Smooth. Cool. Refreshing. American. Milwaukee’s most famous beer, Schlitz, is about as American as it gets. However, the band What Made Milwaukee Famous (WMMF) isn’t from Milwaukee but chic Austin, which might surprise some given their straight-forward brand of power pop. I am now, I can say with confidence, a Schlitz Man. Yeah, I know what they think when I leave the Harris Teeter grocery stores in Raleigh’s upscale North Hills or Cameron Village. “What’s Ol’ Bean doing buying Schlitz of all things when Corona’s on sale for $23.95 a twelve pack? And with LIMES IN SEASON! To that I reply,”There’s a recession on, Brother.”But it is about more than the price. If it was about price alone, I’d buy Natural Light, Bud Light, Milwaukee’s Best (or ‘The Beast’ as it was known in college) or some such unfluoridated tap water on sale, thereby helping those brands capture that last five percent of canned beer market share. But I don’t. I buy twelve packs of Schlitz, the only one with ‘The Kiss of the Hops.’ That slogan is true if you try a can. It is light but has plenty of real, beer flavor with subtle hints of both hops and malt barley. Its sweetness grows subtly as it is savored rather than hitting right off with a sweet rice taste like a certain St. Louis-based beer does. Neither have I found Schlitz to have weird off-flavors or oxidation skunkiness found in many other mass-produced beers. –But it has not always been this way.In college, Schlitz was known by the unflattering moniker “Shi*z.” Apparently the 1970s through the 90s were pretty bad years for the brand. The trouble started in 1953 when the brewers at Schlitz went on strike. This opened the door for that competitor from St. Louis and the brands fortunes stagnated for years after that. In the 1970s when so, so many things went wrong, management tried to stretch a dollar by shortening the brewing process. This made the beer flat, so they did the genius thing and added seaweed extract. Happily, they’ve since gone back to the 1950s recipe and it really epitomizes the flavors that should be present in a classic, massed-produced American lager.
In the glass, Schlitz also remains appealing. Its color is a rich amber, not washed out looking like competitors that take up two thirds of any given grocery store beer isle. Schlitz, along with PBR, usually take up around two square feet of cooler space. Some trappist triple bock brewed by five guys in the Alps is easier to find than Schlitz.
This is because Schlitz remains largely ignored by both the mass drinking public and trendy alike. PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) is a hipster favorite compared to Schlitz. I don’t follow the crowd and I buy the one with the beautiful khaki and brown can design, unchanged since the 1940s when it was provided by the U.S. Army to GIs rolling through Europe. I buy the beer that was Number One back in the 1950s. I buy the beer with an annual ad budget of $3.95. Yeah, I buy the beer ‘that made Milwaukee famous’ - Schlitz.
What Made Milwaukee Famous- The Band
The band What Made Milwaukee Famous makes indie rock that I think will appeal to adult FM listeners who shy away from the genre. Guys like me who are sick of hearing the same ‘classic rock’ over and over but can’t stomach the FM pop rubbish put out these days.
The band What Made Milwaukee Famous has been around a while and is prominent in the local Austin music scene. They are one of those indie acts that never quite became the chic pick among the trendy but, never-the-less, have fully established their alternative rock credentials. According to its website, since forming, the band has opened for The Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Snow Patrol and The Smashing Pumpkins. WMMF also performed with Franz Ferdinand on Austin City Limits, making them one of the only unsigned bands to play for the show in its 34-year history. The band is composed of Michael Kingcaid (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Drew Patrizi (keyboards, vocals, guitar), John Farmer (bass, vocals), Jeremy Bruch (drums, vocals), and Jason Davis (guitar, vocals).
What is it about advertising, or ‘country store’, collectibles that make them so cool to me? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, show up at the estate sale of a guy who used to own a store back in the 50’s and who put away some of the old fixtures and stock in his attic. Every old coot in over-alls will show up at 5am for a crack at some dusty old signs or faded boxes of corset wax or whatever strange stuff they sold back then. I’ve got to admit that I have the bug too. A good tin advertising sign can double as wall art and will hold its value a heck of lot better than a print from Crate N Barrel. And there’s something about old country store antiques that can remind you of your roots. Just a couple of generations ago, the majority of Americans lived in the country on farms. Our ancestors only traveled out of state a few times in their lives. The country store down the road was a hub – not just for food and gas but for social activity too. Boring, but true.
I remember when I was a kid playing little league football in my home town. Back then, coaches thought that depriving kids of water ‘made them game tough.’ –I guess the same concept applied to the turf because it was a hot, dry dust bowl during practice. On the drive home, we passed by Hill’s Store. It was a classic country store with one of those old water cooled chest coolers with the ice water circulating around the glistening, ice-cold bottles of soda. Grape Nehi. Orange Crush. Royal Crown Cola. Mountain Dew. Popping that cap on the side opener and chugging the contents was, without a doubt, the most lascivious experience that an eleven year old boy could ever hope to have.
Occasionally, my brothers and I would bike miles down country roads to Hills Store. Our mission? Those bottles of soda at the end of the journey. Think about the sensory experience of chugging a Squirt soda in the spring sunshine while careening down a country road, all the while inhaling Honeysuckle perfume welling up from the roadside. –Yearning for that old Coke sign yet?
A while ago, I came across about ten yards of this cool vintage fabric. It's cotton and I would guess it is from the 1950s. I've sold some of it but I still could upholster a couch with it. Since I don't own any Go To Hell pants, maybe I could have a pair made with it? -What do you think, you GTH pants loving bloggers out there?