Touring this city will remind you that this is America's beer capital: The Milwaukee Brewers play at Miller Park, Pabst Theater is the local entertainment host, countless tap rooms and microbreweries line the streets and intoxicating references to early brewing powerhouses Blatz, Pabst, Miller and Schlitz abound in Milwaukee's historical records. But, what was it about this small metropolis on the shores of Lake Michigan that fostered such a blue ribbon climate for cooking-up brewskis?
While some argue it's the area's superior hops, barley and water, these theories are only drunken lore. Milwaukee's rise to the rim is due in large part to its small town stature. In the early beer trade days, stout production was typically driven by local demand, but with its small population, Milwaukee brewers were forced to look beyond its community to sell enough suds to survive. Long before "marketing" and "distribution" became common business buzz words, these savvy barley barons were merchandising and promoting their lager throughout the country.
Over the years historic events further strengthened these malt-makers as lead beer exporters. After the Chicago Fire decimated local suppliers, Milwaukee stepped in to feed the Windy City's barley sandwich appetite, and during World War II, Miller secured a U.S. Army contract to serve soldiers their cold ones. With the advent of television in the 1950's, Milwaukee's already developed promotion and advertising strategies solidified its market clout and national appeal.
Today, mergers and acquisitions have consolidated the number of draft producers into a few mega-breweries, and Milwaukee's top dogs continue to reign supreme, St. Louis' Anheuser Busch may argue this point.