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A Party Befitting Indiana’s Champagne of Beers

May 3, 2019

St. Patrick’s Day 1934 was one to remember in Terre Haute. Four months earlier, Prohibition was repealed and the city was ready to herald the reopening of the Terre Haute Brewing Company and the reintroduction of its signature product, Champagne Velvet. Almost 30,000 people paraded through the streets singing the Champagne Velvet March:

“Here’s to Champagn Velvet, The best beer in the land;

It’s the beer that brings good cheer with a taste that is so grand.

In bottles or ‘in the keg’ the beer with a care;

You’ll fall for and call for Champagne Velvet everywhere.”

Champagne Velvet float in parade in Terre Haute 1934. Martin Collection, IHS

Few beers encapsulate Hoosier heritage better than Champagne Velvet. First brewed by assistant brewer Walter Bruhn for the Terre Haute Brewing Company in 1902, the German-style pilsner catapulted the brewery to the seventh largest in the United States. But Prohibition, the 14-year period alcohol sales were outlawed, halted production and the brewery shuttered in 1928.

With the end of Prohibition, businessman Oscar Baur returned to his native Terre Haute in 1933 to reopen the brewery. After extensive repairs, the reopened modernized buildings at Ninth and Poplar streets would become Indiana’s largest brewery.

To celebrate Champagne Velvet’s return, Baur organized a grand party. Rain clouds couldn’t stymie the spirit, as airplanes circled the parade route. Bands from surrounding towns ushered 50 elaborately decorated floats down Wabash Street. At the end of the route, reveling culminated at the brewery’s improvised taproom, where 35 bartenders kept partygoers in free beer.

Within a year of production, Champagne Velvet was available in 19 states. By 1938, most of the country knew this Indiana brew and its signature “Million-Dollar Taste.”

Want to learn more about Champagne Velvet’s heritage, Indiana’s German brewing roots and how Upland Brewing resurrected the brew? Celebrate Craft Beer Week by joining us at Pints from the Past on May 16.

Callie McCune Callie McCune is a fierce researcher, expert crafter, connoisseur of great ice cream and a firm believer that Abraham Lincoln is from Illinois (despite the claims of everyone around her). She can usually be found at IHS planning public programs on the seedy, fascinating, delicious and overlooked parts of Indiana’s history (often with matching earrings).

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