Miller Lite is one of the best-selling beer brands in the United States. It has been heavily marketed since its inception, gaining tons of fans along the way. There have been a lot of questions about the beer, many of which we have answered previously on this blog, but one many still want an answer for is when the beer came out and why. Here’s a quick answer.
Miller Lite was first developed in 1967 under the name Gablinger’s Diet Beer. That same year, the beer was taken up by Meister Brau Brewing and called Meister Brau Lite. In 1975, the beer was rebranded and relaunched as Miller Lite. The official name of the beer was Lite Beer from Miller or Lite until 1998, when it became Miller Lite.
While this answer offers key points, there’s far more to it. Here, we will walk you through why Miller Lite came into the North American market and why it was so successful. Also, we will consider where Miller Lite was first brewed, its price after launch, and whether it was indeed the first American light beer. Read on!
Why Did Miller Lite Come Out?
The Miller Lite beer brand on the market today was launched in 1975 by the Miller Brewing Company. Before its official launch, Miller Lite had two predecessors – Gablinger’s Diet Beer and Meister Brau Lite. Below, we will analyze the reason for the light beer hitting the market in the first place.
Targeting Health-Conscious Fans
As we have established, Miller Lite had two predecessors. The first of these was Gablinger’s Diet Beer, invented by Joseph Owades, a biochemist and employee of Rheingold Brewery in New York.
The reasoning behind the creation of Gablinger’s Diet Beer was to appeal to more health-conscious beer fans. Owade believed he could make a lighter beer by removing starch from beer, and he was right. However, the product itself was not great and flopped heavily.
Not to be defeated, Owade shared the light beer recipe with Meister Brau Brewery in Chicago after being permitted to do so by Rheingold Brewery. Meister Brau, also targeting health-conscious beer lovers, released its own version of the light beer, calling it Meister Brau Lite. Meister’s version of the beer fared better than Rheingold’s, but the company went bankrupt in 1972.
The first real venture into light beer in America was by Dr. Joseph Owade under the premise that he could make beer healthier by making it lighter.
Potential With Light Beer Predecessors
After bankruptcy, Miller Brewery bought most of Rheingold’s existing beer labels, including the recipe for Meister Brau Lite. It was not until three years later that Miller Lite, Miller’s version of the light beer, was officially launched.
One would expect that Miller Brewery would be skeptical after the failure of the first two versions of Lite beer, but the company saw potential in the product. In fact, Miller Brewery was so invested in the light beer project that they spent the better part of three years after buying the recipe advertising heavily.
They were bent on making light beer a success because they genuinely believed it could become revolutionary in the industry. Their inspiration to fiercely pursue the idea may have been similar to Rheingold’s and Meister Brau’s, which is targeting diet-conscious beer lovers. Alternatively, they simply may have wanted to release something different to the industry.
Whichever way, Miller Brewery saw potential in light beers and the two initial products, which ultimately birthed Miller Lite.
Changing Consumer Preferences
Another reason for Miller Brewery releasing Miller Lite is the changing trends and preferences in the beer industry. The regular beer that dominated the industry before the 1970s was not as common with the baby boomers. This may have been because of the apparent health implications or simply the fact that regular beers were bitter.
Additionally, one of the key objectives of Miller Brewery with Lite was to target populations that were previously not interested in beer. Unlike beer lovers, non-beer fans were not comfortable with the bitter taste and non-refreshing nature of beer, especially with the rise of sodas.
Being 4.2% ABV, Miller Lite was lighter in calories than regular beers and more refreshing. Both of these features aligned with the interests of many consumers during that time.
Why Was Miller Lite So Successful After Its Launch?
Miller Lite was a massive hit when it finally dropped, with the beer brand claiming the number 2 spot on the top-selling beer brands just two years after its official launch. The success was unprecedented, and Miller Lite colonized the top place in the Light beer industry for years after its launch. Why was it this successful?
First and foremost, aggressive marketing and advertising. The three years between Miller Brewery obtaining the light beer recipe from Meister Brau and officially launching the products were filled with tons of advertisements. The adverts during this period featured top male athletes, positioning the beer as masculine.
Moreover, the tagline “Everything you want in a beer. And less” was legendary. It captured the hearts of many, perfectly whetting their appetite for what was to come. Essentially, it implied beer fans could drink more of their favorite beer.
Aside from heavy advertisements, Miller Lite ensured to run enough tests within the three-year wait time. They tested the product in Illinois, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and California, having enough time to make any adjustments they felt were necessary.
Where Was Miller Lite First Brewed?
Miller Lite was first brewed in Fort Worth, Texas. This may come as a surprise to many considering Miller Brewing Company, the manufacturer, has its headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2016, Molson Coors of Chicago, Illinois, bought the Miller Brewing Company.
Aside from Texas and Wisconsin, Miller Lite is brewed in Georgia, North Carolina, California, and Ohio. The product is available in all American states today.
How Much Was Miller Lite When It First Came Out?
Miller Lite was an instant success, catapulting an underperforming Miller Brewing Company to the top two in the beer brand sales. The premium price for the beer was $2.85 for a six-pack in its early years.
At first, Miller Brewing Company produced 12.8 million barrels of the beer, but it almost doubled its production to 24.2 million barrels five years later.
Was Miller Lite The First American Light Beer?
Miller Lite itself is not the first light beer to hit the market. That title belongs to Gablinger’s Diet Beer, produced in 1967. After its failure, Meister Brau Lite was introduced to the market. This also didn’t last too long, with Miller Brewing Company rebranding the product and officially launching it in 1975.
It is permissible to call Miller Lite the first light beer, considering it’s technically just a variant of the first two commercial light beers. However, the Miller Lite we know today was not the first to hit the market. A more appropriate title will be “the first successful light beer.”