top of page

Milwaukee Big 4


There are so many Schlitz test cans you could spend a lifetime chasing them all down.

 I’m just showing a few cans from each of these four great breweries.


The Blatz Barrel (unique?), the Schlitz Ale, and the red,white and blue Schlitz are USBC cans.

 So how does one American city the size of Milwaukee have 4 independent breweries evolve into what we would today call Macro Breweries? Much larger cities, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles should of all had the same: why didn't it happen? There is no one single answer but rather a combination of them. First a little history - notice I haven't mentioned Chicago with the large cities and that is where this story begins.


 In 1871 when Mrs. O'Leary's cow supposedly kicked over a lantern and started the Great Chicago Fire. It devastated roughly 3.3 square miles of the city and left over 100,000 residents homeless. Food and drink had to be brought into the city. Milwaukee's Breweries answered the call initially giving away their products. Joseph Schlitz was especially proactive and soon the phrase "The Beer that made Milwaukee Famous" was in use. Decades later hundreds of taverns and restaurants in Chicago were still "Tied Houses" to the breweries in Milwaukee, where only their products could be sold. Many of the Chicago breweries never rebuilt and those that did found the going tough in their "Home Market". Meanwhile once the astute brewery owners in Milwaukee, having successfully expanded their markets, reasoned why not keep going? National Sales rather than just Regional Sales became their aim. Inexpensive water transportation on the Great Lakes,  rail lines with refrigerated rail cars, pasteurization which maintained quality for longer periods of time, ample local wood supply to build kegs, and highest per capita consumption per person in the U.S. all contributed to Milwaukee becoming the "Beer Capital of the World".

BLATZ - Milwaukee's Finest Beer"
  Started by Valentin Blatz in 1850, by the early 1900's it

grew to become the third largest brewery in Milwaukee.

Stayed open during prohibition (near beer, soda, candy). 

 MILLER - "For the High Life"
  Frederick Miller purchased the Plank Road Brewery in 1855

from Charles Best (Pabst). During the 1970's created "Lite"

beer craze with their "Tastes Great/ Less Filling" advertising campaign

Acquired and brewed by : 1960 (Pabst), 1969 (G. Heileman),

1996 (Stroh's), 2000 (Pabst but brewed by Miller)


SCHLITZ - "The Beer that made Milwaukee famous"
  In 1858 Joseph Schlitz married August Krug's widow and took over

operations of their brewery. After "The Great Chicago Fire" in 1871,

the Schlitz Logo was embedded into the concrete relief above 

 the doors of their "Tied Houses" which exclusively could only

sell Schlitz, Sales Doubled! In  1875 Joseph Schlitz drowned

when a ship he was on sank - the brewery kept his name.

Schlitz took the title of "Worlds Largest Brewer" from Pabst

in 1902. Old Milwaukee beer introduced in 1955. "Go for the

Gusto" and "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of Beer"

were two more memorable and highly popular slogans. 

Schlitz Malt Liquor "Don't say Beer, say BULL"

. "Miller Lite - everything you wanted in a beer. And less

" 1966 (W.R. Grace), 1969 (Philip Morris), 2002 (SAB), 2008

(Joint Venture with Coors - noew Altria)


PABST - award winning "Blue Ribbon Beer"
  In 1862 Frederick Pabst married Maria Best (a brewer's daughter). 

In the 1890's Pabst grew to become the world's largest brewing company

with "Tied Houses" all over the country. They started a successful Cheese

operation during prohibition which was later sold to Kraft. Pabst used

Percheron Horses to pull their beer wagons since they tended to be

calm and popular in parades. (1985 Paul Kalmanovitz) after his death

in 1987 Pabst saw a resurgence of sales which gave them new life.

Pabst itself no longer brews but it contracts out their popular labels

that are now brewed by others.

Milwaukee Big 4

bottom of page