Schlitz attempts a comeback

schlitz labelAnyone remember Schlitz beer? It’s probably the beer your dad or grandpa drank when you were growing up. Schlitz was a big name in Chicago back in the day. For the most part, it was the beer of choice for all the blue collar working stiffs just getting off work and hankering a cold one. Their most famous saying from back then was,”When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer. (Point Beer out of Wisconsin capitalized on the same saying, but changed it slightly to, “When you’re out of Point, you’re out of town.” Hmm.) For some reason Schlitz sort of disappeared off the face of the earth. Until now.

This from the Minneapolis Star Tribune via Google News:

Schlitz makes reappearance in Chicago beer market

Associated Press

Last update: April 8, 2008 – 8:48 AM

WOODRIDGE, Ill. – Pabst Brewing Company looks to be marketing nostalgia as it reintroduces Schlitz beer in Chicago this week.

The beer was once a top-selling beer brand. But the Woodridge, Illinois-based company changed the brew’s formula in the 1970s and sales dipped.

Now Pabst is relaunching the old brew in long-neck bottles at ten outlets on Chicago’s North Side with hopes of the beer being available city-wide in 2009.

Schlitz was first introduced in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition.

Chicago is the third market for the Schlitz reintroduction. It has already been available in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Tampa Bay, Florida.

Pabst shut down its flagship Milwaukee brewery more than a decade ago.

Mentioned at other places on the Web, is the fact that this new Schlitz beer will be brewed according to the original recipe which made it the beer of choice prior to the 1970s. Interesting. But why did Schlitz finally take a dump and drop out of sight? The history is written in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader and reprinted below.


Executive: Robert Uihlein, Jr., head of the Schlitz Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Background: in the 1970s, Schlitz was America’s #2 beer, behind Budweiser. It had been #1 until 1957 and has pursued Bud ever since. In the 1970s, Uihlein came up with a strategy to compete against Anheuser-Busch. He figured that if he could cut the cost of ingredients used in his beer and speed up the brewing process at the same time, he could brew more beer in the same amount of time for less money … and earn higher profits.

Decision: Uihlein cut the amount of time it took to brew Schlitz from 40 days to 15, and replaced much of the barley malt in the beer with corn syrup – which was cheaper. He also switched from one type of foam stabilizer to another to get around new labeling laws that would have required the original stabilizer to be disclosed on the label.

Impact: Uihlein got what he wanted: a cheaper, more profitable beer that made a lot of money … at first. But it tasted terrible, and tended to break down so quickly as the cheap ingredients bonded together and sank to the bottom of the can – forming a substance that “looked disconcertingly like mucus.” Philip Van Munchings writes in Beer Blast:

Suddenly Schlitz found itself shipping out a great deal of apparently snot-ridden beer. The brewery knew about it pretty quickly and made a command decision – to do nothing … Uihlein declined a costly recall for months, wagering that not much of the beer would be subjected to the kinds of temperatures at which most haze forms. He lost the bet, sales plummeted … and Schlitz began a long steady slide from the top three.

Schlitz finally caved in and recalled 10 million cans of the snot beer. But their reputation was ruined and sales never recovered. In 1981, they shut down their Milwaukee brewing plant; the following year the company was purchased by rival Stroh’s. One former mayor of Milwaukee compared the brewery’s fortunes to the sinking of the Titanic, asking “How could that big of a business go under so fast?”

schlitz adThis is all so interesting. I’d be willing to try a sixer for review on some future Saturday night. If only it was available nearby. I can only speculate on what the price will be. Let’s wait and see. Maybe soon I’ll be able to try “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.”


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One Response to Schlitz attempts a comeback

  1. chachacha says:

    I can’t say that I have ever tried Schlitz myself, but in college, and I’m not sure if they even knew what Schlitz was out East, we used to use the term “Schlitzed” when we would have too much to drink. “OMG, last night we went out and got totally Schlitzed!” Which led to “Holy Schlitz!” You catch my drift? I am sure we weren’t original, but the New Englanders sure thought it was a stitch!! :)

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