Thursday, January 13, 2011

What made Milwaukee Famous

If you have ever been to the Green Mill or Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago you may have noticed their Schlitz Malt Liquor taps.

When I was at these bars in the last two years, I was struck by how intricate these old taps were, and amazed by how good the Schlitz that came out of it tasted. (I mean, not Harpoon Leviathan good, but better than anything Bud or Miller makes.)

I just found out thanks to wikipedia the long story of the rise and fall of Schlitz Malt Liquor, and also why it tastes good again.

Schlitz, apparently, used to be the best selling beer in the United States as recently as the 1950's but then started making there beer using cheaper and cheaper ingredients. Eventually people realized Schlitz had cheapened the formula to the extent that they were selling rain water with a single hop in it, and the company's sales drastically declined until they got bought by a Michigan based brewery called Stroh, which was then bought by Pabst Blue Ribbon*. Schlitz was virtually unavailable for most of the 2000's and was reintroduced in 2008. It is still not widely available, but Pabst touts that the version of Schlitz formula they are now using is a reconstruction of the "lost" formula from the good tasting 1950's Schlitz**.

You may have noticed this article so far has been devoid of jokes. Here at Strictly Commercials we take very few things seriously, but the history of alcohol brands is one of those things.

Long story short, the Schlitz tap at Billy Goat Tavern can kick your taps ass. Besides it dispensing tasty original formula Schlitz, the handle is a work of art I would proudly display as a sculpture***

I mean look at that damn thing. Its the Venus de Milo of malt liquor taps****

Another thing I found out through my wiki journey through Schlitz's history was the Schlitz tried briefly to make a light beer when Miller Lite made it popular for american beers to market a terrible tasting version of themselves.

This failed attempt would have been forgotten in the dust bin of history had they not hired an aging but still incredibly kickass James Coburn to be their spokesman. Which brings us to why this post is going up during Tough Guy Month. Here is Coburn drinking Schlitz Light while dressed as a cowboy for no discernible reason:

In terms of James Coburn's later career. I would put this appearance it terms of awesomeness just above his voice acting in Monsters, Inc, but below his appearance on the Muppet Show. One normally thinks of the muppets as a venue for celebrities to show their family friendly side, and while Coburn does lead a bunch of cowboys and geishas in a hoe down at the end, he also chokes Kermit at 1:29 into this clip:

James Coburn: So badass he can beat up defenseless muppets and it somehow only makes him seem even cooler.

*Now that Budweiser is Belgian owned Pabst Blue Ribbon is actually the largest American owned Brewery. (This may be the first time I have used a footnote to actually provide additional information instead of to make a joke that was too dumb to be included in the body of the post.)

**Source: Beer Advocate

***That sounds like a compliment about how classy it is, until you realize is me we are talking about, and the "sculptures" I currently proudly display in my apt. include a football sized garden gnome and a Mac Truck Dog hood ornament.

****Just as Billy Dee Williams is the Sir Francis Bacon of Malt Liquor Spokesman. The similarity there being that Sir Francis Bacon died of pneumonia brought on by spending too long outside stuffing a chicken carcass with snow as part of an experiment on refrigerating food, and Billy Dee Williams is really cool. (Yes that was a long trip for a dumb pun, but Bacon really did die that way, and I try to relay that fact as often as I can, Because I think it proves that Bacon was secretly a total Renaissance-bad-ass.)

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