in the stores. If I do run across Duff again, I should try some! I'm not sure if Duff beer is based off any one beer in particular, but I do have my suspicions. The Duff commercials on The Simpsons remind me a lot of the Miller commercials! I always loved the Duff Man character. :)

    Here's the inspiration for Duff beer, according to the Duff wiki page:

    The name was inspired by one-syllable beer names in the United States (such as "Bud"), and The Simpsons' writers had found the name humorous.

    In an excerpt from his autobiography, Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan said that the beer was named after him as the writers were fans of the band and he was known for his extreme alcohol consumption.

    I'd probably miss the weather and darkness at Christmas, if I were in Australia. Aside from maybe the week of Christmas, I envy your warmer climate and sunshine!

    "The pretzels are making me thirsty!" :) You'll enjoy this:

    Strangely, That 70's Show never did a beer tour episode. As far as I know, anyway. Wow, they were missing out on an opportunity with that! I know there was a beer warehouse episode, though. I've been drinking Corona lately! It's nice and crisp. I probably prefer "summer beers" for the most part. You're not missing out on much with the "winter beers". :)

    Yes, the mansion is beautiful! Well, I never saw a ghost there, but I do have a bit of a story. I forgot to add this one to my post. During one tour, I wandered into the daughter's old room, where there are huge dollhouses on display. I was in the room alone, looking at the little dolls. I was wearing long earrings a the time, and one of them started to move back and forth really quickly on its own. I was standing still too. The other earring stayed completely still. It was like someone was playing with my earring! I suppose a skeptic would say that there was a strong breeze on one side of my head, but I don't think that was the case. ;)

    LuLu ~ I'm glad you enjoyed this! The videos should give you a pretty good idea of what the tour was like.

    Yay! I'm glad you like my art! :) Do you have an aceo collection going already?

    Aww... Thanks for the compliments on my photos. Well, I like the one where I'm standing by a giant beer bottle, but I feel a little goofy in the others! I'm a little surprised at myself for posting those, but how often can I share what I look like while drinking weird beer? :)

  10. Great post Justine! The last time I was on the tour, was when you and our mom's went together! I'm gonna check and see if the tour is happening on Friday. Maybe my fam and I could hit it.

    I loved your story about the Pabst mansion, how cool! I've never been there and have always wanted to, and your story makes me really want to now:-)

    The Ghostbusters clip, nice:-) Makes me think of Derek and troy, hehe!

  11. Anyone who makes a tradition out of touring a brewery and posts about beer is okay in my book. Terrific post!

  12. Yes, I've heard about Milwaukee and the lore of beer, but I've never been there. Thanks for the tour and some backgroud on the brewery. Very interesting. Every state is different and has interesting things.

    Around here, a 40 of Bud Light is $3.49 and a quart of Miller is $1.69. I pick Miller most of the time. However Bud Ice is stiff competion.

    I'll have to give everyone a tour of Sand City California, home of the worlds largest sand dune. People use seaweed to make messages and use it like a giant bill board. And then afterwards, it's Miller time!

  13. Wow! I had no idea that there were real Duff beers out there. I started looking it up and discovered that even Australia had a Duff beer back in the mid '90s, but 20th Century Fox sued the Lion Nathan Brewery, and had the beer pulled from the shelves.

    Just reading through Wikipedia was making me laugh remembering the Duff Beer episodes. I love the special varieties on the Duff Brewery tour: "Raspberry Duff, Lady Duff and Tartar Control Duff." Hahaha. Then of course, there's "Duff Gardens" amusement park, which sells "beer googles", and has "The Seven Duffs": "Sleazy, Queasy, Surly, Edgy, Tipsy, Dizzy, and Remorseful." Haha.

    Just watched "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" Hahaha. I love George's dramatic rendition. Naturally, that's another reference used here constantly!

    I can just imagine a 'That '70s Show' brewery tour. It seems like perfect material for them. Oh well, we're already up to Season 5 so if there is one that we both missed, I'll let you know.

    Your story about the Pabst mansion earring incident gave me goosebumps! That's really quite creepy, particularly the setting of the daughter's room with the dollhouses and the dolls. Children do play with earrings too, which makes it extra eerie!

  14. Stacey ~ Thanks! Yeah, the tour should be going on Fridays and Saturdays through December. I think it goes every hour. So, you guys should be able to fit it in.

    Yeah, the Pabst Mansion is worth visiting, especially at Christmas. It's always decorated beautifully.

    Pretty much anything related to Ghostbusters is making me think of Derek and Troy since seeing them in costume. :)

    Eric ~ Haha! Thank you. :) Yeah, it's a pretty fun tradition. There's also the Summer brewery tour tradition!

    Matt ~ I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Yeah, every city has something cool to offer. I think you have a good idea, as far as sharing something from your city. I wish every blogger would do that, because it would be fun to learn a little about different places. All of us bloggers are sprinkled throughout the world!

    Yeah, Miller and Bud are both good choices. That's interesting that you're buying them in Quart or the 40 oz. size. Here, it's just six packs, 12 packs, and 24 packs. I've heard that beer is sold in larger quantities here. It's a part of Milwaukee culture, for better or worse.

    So, I look forward to hearing about the sand dune! Haha, yeah there's always a reason for Miller Time. ;)

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ Well, I just covered the Duff part of your comment in an email. There's a surprising amount to say about that!

    Haha! Yeah, I love the "tartar control Duff"! People would buy that. Oh, I remember the Duff amusement park. Haha, yeah the dwarf names are priceless. I think they covered all the states/forms of drunkenness with those names...

    George was really getting into his pretzel line! I want to watch the full episode that was in now. So, you guys say the pretzel line to express different moods, like they did on Seinfeld?

    Yeah, you should know better than me with That 70's Show. I've caught a lot of reruns, but never watched them all in succession.

    Yeah! That experience actually wasn't all that creepy. It felt kind of surprising, but nonthreatening. I think it's actually kind of a cute little ghost story. That's very much what a little kid would do. I can imagine a little girl ghost playing with her dollhouses and then messing with my earring for fun!

  15. Haha. For some reason it's "Lady Duff" beer that keeps particularly breaking me up!

    We definitely use the pretzel line whenever any kind of pretzel is in the vicinity, but I think anything salty, causing thirstiness brings it on too. Seriously, we quote lines so much around here that it has probably reached the level of a disorder. Haha.

    I probably should have used the word "spooky" rather than "creepy" about your ghost story. :) I've got creepy on the brain because of Creepmas. It didn't sound disturbing at all, but the dolls and the dollhouses lend an eeriness to the tale - as does the idea of a ghost child, I think. It made me think of an episode of 'Supernatural' where there was a ghost child and a room with vintage dollhouses and dolls, but this little ghost was trying to kill the little girl in the house so she could have an eternal playmate... now that was kind of creepy.

  16. HA! "Lady Duff", otherwise known as Duff Lite. ;) At least that's what I imagine beer geared towards women would be. Although "Lady Duff" strangely sounds like deodorant to me too. Or that old Lady Stetson perfume! :)

    Seinfeld is so quotable. I always find myself saying "The sea was angry that day, my friends." You'd be surprised how often that comes up! That line is from one of my absolute favorite episodes.

    Yeah, I can see how Creepmas would get the word creepy on your brain. I actually did not feel at all scared! I've felt scared in places that seemed haunted, but this was just kind of playful. The Supernatural ghost girl sounds like a whole different entity!

  17. " ... like an old man trying to return soup at a deli!" Haha. Probably my all-time fave Seinfeld episode!!

  18. Awesome! If I could somehow send you a high five through the internet, I would be doing that right now. :)