Once upon a time, in the heart of America’s brewing capital, Milwaukee, a young German immigrant, Joseph Schlitz, made an indelible mark on the beer landscape. The story of Schlitz beer is a unique blend of resilience, generosity, and entrepreneurial spirit, which gained its fame as “the beer that made Milwaukee famous” during the mid-20th century.
Joseph Schlitz arrived in Milwaukee in 1850 and began working as a bookkeeper for August Krug’s small tavern brewery. However, the sudden death of Krug six years later paved the way for Schlitz to take over the reins. Renaming it as the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co., Schlitz soon managed to increase the beer production from a modest 200 barrels to a staggering 2,000 barrels by 1859, marking the start of the brewery’s quick ascent to success.
Schlitz beer earned its iconic nickname following the devastating Great Chicago Fire. The disaster not only razed the city but also annihilated its breweries, leaving the city in desperate need of beer. It was Schlitz who stepped in as the city’s knight in shining armor, generously dispatching hundreds of barrels of beer to Chicago. This noble act turned the grief-stricken Chicagoans into dedicated Schlitz fans, earning the beer its beloved moniker, “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.”
The company’s growth showed no signs of slowing down, with Schlitz selling a record of over 1 million barrels of beer by 1902, solidifying its status as one of the world’s largest breweries. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The onset of Prohibition in 1920, following the passage of the 18th Amendment, threw a wrench in the operations, forcing Schlitz to adapt its slogan to “the drink that made Milwaukee famous.”
Despite the challenging times of Prohibition, Schlitz Brewery managed to stay afloat, even flourishing when the 21st amendment repealed the ban on alcohol in 1933. The company promptly re-embraced its beloved phrase, swapping “drink” back to “beer” in its slogan and resumed the production of its famed brew.
Today, Schlitz continues to hold a special place in beer lovers’ hearts, maintaining the age-old tradition with its classic 1960s formula. While it’s up for debate whether Schlitz truly “made Milwaukee famous,” one thing is certain – the love for Schlitz beer runs deep in the veins of Milwaukee, ensuring it remains a cherished part of the city’s rich brewing heritage.