Damn right your dad drank it. That slogan belongs to Canadian Club whiskey, but it could just as easily apply to Champagne Velvet, an iconic Indiana lager that was one of the best-selling beers in the region during the 1940s. Originally brewed by Terre Haute Brewing Co., the beer had been out of production since the 1970s. Thanks to Upland, it’s back. Guided by a nearly century-old dusty notebook containing the original brewer’s mash bill recipe, Upland’s brewers have been able to create a modern replica of this pre-Prohibition lager first brewed in the early 1900s.
“There are a lot of craft breweries who think that they invented regionally brewed, flavorful beer. But of course we’re all walking in the footsteps of giants,” says Upland’s president Doug Dayhoff. “With CV, you can step into that footstep. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers would have drank this beer.”
Upland first brewed Champagne Velvet as a one-off anniversary project in 2013, but liked it so much that they’ve packaged the beer for wider distribution this year. If the idea of Upland—a brewery known for its experimental ales and sours—brewing an adjunct lager seems a bit strange to you, Dayhoff doesn’t see it that way.
“I think the reason adjunct has a horrible connotation generally, and rightfully, is that it’s an ingredient that is less expensive and is less flavorful. But from my perspective, that’s not why they used it back in 1902,” Dayhoff says. “It would be less authentic for us not to use corn than to use it.”
After 30 test batches, Upland brewers finally settled on a recipe that’s a close interpretation of the original Champagne Velvet flavor.
“What we ended up with is a pilsner that’s a lighter flavored beer than a big randy ale, but it is flavorful and distinctive. It has a beautiful corn flavor that you cannot detect in the big domestic lagers. You won’t be mistaking it for an industrial domestic lager,” Dayhoff says.
But how have craft beer drinkers responded to it?
“The biggest surprise for us was that many of the bars that are pouring this beer are actually some of the beer-geekiest bars,” Dayhoff says. “They’ve embraced a great-tasting lager that has a good local legacy.”
Like Miller High Life, the “Champagne of beers” which recently introduced retro packaging inspired by its past labels and signs, Champagne Velvet likely also benefits from a hefty bit of drinking nostalgia.