Miller High Life has long counted among its fans a large contingent of craft brewers who appreciate its timelessness, down-to-earth style and easy drinking nature.
One of those fans is Spike Buckowski, the co-founder and brewmaster of Terrapin Beer Co., the Georgia-based brewery known for its hop-forward IPAs.
So when Terrapin starting toying with the idea of brewing a brut IPA, a style known for its dry finish and Champagne-like effervescence, it was only natural that the MillerCoors-owned brewer would look to the original Champagne of Beers.
“It was a no-brainer to go in this direction,” Buckowski says. “We wanted to make a beer that finishes dry and Champagne-like, and the style just fit.”
The resulting beer, Hoppin’ Bubbly Brut IPA, marries elements of two originals: the recipe is built with the grain bill of Miller High Life and the hops (Cascade and Amarillo) used to make Terrapin’s Rye Pale Ale, the beer that launched the brewery. Buckowski, who calls Miller High Life his ‘go-to American lager,’ threw in some additional Citra and Mosaic hops for aroma, as well as a touch of flaked corn and flaked rye for mouthfeel and flavor.
Hoppin’ Bubbly pours golden with an aromatic, juicy hop aroma and a restrained bitterness. The 6.5% alcohol-by-volume IPA finishes dry and clean, with very few residual sugars, typical of the emerging craft style.
Cans and secondary packaging nod to both brands. Both use Miller High Life gold as the primary color and Terrapin’s signature green for the brand name. Miller High Life’s Girl in the Moon takes center stage, this time hoisting a can of Hoppin’ Bubbly instead of a bottle of Miller High Life.
The beer is brewed at Terrapin’s Athens, Ga., brewery and will launch May 1 in its taproom there as well as its ATL Brew Lab in SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. It will launch in six-packs of 12-ounce cans shortly thereafter in both brands’ home markets of Wisconsin and Georgia.
“If it’s successful, which we think it will be, there’s no reason why we couldn’t expand to other markets,” says Jeff Schulman, an associate marketing manager for Miller High Life. “This is all part of our goal to continue building relationships with the craft beer community, which is very important to us because they’re our loyal customers.”
The collaboration with Terrapin comes about three years after Miller High Life teamed up with a Chicago craft brewery, Off Color, to make Eeek!, an American wild ale also built off the High Life grain bill. After high demand for the funky, tart version of Miller High Life in the initial run, Eeek! came back last spring for another limited engagement.
Because of its wide appeal among craft brewers and drinkers, Miller High Life is the perfect partner for such collaborations, Schulman says.
“This all plays into our craft and High Life platform: It’s a beer for brewers who want something sessionable, affordable and easy drinking after their shift,” he says.
That’s a notion familiar to Buckowski.
“I’m a big fan of familiar, well-worn bars,” Buckowski says. “And when I’m in one of them, I’m looking for a High Life bottle. It’s my go-to. It’s the bottle shape, the label, the clear glass. The beer, obviously. It’s just a classic bottle look and feel and it just feels right.”
And now he got his chance to give his go-to beer a Terrapin-trademark hoppy twist.