Pabst Brewing Co.'s new long-term contract production agreement with La Crosse-based City Brewing Co. probably will increase employment at the La Crosse brewery during the next five years, a local union official said Tuesday.
Pabst said Monday it intends to transition the majority of its production volume to City Brewing’s facilities by December 2024. Pabst said the contract lasts until 2040.
Rob Moss, business agent for Teamsters Local 695, which represents hourly production workers at the City Brewery in La Crosse, said Tuesday he hopes the announcement will result in at least 50 additional production jobs there within the next five years.
“But that’s just speculation on my part; it’s nothing from the company,” Moss said of that number, adding that City Brewery officials haven’t told him how many jobs might be added because of the Pabst announcement. His union local has about 390 members working at the brewery, Moss estimated.
The agreement likely will result in more jobs and "increases job security for a long time here in La Crosse,” Moss said. He added, “We’ve had a great working relationship with the brewery and the ownership there.” City Brewing has continued to make capital improvements to the brewery, he said.
In August, City Brewing officials said the La Crosse brewery had more than 550 employees and was making about 170 products for beverage companies under contracts.
City Brewing owns and operates three breweries, including La Crosse; Latrobe, Pa., and Memphis, Tenn. The three breweries are all doing very well, adding packaging capabilities and hiring employees, City Brewing CEO George Parke III told the Tribune last week.
For the past two decades, most of Pabst’s beer has been made by MillerCoors under contract. Pabst no longer operates any breweries, and relies entirely on contract production.
“We are thrilled to establish this long-term partnership with City Brewing,” Pabst Chairman and CEO Eugene Kashper said Monday in a press release. “We have great respect for George Parke and his family, and also for the management team’s operational excellence, and the entire organization’s commitment to quality.”
Kashper said the new agreement provides clarity and certainty for Pabst’s employees and customers, and will allow Pabst to innovate more effectively.
“We are pleased to welcome Pabst as a long-term partner,” Parke said in the press release. “This long-term commitment accelerates our ability to move forward with an investment program to expand our facilities and enhance our capabilities -- which will provide a huge benefit to all of our customers. We look forward to brewing PBR and some of the other great brands in Pabst’s portfolio that are beloved locally and nationally.”
Parke declined to comment much more Tuesday after being contacted by the Tribune. “Any new business, especially a large national customer, is good for the company, employment and additional capital investment in La Crosse,” he told the Tribune. “We cannot comment on specific customers.”
A spokesperson for Los Angeles-based Pabst told the Tribune on Tuesday that Pabst has had various products made by City Brewing and continues to do so.
“Pabst will transition the majority of its volume to City’s breweries by the end of 2024,” said the spokesperson, who declined to be identified. “There is no plan to move any of the volume in 2020. The exact timeline (for moving production) has not yet been determined.”
The expectation is Pabst will wrap up its production through MillerCoors during the next five years, although no volume will be moved in 2020, according to a story Monday in the online version of the beer industry trade publication Brewbound.
Pabst currently works with several brewers outside of the MillerCoors system, the Pabst spokesman told the Tribune.
MillerCoors has made most of Pabst’s beer since 1999, but had said that it would not continue doing so past 2022. Pabst sued MillerCoors over that decision in 2016. The lawsuit was settled a year ago.
Some of Pabst’s best-known beer brands include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Rainier, Stroh’s, Stag and Old Style.
Old Style was the best-known brand of the former G. Heileman Brewery in La Crosse, which The Stroh Brewery Co. closed in August 1999 as Stroh was exiting the beer-brewing business. New York investors Jim Strupp and John Mazzuto bought the La Crosse brewery from Stroh in November 1999 and reopened it as the City Brewery.
In November 2000, the La Crosse brewery was sold to 12 investors who lived in the La Crosse area or had longtime ties to the brewery. It’s been successful since then as a contract brewer.
Pickets and officials of G. Heileman Brewing Co. swarm around a car and truck in 1969 during one of many strikes over the years.
This 1970 photo shows the final stages of construction of the World's Largest Six Pack at the G. Heileman Brewery. Just two of the tanks are painted to resemble Old Style cans. Today, the six-pack features La Crosse Lager, and it can hold 22,000 barrels of beer.
Thirty tanks were installed in 1972 along Third and Winnebago streets, nearly doubling the capacity of the G. Heileman Brewery. Also part of the expansion, as reported in the La Crosse Tribune, was a new bottling line.
The G. Heileman Brewing Co. joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1973 when it received the ticker symbol GHB. Shown here, from left, are Merle S. Wick, vice president of the stock exchange; Russell Cleary, president of Heileman; and Michael Creem, a stock trader.
Brewmaster Al Brietzke jots notes about his opinions of a sample of beer in 1976 at the G. Heileman Brewery.
Russell Cleary, center, president of the G. Heileman Brewing Co., and Local 1081 business agent Bill Akright prepare to pound the bung into the 6-millionth barrel of beer as John Pedace, left, executive vice president of marketing, looks on during the 1977 ceremony. In 1960, Heileman was the nation's 39th largest brewery. Cleary told the Tribune that the brewery would be No. 6 in the nation by the end of the year.
Sculptor Elmer Petersen, right, created a steel version of the King Gambrinus statue at the G. Heileman Brewing Co. headquarters along the city's downtown riverfront. Built in 1979, 100 Harborview Plaza was the first building of a riverfront redevelopment project that includes the La Crosse Center and the Radisson Hotel. Today, the building is occupied by Reinhart FoodService, Mutual of Omaha Financial Advisors and the 4 Sisters Wine Bar & Tapas restaurant. The statue is no longer on public display.
An open house was held in 1982 to let the public see inside the new brewhouse at the G. Heileman Brewery. The new facility brought the total capacity of the brewery to 10 million barrels of beer a year.
G. Heileman Brewery worker Duane Arentz examines a can of Old Style L.A. when it was first introduced in 1984. The low-alcohol beer was later discontinued.
A valve broke at the G. Heileman Brewery in 1986, causing beer to spill into a sewer line and bubble out a manhole cover at 900 S. Third St.
Fans of pure artesian water crowd the Heileman Brewery’s free water tap at Fourth and Mississippi streets on Oct. 14, 1994. This free water site was in operation from 1982 to 1998 and was popular with the public due to the water’s “fresher, cleaner taste,” according to Tribune files. During 1994, Heileman gave away a total of 744,000 gallons of water at this tap — for an average daily rate of 2,038 gallons. Anyone with more information about this photo or wishing to donate photos of the Coulee Region may contact the La Crosse Public Library Archives at 608-789-7136.
Jim Strupp (pictured) and John Mazzuto purchased the former G. Heileman Brewery and renamed it City Brewery in 1999. The company quickly ran into financial trouble under their leadership.
City Brewery employee Jim Skoy checks a can of La Crosse Lager as it moves past on the assembly line. A group of 12 investors who live in the La Crosse area or have longtime ties to the brewery purchased City Brewery in 2000 and continue running it today.
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The copper kettles at La Crosse's City Brewery, flanking recently retired Brewmaster Randy Hughes, date from 1949 and 1920. They are the only two copper kettles remaining in the building.
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