History of the Miller Brewing Company
Frederick J. Miller born into a middle class family in Reidlingen, in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, which is a part of present day Germany. The youngest of five children, he begins his apprenticeships in brewing in adolescence and by 1849 is brewmaster to a prince in Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern (pictured).
After immigrating to the United States in 1854, Frederick Miller settles in Milwaukee. There he leases and later purchases the suburban Plank Road Brewery for $2,300. He brings a unique brewer’s yeast from Germany (its descendant yeast is still used in some of our beers) and produces his first barrels of American beer in the fall of that year.
Miller begins bottling in his own facility, and by 1887 is delivering the bottles around town with a “bottle beer wagon.” Previously, Miller’s Bavarian beer was first bottled by a third-party Milwaukee entrepreneur.
Miller pasteurizes its beer for the first time, using the new science developed by Louis.
After years of fermenting its beer in limestone caves chilled by ice blocks, Miller starts using mechanical refrigeration. This enables Miller to ferment beer above ground, enabling better brewing control and year-round production.
Founder Frederick Miller dies having lived a life full of success and tragedy (his first wife and seven of his children died during his lifetime). His second wife and surviving children continue his brewing and philanthropic legacies. He leaves money to Milwaukee’s Marquette University and various Milwaukee charities.
Miller High Life is introduced on Dec. 30 of this year. The beer is packaged in clear, tapered “champagne-style” bottles. The brew is a hit and inspires Miller to invest in additional bottling facilities.
Mechanical filling, labeling and capping is in full production at Miller. Bottled beer means more choices for customers and higher sales. It also boosts the company's image, as customers can now see the Miller brand emblazoned on the label of every bottle.
The Girl in the Moon appears for the first time on a decorative plate, and the public is introduced to one of America’s longest lasting and most iconic advertising images. According to legend, Miller’s advertising manager, A. C. Paul, became lost in woods hunting in northern Wisconsin and had a vision of a girl sitting on a moon guiding him home, and was inspired to place the Miller High Life Girl in a crescent moon for his next advertisement.
Prohibition hits the nation in 1919. Miller brews soda, near-beer, and malt syrups for a small profit, and survives thanks to the family’s personal wealth and investments in real estate, loans, and government securities. But most breweries aren't so fortunate. More than half of the nation's breweries don’t reopen when Prohibition ends in 1933.
World War II creates shortages of beer-making materials, and 15% of breweries’ production is provided to the armed forces. Miller cuts production, drops all brands but High Life, and pulls out of 17 states rather than compromise quality.
Miller tops one million barrels of production annually. This production is realized through the leadership of Frederick C. Miller, grandson of the founder of Miller Brewing Company, and large investments in modernizing the brewery’s equipment and infrastructure post World War II.
Frederick C. Miller, company president at the time, dies in a plane crash on Dec. 17. He led Miller’s significant post-war growth, introduced the company to the value of sports marketing, and invested significantly in Miller’s consumer tour programs, among other accomplishments.
Miller celebrates its 100th anniversary with an extravagant three-day event including a screening of an original feature film telling the story of Miller Brewing Company entitled “With This Ring,” a formal banquet at Milwaukee’s Eagles Club Ballroom, musical performances, a brewery open house, and the staging of an original musical theater production titled “100 Years in America.”
Miller purchases Milwaukee’s A. Gettelman Brewing Co., including its Milwaukee’s Best brand.
Miller family ownership ends, as Philip Morris Companies Inc. buys Miller Brewing Company and selects John Murphy, a lawyer by profession, to be president. Murphy introduces contemporary advertising techniques to Miller, including the concept of “Miller Time.”
Miller launches Miller Lite, the first nationally distributed low-calorie beer, and creates a sensation. Booming sales of Miller Lite vault Miller from the nation’s fourth-largest brewer to second in just two years. The All Stars campaign fuels growth behind its use of celebrities, former athletes and its “tastes great … less filling” slogan.
High Life’s “Miller Time” ad campaign invites new drinkers with the popular slogan “Welcome to Miller Time.”
Miller re-introduces Milwaukee’s Best (the former Gettelman brand) as an affordable economy beer.
Miller continues to innovate with the launch of Miller Genuine Draft, the original cold-filtered packaged draft beer. Instead of being pasteurized with heat like other bottle beers, the beer is cold-filtered through ceramic cylinders and packaged, preserving the beer’s cold freshness.
Miller buys the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, enabling the family brewery out of Chippewa Falls, Wis., to grow and expand into a national brand. Leinie’s continues to successfully operate as a wholly owned subsidiary and is now is in its sixth generation of family involvement.
Miller becomes the first brewer to adopt the 70 percent advertising standard, meaning the company will only advertise in media for which 70 percent of the audience is 21 and older. The broader beer industry adopts the standard four years later. In 2011, the standard is changed to 71.6 percent based on census data.
South African Breweries buys Miller Brewing Company to create SABMiller plc. It is the second largest brewer in the world, with volume of more than 130 million barrels, brewing interests and distribution agreements in 75 countries and hundreds of brands.
Miller celebrates its 150th anniversary with yearlong events, “the Big Brew-Ha” celebration concert at Miller Park featuring the Goo Goo Dolls and Bon Jovi, and the release of the limited-edition Miller’s 150th Anniversary Celebration Lager.
Leinenkugel’s introduces Summer Shandy, a lemonade-flavored beer, to the United States. It is now Leinenkugel’s largest brand.
SABMiller and Molson Coors enter a U.S. joint venture to create MillerCoors. With more than 450 years of combined brewing heritage, a portfolio of industry-leading brands and the best team in beer, MillerCoors is well-positioned as a more competitive U.S. brewer. Leo Kiely is named CEO.
MillerCoors brings back “original” packaging for Miller Lite, fueling a turnaround for the brand.