By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 01, 2010 at 4:44 PM
Nearly two years after a reformulated version of Schlitz was introduced in the Milwaukee market, Pabst Brewing Company -- which owns the Schlitz label -- is taking another step toward returning the brand to its status as the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

Last weekend, 16-ounce "Tall Boy" cans became available in the Milwaukee area. Schlitz, known for being the first beer to come in brown-colored bottles was also well known for its "Tall Boys" during the brand's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was among the biggest beer makers in the world.

The success of the reformulated Schlitz, especially in the Milwaukee market, made bringing back the "Tall Boy" something of a no-brainer for the company.

"The rebirth of Schlitz Gusto has always been about more than just taste. It's about celebrating a time when life and beer wasn't watered down," says Kyle Wortham, Senior Brand Manager for Schlitz. "Our drinkers love the Schlitz Classic 60s Formula out of the bottle and on draft and going back to the Tall Boy cans just seemed natural." 

The Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company was among the first of the major brewers to use bigger cans, introducing the a half-quart can in 1956 and, four years later, putting the well-known original "Tall Boy" on the market, a 24-ounce can.

Other brands in the Schlitz family, including Old Milwaukee and Schlitz Malt Liquor, were given big cans of their own and all of them continued into the early 1980s, after Schlitz was acquired by Detroit-based Stroh Brewing Company.

Throughout its history, the Schlitz "Tall Boy" can maintained a simple shape -- Schlitz was also the first to use the "cone top" -- and the familiar white color with the Schlitz label -- a motif maintained in the modern incarnation.

"I think our drinkers will get a kick out of the can graphics that even include the original Tall Boy script," Wortham says.

Schlitz was actually ahead of its time when it came to using aluminum cans, becoming in 1961 the first major American brewer to manufacture its own cans.

"The company was really an innovator," says Leonard Jurgensen, a noted historian on the Schlitz Brewing Company. "Eventually, the other big brewers like Miller and Anheuser-Busch followed suit."

The beer is currently available at about 10 area bars and 25 retail outlets with a formal launch expected later in the month.

Already, it's been a popular choice.

"The cool, retro feel of the Schlitz brand has jumped to a new level with the release of the Tall Boy," says Joe Sorge of A.J. Bombers. "It was the most requested product this past weekend's lunch and dinner service."

The reformulated Schlitz, which scrapped the "cheap beer formula" it had become known for since the early 1980s in favor of the classic and traditional recipe used in the 1960s, has been a popular choice for beer drinkers since being re-introduced in 2008.

Originally available only in bottles, Schlitz was soon offered on tap. The 12-ounce cans, which have been using the non-retro formula have been phased out in the Milwaukee market and in others where the classic brew is available.