“Champagne Velvet has such an amazing legacy; its recipe and brand are so timeless and sexy,” enthused Upland Brewing Company president Doug Dayhoff, as he unveiled CV’s newest incarnation, an image throwback to the svelte 1940s when CV made its Repeal of Prohibition comeback and thrived for a decade.
Then, not unlike Sleeping Beauty under a bad spell, “The Beer With the Million Dollar Flavor” declined into a half-century slumber. In 2000 it had a flirty awakening, and rebounded in full splendor in 2013 when Upland celebrated its 15th anniversary with a nod to Indiana’s German brewing heritage by recreating the original Champagne Velvet flavor profile. Soon thereafter Upland gained designation as an Indiana Artisan brewery.
Now at age 114, Champagne Velvet is the Indiana Bicentennial Commission’s favored heritage brew, starting with an appearance at the April 9 Governor’s Arts Awards and the Indiana Arts Commission’s 50th anniversary celebration.
CV will be featured throughout the 2016 Indiana State Fair, August 1-17. It also goes north for an appearance with the Indiana Society of Chicago on December 3 at the Fairmont Hotel, followed by the Indiana Bicentennial Gala on Dec. 10 at the Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum. In between, CV launch events are planned in communities throughout Indiana from now forward.
Champagne Velvet’s story over the past century is filled with splendor and fraught with happenstance. Its hometown, Terre Haute has a rich history connected with the Wea Tribe, 18th century French explorers and French and British claims of ownership. It was platted as a village with Indiana Statehood in 1816. Brewing history goes back to 1835, with an active roster of openings and closings, with Champagne Velvet’s progenitor being the longest running operation, albeit with changing ownerships, holding on until the economics of consolidations squeezed what once was one of the finest breweries in the U.S. out of business.
The smooth, sessional, classic pilsener flavor now available in cans, bottles and on tap, is the product of Upland’s diligence to create a beer in keeping with the original 1902 recipe yet tweaked to please our modern palate. For a year prior to the 2013 re-launch in Terre Haute, the Upland brewing team tested recipes with a wide range of people until just the right balance was formulated between malted barley and corn [favored in a pilsener a century ago] and between German noble hops [Tettnang] and the oldest known U.S. grown hops [Cluster].
Upland in 2013 also recreated the interlinking CV label with red, white, blue colors.
Had Terre Haute native and history buff Michael Rowe not succumbed to what he refers to as his ‘life’s greatest distraction,’ we wouldn’t now be sipping CV. His story appears in many formats, including his oral history in True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana [Indiana University Press, pages 104-107].
Briefly, after closing down in 1959, Terre Haute Brewing Company buildings fell into disrepair and were on the verge of demolition when Rowe stepped in. That was 1990, when he undertook a systematic reclamation of buildings to enliven Terre Haute’s storied history, particularly developing M. Mogger’s Restaurant and Pub at 904 Poplar Street, a museum showcasing Terre Haute’s brewing legacy and eventually a brewery in 1995. Rowe purchased the CV brand from Pabst Brewing, which had acquired it as part of consolidations.
After the long-lost original CV recipe resurfaced, Rowe’s efforts to recreate the beer did not quite mesh. Fast forward to 2012 with Doug Dayhoff buying the CV brand and brewer Walter Braun’s handwritten recipe from Rowe, with the intention of encircling Indiana’s present and future within its past. A neat happily ever-after for a beer whose unique taste a century ago was insured for one million dollars.
However, in the midst of all this Rowe never quite got clear from his ‘life’s greatest distraction.’ CV now might be coming forth from Bloomington, but Terre Haute’s older brewing legacy equally is back in business in Rowe’s recreated brewery at 401 S. 9th St., now owned by Jeff Hock and his business partners, Mike Costantino and Phil Rossillo. Rowe is brewing together with Matt McBride at the newly designated Terre Haute Brewing Company. A menu of six beers is underway along with the restaurant build out for a soon-to-happen opening.
And of course Champagne Velvet, the iconic Indiana lager that was a local tradition and a regional and national favorite, is at home in Terre Haute —on tap and in bottles and cans at numerous locations, in its 1940s dress up, via Upland Brewing Company.
shared by M. Moggers Restaurant: Some say below M. Moggers in Terre Haute it’s haunted. In reality, there are tunnels that lead under the city all the way to the river from the brewery, used to ship beer by boat, and later by train and truck; though for city beer delivery it was with horse drawn wagons, reportedly supplied by a stable of 50 Clydesdales.
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