Fathers of American Beer – Joseph Schlitz

The man actually looks like Ulysses S. Grant
The man actually looks like Ulysses S. Grant

By: Billy BeerSlugger

There is a common theme among our Fathers of American Beer so far and Joseph Schlitz is not likely to stray from that theme too much. Schlitz was a native of Mainz, Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1850 settling in Milwaukee.  Schlitz was hired as a bookkeeper  by August Krug.  In 1856 he took over management of the brewery after Krug’s death and two years later married Krug’s widow, Anna Maria.  Eventually Schlitz changed the name of the company to Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co.

So in keeping with the traditions of the Founding Fathers of American Beer, Schlitz was born in Germany, emigrated to the U.S. and married into the family of an established brewer.

The company began to succeed after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, when Schlitz donated thousands of barrels of beer to that city, which had lost most of its breweries.  Many of Chicago’s breweries that had burned were never to reopen; Schlitz established a distribution point there and acquired a large portion of the Chicago market.

Schlitz died May 7, 1875, when on a return visit to Germany; his ship hit a rock near Land’s End, Cornwall, and sank though his body was never recovered.  After his wife died the company stayed in the hands of Krug’s heirs.

The Schlitz brewing company flourished for most of the 1900’s and in 1902 Schlitz surpassed the 1 million barrel mark and thus earning the title of World’s Largest Brewery taking it from fellow American brewery Pabst.  It would continually be one of America’s top breweries for the next 70 years until an alteration in production methods to meet demand while also cutting costs changed the taste of the beer.

A once proud bran was thereafter relegated to cheap beer status and eventually fell out of favor with the working class.  The company was sold in 1982 to Stroh’s after a brewery strike and continually falling sales left Schlitz in a financial mess.

The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous” is now brewed in small quantities by Pabst Brewing Co. which effectively means that it is physically brewed by either Lion or Miller Brewing companies since Pabst does not actually brew any beer.

I particularly liked getting Schlitz-faced in my early years.  Always found the beer to be O.K. as far as value buys go and I’m glad to see it making somewhat of a resurgence.

Fathers of American Beer – Frederick Pabst

You know you're major when you have a portrait like this done.
You know you're major when you have a portrait like this done.

By: Billy BeerSlugger

Frederick Pabst was a German born brewer and founder of Pabst Brewing Company.  In 1848 he emigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago.  He spent a portion of his youth as a hotel waiter and then a cabin boy on a Lake Michigan Steamer.  Later he became Capitan of one of these vessels and meet another German, Philip Best, the owner of a small but profitable brewery.

Frederick Pabst took the same route as Adolphus Busch and married the daughter of a brewery owner.  In 1862 Pabst entered a partnership with fater-in-law Philip Best and began mastering the art of brewing.  Some time later he began focusing his attention on expanding the beer market.  Soon he was producing 100,000 barrels per year.

The Brewing Company eventually became publicly traded and it grew bigger and bigger with the increasing demand.  In 1889 Pabst plunked down $30,000 to procure prime shoreline in Wisconsin’s Whitefish Bay. He developed this land into Pabst Whitefish Bay Resort where, on any given Summer day, 10,000 people would come to ride the Ferris Wheel, rent rowboats, attend concerts, eat freshly caught fish including 5 kinds of whitefish and of course drink Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

While Fredrick Pabst passed away in 1904 the company continued to be a leading brewer and Pabst was the first to put beer in a can in 1934.  It required an actual can opener to open and had instructions on how to do so on the side of the can (we’ve come a long way).

In 1999 the production of Pabst beer was turned over to Miller Brewing Company.  They shuttered their last brewery in 2001 in Allentown PA, where they’re closing all the factories down.  After InBev’s purchase of Anheuser-Busch in 2008, Pabst laid claim to the title of  “Largest America Owned Brewer”.  Actually they don’t actually brew the beer (Miller and Lion doing the majority) but Pabst is an American not-for-profit based in California.

Pabst is historically associated with Milwaukee (which Alice Cooper tells me is Algonquian for “The Good Land”).

The “Blue Ribbon” refers to an 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where the beer won a contest.

The Fathers of American Beer

By: Billy BeerSlugger

While two or so of our writers are putting the finishing touches on the final entries in to the Greatest Athlete of All Time Debate, I decided the next series I would focus on would be the Brewers that put American beer on the map.  Men like Adolphus Busch, Frederick Pabst, Frederick Miller, Adolph Coors, D.G. Yuengling and Joseph Schlitz to name a few.

Every week or so I’ll be profiling one of the Great Brewers from America’s infancy.

Next week also look forward to the new BeerSlugger Babe of the Month.