Friday, May 21, 2010

What Made Milwaukee Famous: The Beer & The Band

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).
Selling Yourself Short What Made Milwaukee Famous

There are many good indie bands like WMMF that may appeal to ‘FM guys’ and I will try to blog about a few more soon.

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