One of the joys of my life has been having a friend who participated and survived the D-Day invasion. As a friend of his sons, I had the chance to talk to someone who lived through the turbulent events of the 20th century. A wise man with a wonderful sense of humor, Glen liked to drink a beer now and then, with Miller High Life being his preferred choice.
This was quite awhile ago. I was just starting to build my Beer Doctor street credentials at the time, and he didn’t quite know what to make of it, as he watched me pour glasses of the darkest stouts, the hazy golden bubbly of hefe-weizen, and the exotic burgundy coloured brew called Rodenbach Grand Cru. But I asked him once, why did he like Miller High Life? His answer: It’s Got Foam.
I bring this all up because recently I had a chance to sample Schlitz Beer in the “Tall Boy” 16 oz can, introduced in 1960, now revived, using the original formula that made the beer number one in America in the 1950’s. I don’t need to go into what happened, except to say that Jason Allstrom has an excellent article on the subject over at Beer Advocate, where now, the retro-revival attempts to “Go For The Gusto” it once was acknowledged for.
For those accustomed to hyper flavorful beer, any macro brewery beer is treated with disdain. I think that is a mistake. To understand beer, especially American beer, the historic context is necessary to appreciate why a particular beer became a beloved staple in millions of households. With Schlitz, I think part of the answer is in the mouth-feel. A refreshing carbonation combined with a not overly sweet malt palate, and with “just a kiss of the hops”, a never bitter finish.
In polite craft beer circles. a drinkable beer is called “session beer”. In old fashioned American parlance, it can be called a slammer or pounder. Which I think going for the gusto is all about.