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Life Is Improving: Schlitz Is Back

Posted by: David Kiley on August 1, 2008


Housing values are in the dumper. Jobs are being lost by the thousands per month. The stock market is a worse ride than a busted roller coaster. Gas prices are making us cut back on lattes. And the Presidential candidates are arguing over Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

But Pabst Blue Ribbon has made the day for many beleaguered baby boomers. Schlitz is back.

Pabst, which has seen a revival of its own brew as a chic blue-collar brand, is recreating the old formula, using notes and interviews with old brew masters to make the pilsner again. According to the AP: ”We believe that Schlitz is if not the, one of most iconic brands of the 20th century,” said Kevin Kotecki, president of Pabst Brewing Co., which bought the brand that dates to 1849 from Stroh’s in 1999. ”And there’s still a lot of people who have very positive, residual memories about their experience. For many of them it was the first beer they drank and we wanted to give it back to those consumers.”

The AP rightly reports that Schlitz was the top-selling beer for much of the first half of the 20th century. Recipe changes and a series of production problems made the beer..well…swill in the late 1970s. The company erred by not taking the bad brew off the shelves and people turned on the brand. Brewing stopped in 1981.

True Confessions. The first time I ever got smashed was on Schlitz during a Baltimore Colts/Oakland Raiders playoff game. I was 16. It was Christmas Eve, and I stupidly guzzled the stuff each time by brother and his friend sent me to the cooler to bring THEM beers. My folks still made me go to mass that night. It wasn’t a good experience for anyone. So, yeah…consider me a boomer who has a bit of nostalgic feelings for Schlitz.

In Milwaukee, where the beer has been launched, stores are running out of what they ordered, and they are taking names for special orders. It’s also available in Minneapolis, Chicago and western Florida, besides Milwaukee.

Schlitz was the top selling suds from 1903 to 1920, and the again between 1934 and 1950. Then Budweiser took over. Miller is brewing Schlitz under contract for Pabst on the East Coast, according to the new recipe.



News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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