Back in the late ’70s, before Schlitz stopped being brewed and over a decade before I started drinking professionally, I collected beer cans. My knowledge of beer was unprecedented for someone my age. (I also collected comic books, magnets, writing utensils, baseball cards, and coins/currencies. What happened to all of that exotic dough? I don’t know. Ask my thieving older brothers and sister!)
Everyone back then called Schlitz “Shits” and with good reason. At the height of the beer’s popularity, the brewers shortened the fermenting process to meet the high demand, which led to beer that went flat almost as soon as the top was popped. To combat the flatness, the brewers added a seaweed extract, ostensibly to give the suds some fizz. But if left un-drunk for too long (several weeks), the extract would begin to solidify inside the cans, giving drinkers sip after disgusting sip of “floaters.” According to Weekly writer Dan McGraw, who honed his drinking chops on cheap beer back in the ’70s, Schlitz was so bad, “even high school kids wouldn’t drink it.”
Up until that point, though, The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous was a bestseller, and that earlier legacy – not the floaters – is no doubt what’s leading a Schlitz resurgence today.
Last week, Pabst Brewing Co. announced it would begin brewing the long-defunct beer again. According to the Associated Press, the brewer, “maker of another nostalgic favorite, Pabst Blue Ribbon … hopes baby boomers will reach for the drink of their youth.”
When I was just a Yankee-in-Training up in Yankeeland, our choices were limited to Old German, Iron City, I.C. (Iron City) Light, “Natty” Light, and, if someone had successfully raided his mom’s purse, Mickey’s Big Mouth. The beer of my youth is pretty much beer I can drink today.
But what of the old-timers and hipsters who have welcomed the PBR resurgence mightily? Not too long ago, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon cost one crisp American dollar. Now you’re looking at premium import prices. (Nostalgia is only partly to blame. A more deciding factor is the average hipster’s endless attempt to look like he or she doesn’t care – about the [ratty] condition of his/her clothing, his/her coiffure, his/her hygiene, anything – and what says, “I don’t give a fuck, you poseurs” more eloquently than being seen drinking PBR, a beer drunk by everyone’s presumably un-cool father, uncle, and older brother? Q: If everyone is just expressing his or her individuality in the same way, isn’t everyone, like, conforming?)
So. Are there are any oldies or hipsters in the crowd aching to touch their parched lips to some Schlitz?
“I drank Schlitz as a teenager for one simple reason: My father bought it, and I could steal it from his refrigerator,” said writer and musician Ken Shimamoto. “I figure the time is nigh for a new cheap scum-beer, now that PBR and Lone Star are both up to $2.75 a can/bottle in the bars I frequent.
“I would not, however, pay more than $1.50 a can for Schlitz.”
Weekly writer Steve Steward also plays in local SoCal-punk rockers Darth Vato, which means he’s twice as drunk as normal people on a daily basis. So you have to listen when he says, “If you take your hand and smack yourself so that the palm and heel land on your forehead and your fingers flap across the top of your skull, that’s just a taste of the hangover that follows a night of getting Schlitzed. So in answer to your question, yeah, I’ll probably order it.”
He went on to add: “I think Schlitz is the Official Beer of Recessions.” Maybe if it turns into a Depression, they’ll bring back Jax. (Ewww.)
We Texans will have a while to mull over our options. The beer is being test-marketed now but not here. Yet.
For more local responses and some links to some wonderful/hilarious YouTube vids of old beer commercials, including Schlitz’ “Go For The Gusto” campaign, check out Blotch, our daily blog at