Tag Archives: Pabst

MOWA presents the ads that made Milwaukee beer famous

Many still remember when Schlitz was “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” a longstanding tagline and a central part of the former Milwaukee brewer’s marketing boast.

In reality, however, it was the entire beer industry and the marketing and printing innovations it fostered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that helped make Milwaukee famous as a brewing and industrial powerhouse. Beer aficionados — and even those who aren’t — can get a taste of vintage brewery advertising and study its impact on the way beer was and still is marketed at an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend.

Art on Tap: Early Wisconsin Brewery Art and Advertising opens July 9 in MOWA’s Hyde Gallery and runs through September 25. The display, which contains “breweriana” (collectable items featuring a brewery’s name and logo) from the 1880s up to Prohibition, gives MOWA an opportunity to venture into new territory, according to curator Erika Petterson.

“This is the type of collection you don’t typically see in the fine art world,” Petterson says. “The pieces are beautifully done and beautifully put together in terms of the advertising and marketing of an important Wisconsin product.”

images - wigout - 063016 - MOWASchlitzMilwaukee’s biggest brewers — Blatz, Miller, Pabst and Schlitz — are central to the exhibit, which has been assembled thanks to the help of individual breweriana collectors around the state. Items also were selected from the former G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Stevens Point Brewery, Leinenkugel’s Brewery in Chippewa Falls, and other smaller Wisconsin brewers, some of which are only memories.

Ad imagery runs long on buxom beer maidens pouring golden lagers, an approach still popular in modern beer advertising. But what makes the older ads unique, Petterson says, is how their time period dovetails with the latter part of the Industrial Revolution.

In the late 19th century, large Milwaukee brewers were finding new and more efficient ways to brew and bottle beer, meaning their output far exceeded local consumption demands. The growth of the railroad system meant distant markets with larger populations became more accessible.

But beer had always been a local commodity, and outsiders were suspect. The big brewers knew they had to generate interest in their products if they wanted to sell in other markets, so Milwaukee, as both a brewing community and a selection of brands, set out to change the way beer was marketed and sold, Petterson says.

“These are some of the earliest examples of product branding,” Petterson says. “They had to make their beers seem appealing and better than other beers, and I think they did a really good job of that.”

Pabst didn’t always have “Blue Ribbon” attached to its name, the curator explains. That was a marketing ploy to get the beer to stand out and above the local competition so that the brewery could charge more for its product. The same goes for Miller, which added “High Life” to its brand name and “The Champagne of Bottled Beer” as its tagline to appeal to society’s upper crust and imply that only the best people drank its beer.

Color lithographs were the primary means of this advertising, Petterson says, with an emphasis on beautiful illustration and rich colors to make the ads more attractive and, presumably, give them a longer display life. The increase in demand helped make Milwaukee a center of the lithography industry, which literally blossomed in the shadow of the breweries in a uniquely symbiotic relationship.

“Well-known lithographers Gugler, Beck & Pauli, Louis Kurz, and Henry Seifert’s Milwaukee Lithographing & Engraving Company produced a wide range of advertising materials from trade cards to labels to large-scale tavern pieces,” Peterson noted in MOWA’s recent newsletter. “These images were a beautiful, vibrant, and visually appealing foray into modern marketing.”

The brewery ads offered some of the first instances of celebrity endorsements, something we take for granted today. They also were among the first to develop themes that attempted to tie various beer brands to desirable traits.

One of the rarest pieces in the exhibit is a 9’ x 12’ billboard reproduced on linen depicting a racing yacht against a backdrop of the Pabst Brewery name stitched into a nautical flag. The tagline, “Blue Ribbon Winners on Land and Sea,” underscores the image’s message.

images - wigout - 063016 - MOWAMillerThe period produced some of brewing’s most enduring images, including the long-standing Miller “Girl on the Moon” which still remains as one of the brewery’s key visuals. The collection represented by MOWA’s Art on Tap offers not only a lesson in brewing and marketing, but also the chance for individuals who don’t normally visit art galleries to immerse themselves in an exhibit that will ring a lot of familiar bells for Wisconsin residents, Petterson says.

“Even if you don’t drink beer, and a surprising number of breweriana collectors don’t, you will still find the images appealing,” Petterson adds. “There really is something for everyone here.”

— MOWA Brews A Tall Draught of Summer Activities —

Lectures, music and even a series of beer tastings are on draft in support of Art on Tap: Early Wisconsin Brewery Art and Advertising. Mark your calendars for the following museum events:


  • July 16 – “Roll Out the Barrel” and dance to the live polka music of The Squeezettes from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  at the Art on Tap Opening Party.
  • July 21 – “Fermented Photography”, a 6:30 p.m. lecture by photographer Paul Bialis, who shares images and experiences he had in working in abandoned breweries.
  • August 11 – “Bottoms Up”, a lecture by Wisconsin Historical Society State Historic Preservation Officer and Director of Outreach Jim Draeger about the architecture and history of Wisconsin’s saloons.
  • August 25 – “Pabst Brewery and the Artistry of Advertising”, a 6:30 p.m. lecture by Pabst Mansion Executive Director John C. Eastberg will discuss how the brewery used advertising to shape its iconic brand.
  • September 8 – “A Sudsy Heritage: Milwaukee’s Rise as Beer Capital of the World”, a 6:30 p.m. lecture featuring historian John Gurda’s take on Milwaukee’s rise to brewing prominence.


  • June 30 – Pre-tasting talk from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. by Randy Mosher, author of The Brewer’s Companion and other books; tasting from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with beers from Door County Brewing Co., Potosi Brewing Co., Karben4, Madison, and others. Music by Frogwater.
  • August 6 – Pre-tasting talk by MillerCoors pilot brewer Megan Mares discussing proper beer-tasting techniques; beer samples from 3 Sheeps, Sheboygan; Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee; Lithia Brewing Co., West Bend; and more. Music by Evan Christian.
  • September 10 – “Weird and Wild Flavors: A Craft Brewer Panel Discussion” looks at unusual blends in today’s beers; samples from Ale Asylum, Madison; Milwaukee Brewing Co.; Sweet Mullets Brewery, Oconomowoc; and others. Special tasting by Milwaukee-based BitterCube and music by The Latchkeys.

Tastings are $18 each for MOWA members, $30 for non-members and includes a level-one MOWA membership; $55 VIP packages contain all three beer tastings and a level-one membership. Pre-order tickets at wisconsinart.org/artontaptastings.

Hannibal Buress

It might just be Hannibal Buress’ moment. The comedian/writer/actor has been building his brand for years, but with a breakout role on Broad City and his own Comedy Central show, Why? with Hannibal Buress, he’s hotter than ever, and his stand-up tour is blazing across the country. He’ll bring his laid-back yet incisive act back to Milwaukee, playing his biggest venue yet: the Riverside.

At 144 E. Wells St. Tickets are $28 and can be purchased at 414-286-3663 or pabsttheater.org.

7 p.m. Sept. 19

Penn & Teller

At this point, Penn & Teller are practically an institution, so it’s hard to remember how innovative and jarring their comedy/magic act was when they got their start 40 years ago. Since, the duo has dazzled audiences worldwide with their tricks and banter, hosted TV shows and specials, and has their own Vegas residency. For this particular night, though, they’ll be appearing — and disappearing — at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater.

At 116 W. Wisconsin Ave. Tickets range from $30 to $70. Visit pabsttheater.org or call 414-286-3663.

8 p.m. Sept. 11

Postmodern Jukebox

Scott Bradlee turns Miley Cyrus into doo-wop. Macklemore into jazz. Kesha into country. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this talented pianist and his Postmodern Jukebox project. A viral sensation on YouTube, the band’s moving out of the studio and onto the stage, where they’ll make the new old all over again.

Performances are at 8 p.m. on June 10 at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at pabsttheater.org. And again at 8 p.m. on June 11 at the Majestic Theater in Madison. Those tickets are $30 and can be purchased at majesticmadison.com.

8 p.m. June 10 & 11


Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for additional calendar listings, news updates, ticket giveaways and special offers. 

The Sets List, February 26, 2015

Ariana Grande 
7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee. $27 to $67. bmoharrisbradleycenter.com.

The mantle of teen pop queen is a lofty one to bear. In 2015, the crown that’s anointed the brows of Britney, Xtina and Miley has been passed along to former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande. But Grande’s got one thing her predecessors would have killed for: pipes reminiscent of a young Mariah Carey. Whether she will ultimately join the ranks of her foremothers or become this generation’s Jessica Simpson depends as much on how her fickle audience ages up as anything else. For now, enjoy having a nice whistle tone-toting songstress in the public eye once again. Special guests Rixton and Cashmere Cat open.

The Gaslight Anthem
8 p.m. March 12 at the Pabst Theater, Milwaukee. $25. pabsttheater.org.

Sharing the same Jersey roots, it’s no wonder The Gaslight Anthem sounds like a classic Springsteen album. But frontman Brian Fallon isn’t content to just be The Boss Lite. With the band’s latest album Get Hurt, The Gaslight Anthem has shaken up its style, injecting arena rock, folk and pop influences into the heartland sound the members know so well. They’ll be preceded by guests Northcote and The Scandals.

8 p.m. March 1 at The Rave, Milwaukee. $20. therave.com.

It’s hard to figure out how to describe the exact sound of the Kongos brothers, until you look into their recent history. While the four-piece band of brothers may be based out of Phoenix now, they spent their childhoods in South Africa and their biggest hit, “Come With Me Now,” is heavily influenced by the 1990s era genre known as kwaito, characterized by a slowed-down house beat and accordion accompaniment. Sir Sly and Colony House open.

Count This Penny
7:30 p.m. March 6 at Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton. $15. ci.stoughton.wi.us.

Count This Penny doesn’t sound like a Madison band, and they almost weren’t. The city caught a break when married duo Amanda and Allen Rigell relocated from Tennessee to the Midwest and brought their recently formed Appalachian pop act with them. Now a four-piece, Count This Penny is one of the hottest bands in the state, with clear, harmonic tunes reminiscent of the defunct Civil Wars. They’ll play this one last gig before heading down to SXSW — so catch them now while you can still be ahead of the hype.

Gaelic Storm 

8 p.m. March 11 at the Barrymore Theater, Madison. $30. barrymorelive.com.

8 p.m. March 12 at the Meyer Theatre, Green Bay. $30. meyertheatre.org.

8 p.m. March 17 at the Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee. $30. pabsttheatre.org.

When you think of Celtic rock, you think of Gaelic Storm. (Unless you’re a Dropkick Murphys fan, in which case we’re deeply sorry.) The genre-bending band has been touring like mad ever since a cameo in Titanic catapulted them to fame, and 2014 marked the release of Full Irish, a greatest-hits album that collects the best tracks from their past decade. But it’s in performance that the band really shines, so you’re in luck: Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater has been the band’s St. Patrick’s Day home for years, which means they always make sure to drop in at venues elsewhere in Wisconsin, too.

Lily & Madeleine
9 p.m. March 7 at The Frequency, Madison. $10, $12 at door. madisonfrequency.com.

Neither Lily nor Madeleine Jurkiewicz has broken into a third decade of life, yet this sister duo already has two albums to their name and a big fan base in the folk music community. On the latest LP, Fumes, Lily & Madeleine face their approaching adulthood head-on, with ethereal, harmonic vocals that speak of two young women in transition. They’ve vowed to keep their audience happy with an album every year for at least three years, which means their current tour may be the origin point for that third album’s nascent tracks. 

Milwaukee Ballet spurs ‘Genesis’ of three fascinating new works

There are no bad performances when Milwaukee Ballet stages a Genesis concert. Artistic director Michael Pink — entering his 12th year with the company, and the longest-serving AD in the Ballet’s 45-year history — is too good at what he does to let any but the best rising choreographers take the Pabst Theatre stage for this biennial international competition.

So this sixth competition’s choreographers are at the top of their game, and it shows. The three finalists, Garrett Smith, Matthew James Tusa and Riccardo De Nigris, are each given eight dancers from the Milwaukee Ballet corps and three weeks of rehearsal, from which they’re expected to derive a world premiere work. Those works then get judged by both a jury of guest artistic directors and each night’s audiences, with an ultimate winner selected at the end of the weekend (who will return next year with a new world premiere) along with an audience favorite.

It’s not a decision I envy that jury getting to make. Thursday night, each world premiere commanded the stage, and which ends up on top might depend more than anything on what the judges — or you in the audience — are looking for.

If high technique is the prime objective, Smith’s Mortal Form knocks its opponents out of the water. The least narrative-driven of the three, Mortal Form looks on the surface like a traditional ballet in modern dress: women wear tutus, but not elaborately large ones; men wear loose shirts and tight undergarments.

The dancers’ movements feel traditional too, at first, mannered gestures that hit the beats of the Haydn symphony backing them. It’s the sort of things you see when you close your eyes and think of ballet: dancers twirl about in sync, men lift women aloft with effortless grace. But paying attention, you see motions start to come with twitches, and their perfection begins to feel oppressive. A mid-dance segment where track lighting drops from the ceiling to bring a warm glow to the stage offers temporary respite, as dancers break away from the lineup to perform slower, more intimate movements in groups of two or three. But they’re always pulled back in, even as the corps collapses from weariness, forced even to surrender to their body’s limitations in sync.

It’s a challenging work at times, one that forces you to make your own connections, but it’s simply gorgeous throughout.

But if sheer ambition is to be given higher preference, it quickly falls behind Re:connection. Tusa’s multi-part sequence is the only one to promote one of its dancers above the rest of the group (Rachel Malehorn), but it’s not the solo work disguised as an ensemble piece I feared it’d be at the sight of its opening pose: seven dancers rhythmically moving around a fallen Malehorn, twitching as she tries to stand.

Instead, it’s a piece that goes through various permutations and configurations one after another, each offering a different example of disconnection. Malehorn bookends it as a tragically lonely figure, fighting against the malevolent stance of her fellow dancers at the beginning and standing alone among an empty stage at the end until a single male dancer rushes out and revitalizes her, with breathtaking eloquence.

She tags out earlier than I’d expected though, joining the corps for a series of rotating partnerships that show off the group’s talents. Romantic but tempestuous in nature (as the Rossini Overture to La Gazza Ladra behind them brilliantly accents), this middle section asks the dancers to display relationships that just don’t click. A man tries to dance with a woman, but she turns him all about and ends up riding him about the stage half on his back. Two couples pair up, but with longing looks at their opposites across the stage and a physical itch that they can’t seem to scratch before they plunge back into the back-and-forth. It’s often a disjointed piece, but it aims higher than its competition and often hits its mark.

In the end, though, it’s “Can I Say Something..??” that’s truly captured my heart, due to what seems like the best reason to pick a winner: for producing the most completely realized work.

It’s the sort of piece I’d normally disdain. Its four men are dressed as mimes and dance accordingly, with exaggerated, cartoonish motions. Its four women, in bright chromatic dresses, serve as love interests, flitting in and out of their lives as the mimes reach too late to embrace them.

Sure, it sounds like gimmickry, and it starts that way. But the dancing itself is brilliant enough to keep you watching, and as you do, “Can I Say Something..??” blossoms. The mimes’ shtick actually becomes humorous. Their pursuit of their loves switches from goofy to poignant. And what was going to be my only complaint in the end — that De Nigris’ perfect ending scene, where a mime finally gets a girl, wasn’t actually the last scene — is eradicated by his actual ending, a comic jolt that wraps up the piece better than romance ever could.

Ironically, De Nigris’ piece is the only one I didn’t find benefited from Jennifer Schriever’s otherwise astounding lighting design, very much a component of Mortal Form and Re:connection’s effectiveness as works. It’s a good thing his piece didn’t need the help.

There’s still time to weigh in yourself. The Milwaukee Ballet’s Genesis competition runs at the Pabst Theatre, 144 E. Wells St., through Feb. 8. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Winners will be announced early next week. Tickets range from $28 to $93 and can be purchased at milwaukeeballet.org or 414-902-2103.

Mac and Cheeze Takedown

All you need to know about the Mac and Cheeze Takedown is that it features 25 different kinds of macaroni and cheese. Local chefs will create all those variations. The event takes place at Turner Hall Ballroom, soon to be known as the cheesiest dance hall on Earth. At 1040 N. 4th St. Tickets are $20. Call 414-286-3663 or visit
pabsttheater.org to order.

2 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 5

Natalie Merchant coming to Pabst to support her first album in 13 years

Nearly 13 years ago, Natalie Merchant released Motherland, her last album of all-new material until this May. Motherland was released in the wake of 9/11, and, although recorded before the attacks, it was dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks that day. Merchant’s latest album, simply titled Natalie Merchant, is a sequel of sorts.

A great deal has happened in her life since then. She’s had a child, witnessed the suffering brought on by Hurricane Katrina, and recently turned 50. She’s stopped coloring her hair and allowed it to grow gray. All of those events figure into her new music, which directly addresses middle age.

Her fans have responded warmly. Her current tour in support of the album stops in Milwaukee at The Pabst Theater on Friday, July 25. The warmth and honesty for which she’s known are particularly well suited to the intimate setting of The Pabst.

Merchant blasted into the public consciousness in the late 1980s as lead vocalist with the band 10,000 Maniacs. The group quickly became known for its polished, adult folk-pop sound. The 1987 album In My Tribe was the group’s critical and commercial breakthrough — certified double platinum. It included the top 10 alternative hit single “What’s the Matter Here?”

Two more 10,000 Maniacs studio albums, 1989’s Blind Man’s Zoo and 1992’s Our Time In Eden, were recorded with Merchant. The group became a mainstay of alternative radio, but went without a pop hit single until Merchant was on her way out. Two months before the release of the group’s MTV Unplugged album in late 1993 and the release of Merchant’s powerful cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night,” she announced that she was leaving 10,000 Maniacs because she “didn’t want art by committee anymore.”

“Because the Night” soared to No. 11 on the pop chart in the United States and became the defining 10,000 Maniacs performance for many casual pop fans.

Merchant took complete artistic control for her first solo album Tigerlily, even financing the recording herself to avoid having to please a record label. Released in June 1995, Tigerlily was an instant success. It included Merchant’s first top 10 pop hit “Carnival,” and the album ultimately sold over 5 million copies.

Her follow up, 1998’s Ophelia, was perhaps the most artistically ambitious project yet in Merchant’s career. She based the album around the character of Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The songs on the album are meant to depict images of women, and often their oppression, throughout time.

Despite Ophelia’s heavy concept, the light first single released from the album — “Kind and Generous” — became a favorite with fans. The song became Merchant’s third top 20 pop hit as a solo artist.

Motherland followed Ophelia. Though Merchant has not released an album of new songs in more than a decade, she has explored other musical paths. A particular labor of love was the 2010 double album Leave Your Sleep. Inspired by comments that her singing voice is particularly soothing to children, she put together a collection of 19th- and 20th-century British and American poetry about childhood set to music.

Merchant’s current concert tour is likely to touch on music across her career. But she’s never been an artist who focuses on pleasing a crowd. The journey on which she takes her audience at The Pabst will be shaped around the songs she currently wants her audience to hear.

Aziz Ansari

With a prominent gig on Parks and Recreation and various roles and cameos in film and television, Aziz Ansari has become a breakout star of the modern comedy scene. But like many of his colleagues, he first came to prominence as a stand-up comedian. He’s passing through Wisconsin as he wraps up his tour supporting his Netflix comedy show Buried Alive.

He appears at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave., on May 19 and at Madison’s Overture Center, 201 State St., on May 20. Tickets are $38 at the Riverside, $39 at Overture Center. Visit pabsttheater.com or overturecenter.com, respectively.

7 and 9:30 p.m. Mon., May 19 (Milwaukee); 7 and 10 p.m. Tue., May 20 (Madison)

Nickel Creek

Mandolin player Chris Thile, fiddle player Sara Watkins and guitarist Sean Watkins — much better known as the progressive bluegrass trio Nickel Creek — hadn’t played together in seven years before reuniting recently to celebrate the trio’s 25th anniversary. So you can imagine their show together at the Riverside Theater is going to be nostalgic and enthusiastic. But seats are still available to hear the trio perform the biggest songs from their past, such as “The Lighthouse’s Tale” and “This Side,” as well as tracks from their new album A Dotted Line.

The Riverside Theater is at 116 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Tickets — $35 and $45 — can be purchased at 414-286-3663 or pabsttheater.org. 

6:30 p.m. on Sat., May 10