Schlitz Makes A Comeback

The Con


A Quick Note:  This blog marks my first giveaway.  Send me your story about getting hammered on Schlitz or any other bad domestic beer and tell me how and why it fits into the Zola System.  The story that I like best gets posted and the author will receive a brand new Zola System T-Shirt.  The contest ends on Saturday Augsut 9, 2008.



In his July 10, 2008 Washington Post Op/Ed column, George Will is at his whimsical, analytical best.  Entitled “Survival of the Sudsiest,” he pushes forth the theory – derived from the Steven Johnson’s book The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World that beer and alcohol consumption helped save London (maybe the world) from a Cholera epidemic as we became creatures of the urban environment.  The book and article are fascinating reads for any foodie or person interested in the development of modern culture.


This, then, came across the AP wire two days ago: “Long Dormant Schlitz Back On Tap.”  That is correct, the ‘Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous’ and launched many a teenage hangover has made it’s return, hoping for some of the market share Pabst Blue Ribbon now has.  (Both beers are owned by the Pabst Brewing Company.)  I can just see the signs outside the bars on 2nd Avenue on the Upper East Side now – bottle of Schlitz and a shot of Tequila for $5 – beckoning for the cheap drinker or those who love that metallic aftertaste.   


I remember when Detroit’s own Stroh’s Brewery bought Schlitz back in the mid ‘80’s.  Everyone assumed it was to help the failing brand retrieve its former glory as the beer that Laverne and Shirley brewed in the 1950’s (Called Schotz Beer in the sitcom).  Actually, Stroh’s had no desire to fix the Schlitz recipe or revive the brand at all.   They bought the competition to close the down Schlitz and increase its market share but that’s all semantics.  Stroh’s claimed the beer was an inferior brew to the beer that was the most popular in the world from 1900-the 1950’s.  The brewery shut down and was turned into an office complex complete with a school and restaurants.


So now, as Schlitz is being slowly re-introduced to the Midwestern market it once defined, the marketing dept. of Pabst has chosen to put forth a nostalgia driven ad campaign.


According to the AP article:


Nostalgia could prove a driving factor in sales, Koteck (President of Pabst) said. Pabst is certainly using it in its marketing, reusing its ’60s-era advertisements urging drinkers to “Go For the Gusto” and simple maroon and gold packaging, marked with fanciful script.  (Parentheses added by AZ)


Yes, you should remember fondly the times, places and people you were with when you were drinking Schlitz or Stroh’s or a great 1973 Barolo.  (It was at Felidia in  October of 2001.  My friend was the Sommollier.  I can still taste the casis and blackberry fruit.  It helped take the sting out of 9/11.)  But re-branding Schlitz with nostalgia for the 1900-1960’s?  What are we supposed to be nostalgic about?  One of the beers that got us through four wars, Jim Crow and the botched electrocution of Willie Francis?  Why don’t they just get Cuba Gooding Jr. to hold a bottle of Schlitz and scream “Show Me The Money!” for the next horrible Super Bowl commercial?


Alcohol, more specifically beer and wine, helped save modern society by giving us something other than contaminated water to drink.  It helped strengthen the gene pool (Can’t hold your booze?  Say the wrong thing to the wrong person?  Hit on the wrong person at the wrong time?  You have a huge issue usally ending in a violent demise, even back in the day.) and encouraged social interaction.


However, don’t drink Schlitz because of some nostalgia con.  No, drink it for this reason: you get hammered on it once more, wake up with that mettalic taste in your mouth and brutal headache and you will remember why you gave up drinking Schlitz and switched to Guinness in the first place.


Drink it for the former and you get conned.  Drink it for the latter and you up hold modern society and Darwian theory.  The choice my friend is yours.



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