Milwaukee’s Beer Line

With the slogan, “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” Schlitz became the world’s best-selling beer in the early 20th century. Schlitz’s success allowed them to have a direct terminal on the Milwaukee Road. The six-mile stretch that run through the city became known as the Beer Line. Photo by Wallace W. Abbey, Abbey-01-082-05.

Empires rise and fall, but one title has always reigned strong in Milwaukee: “Brew City.” Since statehood, beer has played an integral role in the growth of Wisconsin industry while bringing Milwaukee national fame. What might be less obvious, but no less important, was the profound role that rail transportation played in this story. To shine a light on both, the Center for Railroad Photography & Art curated the touring exhibition Milwaukee’s Beer Line, which narrates the rise, fall, and rise again of Milwaukee’s beer industry through the eyes of the Milwaukee Road’s Beer Line.

The photographs from the show come from the Center’s Wallace W. Abbey Collection. During the 1950s Abbey was an associate editor for Trains magazine, the nation’s foremost railroad magazine. With offices located in downtown Milwaukee, the Beer Line became a natural subject of interest.

Following the theme of the exhibition and to reach new demographics, the Center primarily traveled the show at Wisconsin breweries. Originally commissioned by the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum, the exhibition continued on to several breweries in the Madison area before debuting in its namesake city at Lakefront Brewery. The show chronicles the history of the railroad’s role in the growth of Milwaukee’s beer industry and depicts how major Milwaukee breweries used the Beer Line to supply Milwaukeeans and beyond with their beloved brews.

Milwaukee Beer Line opening event at Octopi Brewing in Waunakee, WI. Photo by Heney A. Koshollek

About the Exhibition

The show consists of 15 matted photographs from the Center’s Wallace W. Abbey Collection that beautifully showcase the blue-collar life of men working on the Beer Line in 1950s Milwaukee. Each individual photograph measures 11×14 in., matted to approximately 16×20 in. To book a showing or get more information, get in touch with the Center by email, info [at] railphoto-art [dot] org, or phone, 608-251-5785.

Current Venue:

  • Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 30 2017 to February 5, 2018

Previous Venues:

  • East Troy Electric Railroad Museum, East Troy, Wisconsin, August 25 to September 29, 2017
  • Octopi Brewing, Waunakee, Wisconsin, September 29 to October 23, 2017
  • Grumpy Troll Brew Pub, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, October 23 to November 27, 2017