Reach for The Gusto, Again
The Beer that made Milwaukee famous is back. Schlitz. No, the real Schlitz. This is the new old Schlitz, or the old new Schlitz, either way, it isn’t the stuff that’s been available in cans all these years for cheap, nor is it the horrible awful concoction the Uihlein’s put out in the late 70s.
This is supposedly the original formula from the ’60s, when they were still one of the top brewers in the country, before formula changes made the brew despised, falling all the way from the top spot to being bought out by 13th place Stroh’s in 1982. In fact, Schlitz was the number one brewer from about 1902 when it wrested that crown away from Pabst and held that spot until the 50s when a brewery strike in Milwaukee opened the door to Anheiser-Busch , which seized the opportunity and never looked back.
Now I was too young to be a drinker of any real significance back then, but my dad was a Schlitz drinker and he let me have a sip or two off of his beer. Pardon me, but beer at 8 years of age is awful. So forgive me if I have no real memories of what the beer used to taste like, and my only link to that, my father, passed away before they started releasing the new old Schlitz.
It’s only being test marketed in a few spots now, Minneapolis, Chicago, western Florida, and of course, here in Milwaukee.
And you know what? It is flying off the shelves. They can’t keep it in stock. It started to become available sometime in late June and I haven’t been able to get my hands on a sixer until about a week or so ago. It just can’t be found.
So if that isn’t evidence enough that Schlitz (actually, Pabst Brewing) has a hit on their hands, maybe this will. I like it. Yes, it’s your typical American pilsner, but it’s not. It has a nice mouth feel to it, and has a good full flavor that brands like Bud, Miller, and Coors seem to have forgotten.
Pabst was my first brand when I started drinking. It was still a good brew then and it was one of the top 5 breweries at the time. Miller was about 7th. And Schlitz was just then changing its formula. The history goes something like this. Anheiser Busch went on strike sometime during the 70s. Schlitz was still number two or so. The then current owners, the Uihlein family, decided they needed to take advantage of this, getting their product to market faster while A-B was striking hoping to reclaim their number status that A-B had stolen 20 years previous.
They developed a brewing process using high-temperature fermentation and then added some sort of special foaming agent to speed the product to market. The only thing it sped up was their demise. The new brew was so radically different, in taste, texture, and quality — it was downright awful — that customers left in droves.
But back to Schlitz and their parent company, Pabst. They are making good beer. Period. They’ve re-established the Pabst Blue Ribbon brand as a quality beer, winning the Gold at the Great American Beer Festival two years running.
Now they are attempting to recreate a legend. They aren’t using savvy marketing to make people think their beer is king. They aren’t banking on empty slogans about living the high life or being genuine. They aren’t making gimmicky labels that tell you the beer is cold They aren’t making expensive ads with pitch animals. They certainly aren’t resting on their laurels. They’re striving to do something none of the other American brewers are doing.
They’re building their reputation by making good beer. What a novel idea in this day and age of indistinguishable products.
Two-Time Brewmaster of the Year Bob Newman is the mastermind, or masterbrewer, behind this brand resurgence. He tracked down and interviewed former Schlitz brewmasters and employees to recreate the classic formula.
So I’m going to reach for the gusto, pop the cap, and enjoy a return to better days and better beers. Join me?