I've got nothing against Illinois. Remember the Zook years? Good times. And then remember the 67-65 or whatever game with RichRod a few years ago? Good times.
The nice thing about Illinois is I know what state it's in. And I don't hate Champaign. When I was in college, Champaign road trips were fun. Fond memories there. I think their basketball team is still probably pretty good. I knew a guy that went there once and was pretty solid. So that's cool.
Champaign is home to the similarly-misspelled Destihl brewery, which I'm a big fan of - in terms of spelling, I like puns. And they brand their bottles real well. Check out their stout - it's up there with even the very best Michigan stouts. And that's saying something. But any story about Champaign, Illinois isn't a beer story, or a football story, or even a true story. It's something far more simple, far more pure - a love story.
In college I had a roommate who obsessed over Taylor Swift to the point of covering her songs with a few of his buddies, which I think was hilarious. I showed it to our classmates and it got at least a thousand views. He was pissed. But even that isn't what this is about. As the bard once said,
That you were Romeo, you were throwing pebbles,
And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet"
And I was crying on the staircase Begging you, "Please don't go"
And I said... "Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone.
I'll be waiting; all that's left to do is run.
You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess,
It's a love story, baby,
just say, 'Yes.'"
That Shakespeare had a lot of feelings. But don't we all? The love story I speak of is one involving Wendell Middlebrooks and a gold medal. Yep, I'm talking about a dream starting way back in 1903.
Back then, it was a simpler time. American breweries made their pilsners and lagers and didn't have to deal with sexy bottling or thousands of homebreweries turned craft brewers. So much has happened in the beer landscape since then. It's like that whole thing in Pearl Harbor where that guy goes to war and his best girl is banging another dude and then he comes back and I think his name is Rafe? That's what happened basically in the beer scene in America. But a man named Miller and his merry empire were there for you, baby, and he always has been. Miller is the FDR of the American beer scene, and you can take my word for that. I'm an expert.
So then there was High Life. Weighing in at 4.6% and overcarbonated as shit, it enjoyed a hundred-year lifespan as a dependable, American, beer. Then the assholes at RateBeer gave it a half-star out of five and craft beer became a thing and then everything went to shit. Things were looking dark for our heroes. But then, this happened, several Super Bowls ago:
"I just need to smell me a hot dog or somethin'... just know I'm alive!"
Like many Americans at the time, I was confused. I was torn. Thanks to Wendell, though, I knew one thing: I was in love, and it's never stopped. When I was in college, we had a tradition of giving out beers as awards for certain feats of bravery on the athletic field. Upon my ascendancy to beer-hander-outer, I always handed out champagne.
Sure, you might be saying, but Shash, it's a shitty pun - Champaign -> Champagne -> Miller High Life? Sure it is. I don't care. I very rarely am a champion for beer like this, admittedly so. Heineken is garbage, I hate IPAs, and Stella is on my shit list. But one thing I have always loved - the champagne of beers.
So this weekend, go throw it back - tallboys of the High Life are still a buck if you know where to look.
Cheers, Michigan Faithful! Don't forget to check out the rest of our Illinois content next week. Can't wait to drink through next week's Big Ten town...