Miller Mysteries, Very Vintage High Life and Other Finds in the Vaults

frederick j miller millercoors

Our longtime archivist is retiring, but not before showing us around

Beer history from the Milwaukee archives: Miller High Life circa 1951

Miller High Life circa 1951

When our archivist retires this month, we’ll toast him with the Champagne of Beers.


Miller High Life has rich history, and Dave Herrewig loves history (and High Life).


Dave Herrewig

Dave Herrewig

It’s the oldest brand made in the Milwaukee brewery, where Dave has run the archives for a dozen years. And the oldest intact beer in the company happens to be a few bottles of High Life from the early 1950s.


“Notice how clear the liquid is after more than 60 years,” Dave says. “But beer is meant to be enjoyed fresh, so often the solids precipitate out and it loses the characteristics of beer.


“We opened some once. One bottle did resemble beer by aroma, though, no, I didn’t taste it!”


Dave spent time at Miller Brewing Co. (now part of MillerCoors) while working on his master’s degree in history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was helping a friend research a book on the Miller family when he met Tice Nichols, who set up the company archives.


“The idea occurred to me, ‘Maybe I could work there!’ ” Dave says. “I kept in touch with Tice and would send him information I found regarding Miller Brewing history. That’s what led to a job interview.”


Before that, Dave worked in publishing, and as a state probation and parole agent. But if you met Dave, you’d have trouble picturing him doing anything other than sleuthing and preserving.


Case in point: His plans for retirement include organizing his own papers and memorabilia. He also plans to do some traveling with his wife, Kathy.


But before he goes, we asked him for a peek into the archives and to share some of his favorite pieces of MillerCoors history. Cheers, Dave!

What’s the most unusual thing in the MillerCoors archives?

DAVE HERREWIG: Unquestionably, the artifact that has attracted the most attention is a part of the airplane that crashed in 1954, killing Miller President Frederick C. Miller, his older son and the two pilots. It has a large painting of the Girl in the Moon on the fuselage.


On a less serious note, I like a 1940s or so hand-painted Miller High Life logo from the side of a tavern. They sawed out the entire artwork with siding boards and all. The whole thing is in the archives just the way they cut it out.

What’s the oldest?

Ancestral papers from Riedlingen, Germany, where founder Frederick Miller was born. These papers go back to the 1700s — sometime in the 1950s they were obtained by the Miller family.

What period in MillerCoors history do you find most fascinating?

Probably my favorite is the era before Prohibition took effect in 1919.  Beer sales were very different then, as brewers could legally own the saloons. People, mostly men, drank from fragile little glasses called shell glasses. Miller Brewing was being run by the widow and adult children of the founder, and I wish I could have met them.

What do you wish we knew more about?

There’s a lot we still don’t know about Frederick Miller’s early brewery and about how Miller operated before Prohibition. I still wonder if something from this era will come up for sale online.

What will you miss most about the MillerCoors archives?

The people who’ve helped me so much over the years. Because of them, it’s been a great run! I’ll also miss the questions, as I’ve learned most of what I know about Miller history and beer history because people have asked good questions that forced me to find answers.





How to Talk Cider Like a Pro

Crispin Cider bottles

8 Tips From Victoria Tonini

Victoria Tonini Crispin Cider

Victoria Tonini

Hard cider just had the best year ever. Not even craft beer grew faster.

But cider remains a bit mysterious. So we went to one of our top insiders — Victoria Tonini, signature cider-maker at Crispin — for some enlightenment. Victoria is also a professional chef, a sommelier, a graduate of America’s oldest brewing school, and she’s studying for her master cicerone exam.

Here’s some of her cider wisdom, all of which we plan to recycle at the bar:

1. Cider is wine

It may look like beer — with its 12-ounce bottles, bombers, cans and pint glasses — but it’s apple wine. Pear cider, aka “perry,” is pear wine. There’s no brewing, just fermenting.

2. It’s naturally gluten-free

Cider is made from fruit, not grains.

3. Cider has a lot of style

Sometimes it’s extra dry and champagne-like. Sometimes it’s unfiltered and cloudy. And barrel-aging can give it rich notes of vanilla, whiskey, spice, dried cherries, plums and more.

4. Men drink cider too

Word is out that it’s not just for ladies who don’t drink beer. In fact, about 45 percent of cider buyers are men, according to Nielsen Spectra data.

5. A snakebite is just the start

“Cider is made for mixology,” Victoria says. She swaps spirits for cider to get a cocktail that’s more sessionable without diluting the flavor. Her favorite: a cucumber cooler with perry instead of gin.

6. Cider is an excellent cook

Use it like wine, for poaching and brining. Try it with chicken: “Cider not only helps tenderize because of the acidity from the apple, but it also adds an amazing boost of flavor,” Victoria says. Cider’s sweeter fruit base means acidity minus the sour, so it’s great for sauces, vinaigrettes and syrups.

7. It lives for Sunday Funday

“It’s the perfect brunch beverage,” Victoria says. “The flavor profile works so well with eggs, meat and French toast.” It’s also quite nice with orange juice à la mimosa.

8. Cider isn’t stuck-up

It can be very chic and appeal to sophisticated palates. (Just peep these tasting terms.) But it’s also casual and loves a good cookout. “Cider doesn’t have a snobbery attached to it,” Victoria says. “And I hope it never does.”



How We’re Making Beer With Sunshine

MillerCoors Irwindale Brewery Solar Panels

MillerCoors brews over 6 million barrels of beer a year in California, and now we’re doing so with much more energy independence.
This week we finished installing more than 10,000 solar panels on 10 acres of our Irwindale brewery in Los Angeles County. At capacity on a sunny day, the panels will supply more than 40 percent of the brewery’s energy. That energy is used to heat kettles, package our products — any and all aspects of making beer.
Here are a few things to know about Irwindale, where beer is truly brewed by the sun:

MillerCoors Irwindale Brewery has the largest solar installation at any brewery in the U.S.

The panels have a 3.2 megawatt capacity — enough energy to power more than 13,000 California homes over 30 years … or brew 7 million cases of beer a year.

The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is like planting 4.2 million trees

The solar installation will prevent more than 98.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over its lifetime.

Using solar energy will save water too — enough to fill 1,000 Olympic-size pools

The panels will save nearly 675 million gallons of water over 30 years that would otherwise be consumed to produce electricity from fossil fuel or nuclear sources.

We’ve reduced energy use in our Irwindale Brewery by 30 percent over the past five years

And through our water conservation efforts, we’ve saved more than 186 million gallons of water since 2009. The new solar panels are just the next step toward brewing more sustainably.