We can reminisce on 2015 as the “Year of the Book” in Milwaukee, among many other dubious pop distinctions no doubt. Miller Brewing, the Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee’s neighborhoods (Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods) and even its most infamous characters (Milwaukee Mayhem) got books published in their honor. In the case of Miller, releasing a book this past September for their 168th birthday seemed kind of odd. Before the year ended, Miller announced unceremoniously that they had sold out again, this time to Budweiser’s parent; a self-fulfilling prophesy, the king of beers rightfully toasting the champagne of beers.
Despite that downer, Miller, Inside the High Life’s author Paul Bialas put together a rather charming and stylish urban anthropology of Miller’s place in Milwaukee’s salubrious lore.
A tale of determination, indomitable American enterprising spirit, artisan craft, industrial ingenuity, superior brand aesthetic, and bushels of wonderful people, Bialas captures the stoey of all Miller’s key ingredients. His photographic narrative recieved punctuation with creative assistance from a lab collaborators including illustrators Neal, Pete and Sean Driscoll, and Yellow Design, who drew and designed original art compositions and a one-off commemorative Miller brand identity for this occasion, and editors Jessica Hermanny and Elizabeth Urban who helped shape the written content of the book.
Bialas also curated songs from a scrappy group of local musicians and Miller affiliates past and present, who give the book audio accompaniment on its CD insert soundtrack. A feature from one of Milwaukee’s budding home grown favorites Mississippi Sawyer lends the Inside the High Life EP a tad of indie cred.
Brew to the Future
Did you know that 170 years ago High Life had a different recipe than the present day sharply carbonated refreshing liquid gold-that somehow-tastes-better-in-the-untinted-glass-bottle-than-in-the-metallic-gold-aluminum-can High Life (mind you nothing tastes more like a summer in Milwaukee than High Life in a can) ? The Miller brewmeisters dusted off the original recipe books to accompany the release of Bialas’ latest work.
A special batch of original High Life was rolled out in the Miller Brewery cellar for the Inside the High Life book release party in September 2015. The gang that attended, recieved it like a kid getting a new flavor of pop tarts.
Big Bro vs Little Bro
These two bros got some years on them. Let’s start there. Its just great that someone kept track of the original recipe. You would think that a fire or an ink spill, jealous cousin, or disgruntled employee might have caused its demise before it could even make its centinnial. But no, the stock of Frederick Miller and his equally obsessive lineage didn’t allow such unfortunate mishaps.
A bit maltier, old High Life’s flavor profile has a richer, nearly creamy character. It toes the line of pilsner and traditional lager closer than its younger brother, making it actually more of dinner swill than summer barbeque or pub session thirst quencher. Who knows, if Miller would have pushed this brand of High Life, Milwaukee might have become the Louisville of the Midwest, a bourbon sipping greyhound racing town rather than a charcoal grilling, remote control car racing town.
Paul Bialas’s Inside the High Life stands as his third published gem highlighting vintage Milwaukee breweries. Get a taste of his first two efforts Pabst, An Excavation of Art and Schlitz, Brewing Art and this one on the Brewery Books website. Hard not having a shred of pride in the fact that Milwaukee’s the only city in the land that can claim this kind of brew history.