American Classics: Miller High Life

2010 October 6
by Dave
2 bottles of miller high life

Beer might have been invented by the gods, but it was perfected right here on Earth.  And despite what the snobs want to tell you, some of the best of it came from right here in America, by hard working Germans. In this series we will explore the great American classics; the beers that built this nation.

I figured what better place to start than my personal favorite, Miller High Life. It’s a beer I turn to when I’m in need of a good, honest beer. It’s a beer I can rely on. So what exactly is the High Life? Where did it come from? Why did God see it fit to give this nectar to us mere mortals. These questions and more, will soon be answered.

1903: The Revolution was Born

1824 saw the birth of Mr. Friedrich Eduard Johannes Müller (Americanized to Miller) in a small town, located in Southern Germany. He emigrated to America and formed the Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Well, come 1888, Mr. Miller died of cancer. His legacy, however, lived on. Miller High Life first hit the shelves in 1903.  Since then, the fun hasn’t stopped, save that 13 year “Noble Experiment”.

The Champagne of Beers

Miller High Life, to the uninitiated, is an American Pilsner, coming in at 4.7% ABV. It bares the slogan “The Champagne of Beers”. What a tagline. The slogan is due, in part, to the fact that it is more carbonated than most other bottled beers, making it lighter and fizzier. It’s a great slogan. It makes you feel good just hearing it. It promises culture and society. The slogan, combined with the beautiful label and unique bottle shape conjures back party scenes right out of The Great Gatsby. You are immediately swept up in the fantasies of a simpler time. You could be eating oysters on some North Eastern boardwalk after a few rounds of ski ball before your dusk Ferris wheel ride. You could be sitting on your roof after a hard day’s work, with a pail full of ice and a couple of empty bottles around you. A beer like this could never lie to you, and it would never try to.

It’s a beautiful light gold color, with a soft and fizzy head. It has a classic beer smell, sweet and corny. It has that true American Pilsner taste, and more of it than any other mass market beer I’ve had. It has a tangy hops flavor that lingers on the back of the tongue, something I love and miss in most pilsners.

Living the High Life

There are many ways to enjoy this beer. It’s great for any occasion. It’s a standby when I can’t figure out what to drink after work. My fridge stays stocked with it. A 12er is perfect for a weekend barbecue. It can even be found in Big Boy cans.

That’s right. I said it. You can buy Miller High Life in 32oz cans. That’s a whole quart of beer to you and me. They run about $1.50, depending on where you live. These big boys were a constant of my college experience. After the wedding of my father to my step-mother, I sat outside in the crisp October night with a bunch of my new Canadian family members, and drank some High Life out of Big Boy cans until 4am. They were down right amazed that you could buy such massive quantities of alcohol in gas stations. I’m sure their heads would have exploded if I had showed them the drive-through daiquiri stores.

I am reminded all of the camping trips with nights spent sitting outside around a fire. These would have not been complete without a cold High Life in hand.

In Louisiana, we have the great tradition of the crawfish boil. I have yet to find a beer that will wash down spicy crawfish better than a High Life. Now, you might think that the fluted bottle makes it difficult to grab with grungy hands, but you would be wrong. For some reason, that fluted bottle shape gives it just the angles needed to stay tightly gripped within the meathooks I call hands, no matter how wet and slippery they have become. The best part is that it allows me to grab it in such a away as to keep my hands completely away from the mouth. This means no pepper falling collecting in my beer.

One thing I would like to see is this beer on tap. Never once have I seen High Life on tap at a bar. In fact, most bars I’ve been to don’t even carry it. It’s all Miller Light. Now, I enjoy a good Miller Light, and I respect the Vortex gimmick. But there is just something so classy about a bottle of High Life. I think it has to do with the beer’s reputation as cheap. In recent times it has become synonymous with cheap beer. It won’t hit your wallet as hard as others, running at just over half of most common American Pilsners. It’s taste, though,  won’t reflect this in-expense.

We must restore this beer to it’s rightful place of honor. This is not Natural Light we’re talking about. This is not some swill as well suited for industrial cleaning as it is intoxicating hoards of ne’er-do-wells. This a true American classic that our fathers drank. They drank it because their father’s drank it. It’s more than a beer, it’s a tradition.

Stop passing it by. Stop turning up your nose. Pick up a big boy next time you’re out and about, or toss a sixer in your basket next time your at the grocery store. Give it a shot. It might just surprise you. And when you get your first taste of the High Life, there will be no going back.

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