Usually when a beer lover hears “It’s Miller Time,” they think of lagers and pilsners from a certain Milwaukee-based brewery.
But for some libation loving locals, they might also soon think of a collaboration between two Verona businesses.
Hop Haus Brewing Company and Miller and Sons Supermarket, Main Street neighbors, have teamed up to launch the brewery’s first-ever beer collab, Miller’s Hazy IPA.
With the iconic downtown Verona grocer’s sign – and clock – now on a can of beer, “Miller time” may take on a whole new meaning when reaching for a cold one.
Hop Haus has released special edition beers before, such as March Sadness and Home School Hero, two IPAs released last spring inspired by the pandemic. But this “smooth IPA that has a hint of citrus flavor” is the first time the Verona and Fitchburg-based Hop Haus has created a beer in honor of a business, co-owner Sara Hoechst said.
Released mid-February, the first batch has already sold out.
Hoechst was raised in Verona and has co-operated the company with her husband Phil since June 2015.
Last September, they opened a second space for the business in Fitchburg and hired Verona-raised Tom Marks to be the front of house manager. Marks was a new addition to the Hop Haus family and had not worked at the Verona location.
For the two natives, who between them know “just about everyone in Verona,” Hoechst said, the collaboration with Miller’s was a natural next step for the brewery.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if Miller’s, who has all this support from the community, had their own beer?” Hoechst said.
Mike Hoffman who runs the Pump Room, and Carl Miller were involved in trying different beer recipes, and there were three they really liked. Hoechst suggested they try one to start and see how it was received.
“It went over better than anyone thought it would,” she said. “People ripped through the beer so fast.”
IPAs are “super popular” right now, Hoechst said, especially the ‘hazy’ variety.
Using a combination of oats along with a different kind of yeast from in traditional IPAs, gives it the hazy appearance. While it started as a descriptor of how the beer looks, because you can’t see through it and it’s kind of cloudy, Hoechst said, over years, the beer has name but become more of a ‘type’ – with a fruitier juicier type of hop present in its flavor.
Oats typically are used to adjust the viscosity of the beer but are not usually a prominent flavor note. They’re much more prevalent and noticeable in hazy IPAs, Hoechst said.
While the team had a hard time deciding among three different varieties for Miller’s first beer, it was unanimous having the “iconic” Miller’s sign as the focal point for the beer, Hoechst said.
“It was a no-brainer,” Hoechst said. “It was cool to incorporate something so unique to them in the branding of that can.”
Over the winter, with so many companies unable to host employee parties because of COVID-19, Hop Haus offered for companies to show appreciation to employees or clients by sending them branded beers. But those beers were just a re-sleeveing of existing Hop Haus brews, not a new recipe like the Miller’s collaboration.
“We’d take their logo, create a beer label for it; quite a few companies did it,” Hoechst said. “It kind of became a little niche we discovered over the winter. Winter was pretty tough, with Dane County restrictions, so it was nice to figure out that avenue.”
The first run of the Miller’s beer sold so quickly in Verona, the Mount Horeb store never got to stock any. Hoechst said for the next batch, they’ll get some out to Mount Horeb.
Hop Haus is planning on brewing the hazy IPA again, but also possibly another Miller’s-branded offering for people who don’t like IPAs.
“It will be an ongoing collaboration,” Hoechst said. “Miller’s is iconic in Verona. Hop Haus being across the street I think is so cool. We’re two businesses that started here and since moved beyond. It’ll be exciting to see where this goes.”