Ask Bacchus: Beer Pioneer

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Some say the history of beer is the history of civilization. We’re not going to go into that, but here’s a little bit about an ‘American Beer’ Pioneer:

When Frederick Miller brewed his first barrel of beer in America in 1855, he spoke passionately about “Quality, Uncompromising and Unchanging.” It became his trivial slogan, his vision, his mission for the company.

He dressed and acted like a Frenchman, but his “confoundedly good glass of beer” won the respect of the German community of early Milwaukee. Tall and spare, Frederick Edward John Miller had a long face with a high forehead and short, Parisian beard. Born November 24, 1824, the man destined to found the Miler Brewing Company hailed from a family of German politicians, scholars and business owners and reportedly was bequeathed $3,000 annually from a German ancestor.

At the age of 14, he was sent to France for seven years of study, including Latin, French and English. After his graduation, he toured France, Italy, Switzerland and Algiers. On his way back to Germany, he visited his uncle -- a brewer -- in Nancy, France. He decided to stay and learn the business.

Working through the various departments of his uncle’s brewery, and supplementing the experience thus gained with the fruits of observation during visits to various beer-producing cities of Germany, he leased the royal brewery and brewed beer under a royal license that read, “By gracious permission of his highness.”

Political unrest in Germany caused him to pull up stakes (with $9,000 in gold) and emigrate to New York City and then on the Mississippi on a river boat. His adventures on the river led him to Milwaukee.

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Shortly after he arrived in Milwaukee, Frederick Miller paid $8,000 for the Plank-Road Brewery – a five-year – old brewery started by Frederick Charles Best and abandoned in 1854. Miller became a brewery owner in an era when beer sold for about $5 per barrel in the Milwaukee area and for three to five cents a glass at the city’s taverns. The Plank-Road Brewery -- now the Milwaukee Brewery -- was several miles west of Milwaukee. It proved ideal for its nearness to a good water source and to raw materials grown on surrounding farms.

Miller was a resourceful businessman. He established a beautiful beer garden that attracted weekend crowds for drinking, bowling, dancing and fine lunches. Soon he opened another beer hall and his company grew and grew.

Enjoy Miller products at Bacchus today.

Frederick Miller: A true American (immigrant) success story.

JL