Schlitz Malt Liquor: 1964
OK, this is a first for me, I am doing a can from one of the big national breweries of the time. I did a Coors can in late 2005 as my COM, but it was a 1930s Coors can, made decades before Coors was a national brand. This month I'm doing a Schlitz can from 1964, when Schlitz was one of the big 3 national breweries.
This month's COM is my second small can following January's Goebel Bantam. I picked up this example at the 2007 Blue-Gray when I won it in the Rusty Bunch raffle (thanks to the donor). It has a paper label, not too common on beer cans, and was issued in 1964.
Schlitz Malt Liquor: 1964-today
Schlitz decided to enter the malt liquor market in 1964. Country Club Malt Liquor had become a big seller for Goetz Brewing of St. Joseph, Missouri during the late 1950s. Goetz was selling their small 8 oz malt liquor cans around much of the US. By 1964 there were slightly more than a dozen brewers making malt liquor in the US and they sold about 5 million cases a year. Schlitz decided to try their hand at selling the higher alcohol brew. They hired Jefferson Alison Jr away from Goetz and put him in charge of developing the sales of the new Schlitz product.
The new malt liquor was rolled out in early 1964. At first it was made only at Schlitz's Milwaukee brewery and was available in the 8 oz cans. It was initially sold in several test markets including.
Macon and Savannah, Georgia
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Alexandria, Lake Charles, and Shreveport, Louisiana
Cape Giradeau, Springfield and Hannibal, Missouri
Duluth and Rochester, Minnesota
Green Bay and Madison, Wisconsin.
The can was unique for having a paper label. Some paper label cans had been tried before, including a couple of Ebling cans from New York in the 1930s. However, they were not popular, probably because of production difficulties. Schlitz decided on a striking black, white and silver embossed foil label. It only lasted a short while, however, and was eventually replaced by a normal can with the label painted on. The malt liquor became a steady seller for Schlitz over the next decades. I remember as a kid in the 1970s seeing Schlitz TV ads with their trademark bull crashing through a wall. (FYI, the real bull used as a model was supposedly named "Prince.")
Schlitz advertisement promoting the new product.
Malt Liquor vs Malt Lager?
The same can is available as Schlitz Malt LAGER. What's the difference between Malt LIQUOR and Malt LAGER? Just the name. In two states, Virginia and North Carolina, it was illegal to advertise a beverage as "Liquor" so the brewers named it Malt Lager.
American Brewer (February 1964)
Appleton Post-Crescent. (February 14, 1964)
Check out this web page with a history of Malt Liquor! (link opens new window)