Beer city "drying up?
Whats Milwaukee without the "suds",just another mid-western rust belt city in a cold climate?

Just another sign of the times.

Once the headquarters of Pabst, Schlitz and Blatz, Milwaukee is now facing the prospect of losing Miller, the last brewer with an HQ there.

Life without Miller

Milwaukee is Brew City, USA. So how would the city cope with the loss of its last brewer's headquarters if MillerCoors based itself elsewhere?
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of the baseball team here?" he asks, frowning in mock concentration from a bar stool at the Old German Beer Hall. "Oh, yeah, it's the Brewers. And where do they play? That would be Miller Park."

Miller, as in Miller Brewing, a Milwaukee beermaker whose legacy in the community exceeds even the 135-year history of Coors in Colorado.

So when the subject turns to the pending merger of Molson Coors' and SABMiller's U.S. operations — and where the combined company's headquarters will be located — beer drinkers here express a common concern.

Can Milwaukee still boast the nickname "Brew City" if its last remaining major brewer packs up its pens, pencils and starched corporate shirts?

Officially, the two brewers aren't disclosing where the consolidated MillerCoors headquarters will be sited, saying the decision is yet to be made.

But that hasn't stopped Coors scion Pete Coors from suggesting that an undisclosed neutral city is the likely winner of the selection process. Chicago and Dallas are rumored to be contenders.

That notion goes down in Milwaukee about as well as a Rockies sweep over the Brewers.

"That's a thorn in the side of Milwaukee," says Scott Wilke, Burke's drinking buddy. "We've seen Blatz, Pabst and Schlitz go away. We can't take another hit."

Miller's famous script logo is an assuringly familiar friend in Milwaukee. In addition to its naming rights on the ballpark, Miller is a sponsor of Milwaukee's famous Summerfest and a major contributor to a number of civic causes.

The fact that Miller's 153-year-old flagship brewery will remain in Milwaukee, regardless of the headquarters location, is small solace.

Beer is more than just the beverage of choice in Milwaukee. It's the focal point of
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Milwaukeeans Scott Wilke, left, and Brian Burke talk over beers at the Old German Beer Hall in their hometown. Wilke hopes the combined headquarters of MillerCoors will be located in his city. (Jim Bovin, Special to The Denver Post)civic pride, the veritable wellspring of the city's image.

Not to mention the subject of the classic Jerry Lee Lewis tune "What's Made Milwaukee Famous Has Made a Loser Out of Me."

Who's the biggest loser — Denver, Golden or Milwaukee — if the MillerCoors headquarters goes elsewhere?

The answer is clear in the mind of Pat O'Brien, president of the Milwaukee Development Corp.

"I think it would have more of an impact here," he said. "The history of Miller in this town makes it a company we wouldn't want to lose. It's an iconic symbol in a German-influenced town that we'd really like to keep."

And then there's regional brand loyalty.

O'Brien admits he has no statistics to back him up, but he makes a characteristically proud Milwaukee beer claim:

"We probably drink more Miller here than people in Denver drink Coors."

Job losses likely marginal

What's clear is that regardless of brand, Wisconsinites outdrink Coloradans. According to the Beer Institute, Wisconsin ranks sixth in U.S. per-capita beer consumption at 38.3 gallons a year. Colorado comes in at a relatively sober 32.4 gallons, good for 20th place.

Economic-development officials in both Wisconsin and Colorado are lobbying hard to make their respective states the location for the MillerCoors headquarters.

Job cuts from the merged brewers are likely in order to achieve the targeted $500 million in savings from combining the companies.

Yet by most accounts, the tangible economic loss to either state would be relatively slight from losing their respective brewing offices.

Some analysts have suggested that a new MillerCoors headquarters might employ fewer than 100 staffers.

Miller has about 800 corporate employees in Milwaukee. Even if all the white-collar jobs were to go away — unlikely, because some administrative presence is expected to remain — it would represent barely a blip among Milwaukee's labor force of 794,500.

Similarly, metro Denver's 1.4 million workforce would be little impacted if a portion of Coors' 1,500 Golden-based salaried employees were dismissed or transferred.

Milwaukee "a brew town"

Symbolism, not jobs, figures prominently
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Von Trier, a tavern on Milwaukee's east side, has 27 beers on tap, of which Miller Lite is the only macrobrew. (Photos by Jim Bovin, Special to The Denver Post )in the concerns of Milwaukeeans.

"We're a brew town," says Dan Major, enjoying a cold one at Von Trier, a German-style tavern on Milwaukee's east side. "Having Miller here says a lot about the image and the history of the city."

Major's wife, Kathie, says her family traditionally has drunk nothing but Miller products.

"When I order a light (beer), I don't have to say which light. It's obvious," she says.

Amid a line of Von Trier's 27 exotic beer-tap handles that includes German imports Bitburger and Hacker-Pschorr and regional microbrews New Glarus and River West, a familiar blue Miller Lite handle pays tribute to civic pride.

It's not that Von Trier owner Mark Eckert sells much Miller Lite. But to not carry it would be unthinkable, he says.

Mike Downey, a friend of the Majors, muses over the beer-headquarters flap as he sips a Summit Mai- bock, brewed in St. Paul, Minn.

"I'm not really a big fan of Miller beers," he says.

"But look at their presence here and their history and everything they've done. They are really meaningful to the city. We definitely don't want to see them go."

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