Growing up in Milwaukee, one of my fondest memories was the constant smell of yeast from the breweries that just permeated the air.
But one of the best yeast smells from the Brew City was whenever we drove on I-94 going toward downtown Milwaukee. Just east of County Stadium, what now is Miller Park, there was a little brown brick factory nestled next to one of the off-ramps. I remember driving by with my mom, who would always have her window cracked just a bit whenever we drove (a little thing I need to do now whenever I’m in the car), but as we got to this brown building – with its towering chimney and the white plumes of smoke hovering over the Menomonee Valley, she would open all of the car windows to let in the vibrant scent of yeast. It just filled the entire car and I inhaled the effervescence with pure joy.
That brown factory building was home to Red Star Yeast company. In 2001, the company was sold to a French firm and in 2004 a joint-venture took it over. Today, while Red Star Yeast no longer is manufactured in Milwaukee, there are still factories in Alabama and Iowa. But the Red Star corporate headquarters remains on Milwaukee’s west side near Wisconsin State Fair Park.