Old-school cool: How vintage Schlitz Beer ads captured our hearts (1880s-1970s)

Vintage Schlitz beer and brewery history

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More than 170 years ago, Schlitz Beer put Milwaukee, Wisconsin on the beer brewing map. Once hailed as “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” Schlitz has a storied past as rich and foamy as the beverage itself.

From its humble beginnings in the 19th century to becoming a household name, Schlitz Beer is a fascinating slice of American brewing history. Today, while the golden age of Schlitz might seem like a chapter from the past, the brand continues to find its place in the hearts of beer enthusiasts, though with a quieter presence.

Schlitz Beer history

The history of Schlitz Beer dates back to 1849, when Joseph Schlitz, a German immigrant, took over the management of a small brewery in Milwaukee. Schlitz’s knack for brewing and savvy business acumen propelled the brand to national fame, especially after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, when Schlitz donated thousands of barrels to the city’s relief efforts, earning goodwill and a loyal following.

The 20th century saw Schlitz Beer at the pinnacle of its success, becoming the largest producer of beer in the United States at one point. However, the latter part of the century was marked by challenges, including changes in ownership and brewing missteps that led to a decline in popularity.

Retro 50s couple pouring beer (1959)

Did they stop making Schlitz Beer?

Fast forward to the present, Schlitz Beer (now manufactured by Pabst Brewing Company) has made a modest comeback, with its classic formula being revived for nostalgic drinkers and a new generation curious about historic brews. While it might not dominate the beer market as it once did, Schlitz holds a special place as a vintage classic.

In a tribute to this iconic brew, we’ve brought you a collection of vintage Schlitz Beer advertisements. Spanning from the 1800s to the mid-20th century, these ads showcase the evolution of marketing aesthetics while also reflecting the cultural flavor of their times.

1888 The whole nation enjoys Jos Schlitz Brewing Cos' Milwaukee lager beer
1888 The whole nation enjoys Jos Schlitz Brewing Cos’ Milwaukee lager beer

Vintage Jos. Schlitz Lager beer illustration/ad (1800s)

Antique Schlitz lager beer ad (1800s)

Schlitz Brewery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Horse-drawn delivery trucks carrying beer

Horse-drawn delivery trucks, Schlitz Brewery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1900)

Light can’t spoil Schlitz in brown bottles (1900s)

It is not enough to make pure beer, it must be kept pure until it is poured into your glass.

Beer is a saccharine product. The slightest taint of impurity injures its healthfulness. Light starts decay even in pure beer. Dark glass, the scientists say, gives protection against light.

Purity above everything else distinguishes Schlitz beer from common beer. We use the costliest materials — we age Schlitz for months to prevent biliousness — it will not ferment in your stomach.

Schlitz is sent to you in brown bottles, thus protecting Schlitz purity from the brewery to your glass. Without all these precautions no beer can be healthful, and who knowingly would drink beer that was not?

If you knew what we know about beer, you would say, “Schlitz — Schlitz in Brown Bottles.”

Vintage Schlitz beer ad - Brown bottles

Let’s try this for Thanksgiving (1939)

The air that sustains life can ruin the brew!

Beer is at its best a moment before it goes into the bottle. If air is trapped inside the bottle with the beer, the life and flavor of the brew may be destroyed.

So — we take the air out of the bottle an instant before we put the beer in. An amazing new method that assures the original brewery-fresh goodness of that famous flavor in every bottle and can of Schlitz.

Schlitz Thanksgiving beer (1939)

Long before the Chicago fire, Schlitz was making Milwaukee famous (1935)

Back in 1871, so the story goes, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern, and started the Chicago Fire. To make a brave new city rise from the ruins, thousands needed cheer. They got it! And Schlitz helped. For even that long ago Schlitz was the favorite of millions.

Today that same cheer can be yours. The stimulus, the relaxation that comes with a cool dewy bottle of Schlitz beer. No wonder it made Milwaukee famous! Schlitz has a mellow flavor that can’t be imitated. It keeps the vitamins that give health and energy.

And there is the digestibility that only Schlitz can claim. That’s partly due to insistence on choicest grains, hops, malt, yeast. But it is due even more to Enzyme Control, the secret and precise process under which every drop of Schlitz Beer is brewed.

When you’re ordering beer on draught, or beer in bottles for your home, say Schlitz. Since 1849. Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company, Milwaukee, Wis.

Schlitz beer before the Chicago Fire (1935)

Know the real joy of good living! (1960)

“That’s a good shot of you” — Think back. Aren’t the best times when you make the most of every opportunity? It’s the same with brewing. And this is the Schlitz touch.

Getting the best from every ingredient. Hops. for instance. Schlitz brews with just the kiss of the hops for superb flavor. Next time let Schlitz join your fun.

The beer that made Milwaukee famous — Move up to Schlitz.

Couple at home with beer and photos - Move up to Schlitz (1960)

Move up to Schlitz (1960)

“When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer.” (1968)

Try the taste of the most carefully brewed beer in the world. The beer that takes 1,174 careful brewing steps. 

Schlitz. Real gusto in the great light beer.

Out of Schlitz out of beer (1968)

Pleasant memories of olden times Schlitz in “Steinies” (1937)

Scilitz poured from modern “Steinie” brown bottles brings glorious memories of olden days… of brown-raftered inns… and the finest old-day beers in old, stone steins.  Old-day brewmasters labored hard and long to catch the delicious, old-time favor that Schlitz brews so uniformly, winter and summer, into every drop… under Precise Enzyme Control.

The uniform goodness of Schlitz is the direct result of years of research and the investment of countless dollars in scientific development of the brewing art. You taste immediately the delicious difference between Schlite and other beers.

Stock your refrigerator with Schlitz. Enjoy it today, in modern “Steinie” Brown Bottles, the finest beer men and science brew.

Schlitz beer in Steinies (1937)

Health with enjoyment… (1936)

Schlitz. The beer with Sunshine Vitamin D.

That feeling of radiant health enjoyed on a breeze-swept deck — that sense of bracing invigoration and fresh vitality — are captured for you in each sparkling, foam-capped glass of Schlitz, the beer with Sunshine Vitamin D.

It gives you the cooling tang that soothes heat-frayed nerves and awakens jaded spirits. It gives you Sunshine Vitamin D — that priceless source of vigor and refreshment that lives long after you set down your empty glass.

Modern living; clothing; hours spent indoors out in the shade — rob us of sunshine benefits even in mid-summer. Schlitz in brown bottles or cans gives you the Sunshine Vitamin D so important to health and vigor — plus the old-time Schlitz flavor and bouquet mellowed to ripe perfection under precise enzyme control — and at no increase in price.

Beer is good for you — but Schlitz, the beer with Sunshine Vitamin D, is extra good for you.

Drink it daily — for health with enjoyment. Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company, Milwaukee, Wis.

Schlitz beer with vitamin D (1936)

Schlitz — Real gusto in a great light beer. (1960)

Schlitz with real gusto (c1960)

Enjoy the difference! (1961)

You get that deep, cool kiss-of-the-hops flavor only in Schlitz. So make the move that makes the difference. Pick up Schlitz today — in the bright new 6-Pak. Better get a couple. Move up to Schlitz.

Vintage Schlitz 6-pack (1961)

Life only happens once. (1971)

You get no second chances. So you go for all the gusto there is. Sometimes you can even taste it. 

When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer.

Schlitz beer - Life happens only once (1971)

Retro illustrated ad for Schlitz (1948)

“I was curious… I tasted it… Now I know why Schlitz… The beer that made Milwaukee famous!

Trying beer (1948)

“That man — he’s done it again!” (1950)

It’s easy to understand a man’s enthusiasm for Schlitz. We think you’ll like Schlitz best, too, because… 

More people like the taste of Schlitz than any other beer.

1950s housewife - Refrigerator full of beer

“Anyway, you didn’t burn the Schlitz!” (1952)

There’s hope for any young bride who knows her man well enough to serve him Schlitz beer. For what man (or woman) can resist the taste of Schlitz beer… a taste millions prefer to the taste of any other beer.

No, we’re not just saying that. Here’s the simple proof: Schlitz tastes so good to so many people, it’s first in sales in the U.S.A.

ALSO SEE: 50+ sexist vintage ads so bad, you almost won’t believe they were real

At least you didn't burn the beer - Classic 1950s ad

Holidays call for the finer things in life (1955)

There’s no substitute for the unmistakable quality of Schlitz. It’s the genuine premium beer!

Brewed for quality… never for price.

Beer for the holidays (1955)

Vintage illustration of classy family trying Schlitz beer (1950)

I was curious about Schlitz beer (1950)

If you like beer, you’ll love Schlitz (1953)

No harsh bitterness… Just the kiss of the hops.

This dry and mellow beer… this beer of matchless flavor… is the world’s largest seller.

Year after year more bottles and cans of Schlitz are bought — millions more — than of any other beer. This popularity is the result of the most conclusive taste test in beer history.

If you like beer (1953)

“Ah… just what I was wishing for!” (1960)

Planting your tree is only the beginning.

It’s how you care for it that really brings it to the fullest bloom. Same with beer. Fine ingredients make a good start.

But to have them yield superb refreshment requires constant, minute by minute, care. This is the hallmark of Schlitz quality.

Move up to Schlitz beer (1960)

Move up to quality… move up to Schlitz! (1959)

Life is what you make it. So too with beer.

Fine ingredients are available 10 every brewer, yet Schlitz stands out — refreshingly different! The secret’s in knowing how.

Taking extra care. More patience. More pride.

Must be why people who really know beer choose Schlitz.

Retro 50s couple pouring beer (1959)

Introducing Encore Beer, from Schlitz (1971)

Life is really only a series of experiences, all strung together. The bad ones you forget. The good ones you remember, and look forward to again.

We created Encore to be one of those things worth doing again. Sure, it’s only a beer. But a very special one.

Encore has a brewed-in lightness, a rich beer flavor you could never find in any beer. Until now. And it took 121 years of Schlitz know-how to make it that way.

Encore. Something you’ll remember. And look forward to again.

Encore. Something you want to do again.

Beer belongs - enjoy it! America's beverage of moderation ('40s & '50s)

Vintage Encore Beer ad from Schlitz - 1970s

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