Take the Milwaukee Challenge: Schlitz vs Pabst
In June Schlitz re-introduced its "Classic 1960s Formula," replacing the every last can in the Milwaukee market with its new / old flavor in retro-labeled brown bottles.
Schlitz left Milwaukee in the early '80s, so in its recent return to its hometown roots we saw a perfect opportunity to pit it against another former Brew City legend, Pabst (both beers are actually brewed in Miller facilities), in this Milwaukee Challenge.
After an earnest scrimmage waged at Comet Café last week, Schlitz emerged the victor. It is, after all, the beer that made Milwaukee famous.
Molly Snyder Edler
I fully admit my decision was made partially from my palate and partially out of emotion. Afterall, Pabst is literally the "beer I grew up on," so it would take a pretty phenomenal brew to woo my vote away from PBR. Schlitz is OK, but certainly not phenomenal in my book, so I remain committed to Pabst for my favorite macro beer. I love the Schlitz label, and its Milwaukee history, but I find the taste less refreshing than Pabst. Plus, Schlitz is slightly sweeter than Pabst, which I don't really care for either. That's not to say that I would say no to an ice cold Schlitz on a hot day, but I would be more psyched to glug down a crisp Pabst.
Before the formula switch I drank both Pabst and Schlitz with equal frequency. I was very excited to hear that Schlitz had changed. The old canned version's flavor had a first sip that I liked but the finish was skunky. The original formula in the brown bottle is a much better beer than its canned predecessor.
The aroma of the beers was very similar but I could detect a bit more yeast in the Schlitz. Both beers felt fizzy on the tongue. Pabst was crisper in the middle of the swallow while Schlitz seemed a bit fizzier at the end. Otherwise, the first sip of each beer was almost identical. To me, Pabst had more hops in its flavor than Schlitz. As such, Pabst finishes with a slight bitterness that Schlitz did not have. Once each bottle had about an inch of beer left, I let them sit. Upon becoming close to room temperature, I tasted them again. Both beers had lost their fizz but it was more noticeable in the Pabst. Schlitz's flavor was closer to what it originally was, while the hops of the Pabst had diminished considerably.
Considering these are meant to be easy drinking beers, I would pick Schlitz over Pabst. This is due to the smoother finish of Schlitz. When I am in the mood for a beer with a lot of hops I would choose an India Pale Ale over a "hoppy" easy drinking beer.
I have been known to be a snob about many things -- music, coffee, food -- but as it turns out, I've learned to accept and appreciate beer at just about any level of quality. That doesn't mean I don't prefer a nice Riverwest Stein when the opportunity presents itself, but I'd also hardly be the one turning down a can of swill based on its simplicity. To me, beer is beer is beer, which is why I was so surprised at the drastic difference between Pabst and Schlitz when I went sip for sip. I've been a religious Pabst consumer for years now and kind of assumed most beer of its same old-school caliber tasted relatively similar, but I suppose I've never really paid this much specific attention when drinking at a cookout or at the Cactus Club.
Schlitz immediately tasted harsh compared to Pabst semi-sweet impact; almost too harsh, like when you were six and asked dad for a sip of his Old Style. To be totally honest, Schlitz tastes like beer in its simplest, most stripped down, natural form, and that is probably its appeal (other than the $2 price tag.) Pabst seemed to dress its recipe up to make it a bit lighter and crisper on the palate, something you'd never notice if comparing it to a craft micro brew. I'm happy to drink either brand, but I think I'll continue my PBR tradition.
Both of these were palatable beers and would taste good after mowing the lawn on a hot day or with brats and onions simmering.
Maybe it's the cool logo / slogan or a deep-seated respect for the fact that Schlitz presented The Who's Farewell Tour -- they've done 20 since then -- back in 1982, but I preferred Schlitz. It just seemed to have more body and was more intriguing. If you offer to buy me either one, I won't turn it down. But, I don't think I'd go out of my way to purchase either. I just felt like Schlitz had the better finish and a more robust, hoppy flavor.
I have to admit I may have gone into this one slightly biased. Pabst takes me back to my younger years and I still drink it regularly, so my accustomed taste and nostalgia may have slighted my viewpoint. But while I have a history with Pabst, I definitely have an open mind when it comes to new brew and so I'd like to think I was open to Schlitz going into this one.
Unfortunately for Schlitz, my mind did not stay open long. I'll stick with the Pabst. Pabst has always had a cool, clean, refreshing taste; the perfect beer for grilling out or seeing a show. It doesn't overwhelm you with hops and malt and I like that about it. Sure, I love a flavor filled APA but Pabst has its place and is refreshing on a hot summer day. Schlitz on the other hand left me with a bad taste, literally. To its credit, it had flavor, but not exactly a good flavor. I felt like I kept exhaling the aftertaste long after I'd stopped drinking and it only got worse as the beer got warmer. I could have one but it'd be the only. Sorry Schlitz.
This was not an easy choice for me because while I didn't love either of these vintage lagers, I didn't hate them, either. Both go down pretty easily but neither is really a brew that I'd savor. Schlitz has a slightly darker color and a little more snap up front, with a hoppier flavor, but the Pabst felt rounder and smoother from start to finish. We tasted our beers at Comet, which served them ice cold, and charges $2 for Schlitz and $3 for Pabst. Considering I'd likely only drink these when I didn't have the dough to spend on something I prefer a little more, I'd likely opt for the savings I'd get from Schlitz.
I found it interesting that although neither of these beers is Milwaukee-owned or Milwaukee-brewed anymore, both had the same Milwaukee P.O. Box address listed on their labels. Despite the fact they both companies left town, Milwaukee must still have some influence among beer drinkers. Otherwise, why not a post office box in Woodridge, Ill.?
This was a really fun Milwaukee Challenge. PBR has always been my go-to pick for cheap beer, but I liked the new / old Schlitz better for a couple of reasons. I thought it had a more interesting and complex taste than Pabst: it started out a little bitter but finished smooth. I liked Schlitz's pungent smell and that it was more carbonated than Pabst. PBR, by comparison, tasted much sweeter, and unlike Schlitz, started out smooth but finished a little bitter. Visually, the Pabst is a tiny bit lighter, though the bottles are completely identical. The designer inside me likes the classic look of the Schlitz label, too. Overall, both beers tasted pretty cheap -- and they are. But with Schlitz costing 1/3 less than Pabst (at Comet, anyway), and for all its retro goodness, I picked the beer that made Milwaukee famous, hands down.
If Pabst (which owns Schlitz) moved it's HQ to Milwaukee I'd be 100% PBR/Schlitz. I drink PBR and Miller 50/50. Since both have thier HQ in Chicagoland and both brew in Milwaukee they are the same to me. I tried the Schlitz gusto and was not impressed...perhaps I should have another and another.
This needed to be a BLIND taste test. Molly can't pick Pabst just because she's used to it.
Because of the scarcity of the new Schlitz as it came out, I had to give one a try due to curiosity as well as one happened to drop in my lap. It was pretty darn tasty. My favorite "cheap" beer of choice is PBR, but the new Schlitz gave it a run for it's money. I think the Schlitz actually finished better than the PBR, and had a bit fuller flavor as well. I'm not sure if I can fully convince myself to change beers midstream, but it's nice to know at the bottom of the price barrel, there are two choices that can not do me wrong.
TrueBlue | July 17, 2008 at 8:54 a.m. (report)
After the Bud sale is completed, Milwaukee's former Pabst Brewing Company will be the largest remaining American-owned brewery! Of course, MillerCoors brews the stuff .... but, just saying, PBR is USA.
all the women preferred Pabst, while the men picked Schlitz?...
Show me the other Talkback
6 comments about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.