Why a Miller Lite was the Best Beer I’ve Ever Had

Why a Miller Lite was the best beer I’ve ever had.

I’ve worked in craft beer for nearly five years now. I’ve had the fortune to try some truly amazing brews: Pliny the Elder, Heady Topper, Bourbon Barrel Aged Expedition Stout. Supplication? I’ve got one in my mini-fridge. The reason I’m telling you this is because I want to frame my statements here properly. I’ve had good beer, trust me. The best beer I’ve ever had, though, was a Miller Lite.

My father passed away three days before my 21st birthday. The following summer, my mom and I traveled to Sequoia National Park to spread his ashes. He loved that place. While I was there, I fell in love with the idea of getting into the back country, exploring the wilderness, and doing something I never saw my dad do: try something uncomfortable and daring.

One year later, I did just that. I drove from Michigan to California to backpack in the Sierra Nevada Range. It’s a story in and of its own for another time, so here’s a few thousand words worth of pictures instead:

A clear, crisp mid-day at Precipice Lake in Sequoia Nat’l Park.
Andrew J. Pytel at the summit of Mt. Whitney.
The Summit of Mt. Whitney, 14,505′

In the last photo there, if you look closely at me on the right, you can make out the label of the Expedition Stout that I carried for eight days on trail to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The best beer I ever had would come eight hours later. After making it to the summit, we had to make it down. Matt (left) and James (third from left) ran ahead, down the miles and miles of splintered rock. Joe (second from left) stuck with me, and a third of a day later we made it down to the Whitney Portal, to where the guys had set up camp.

That’s when it happened: I drank about half of a lukewarm Miller Lite. And it was glorious. The refreshing malt taste of an American light lager helped me shake off days of dust. We had a fire going, ate the last of our rice and beans, and basked in the ridiculous hike we had just completed. As the night wore on, I lay thinking of how we were going to get back across the Sierra Nevadas. That would be a problem for the next day.

So, you might be asking: what on earth does any of this mean? Simply put: the best beer you can drink is one with friends. The best beer you can drink is one that is celebrating an accomplishment. The best beer you can drink is one that is christening an emerging, different, crazy, or even stupid, adventure.

If I could reach every craft beer enthusiast, recent and seasoned, I would tell them: “Stop chasing the tiger at the brewpub. You’re not going to find your first beer love again.” Grab a Two Hearted, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or a Hamms, and head for the hills, or the mountains, or anywhere that makes you happy. Just make sure to do it with some friends, or a partner, or a parent. I bet that’s where you’ll drink the best beer you’ve ever had. And what it is might surprise you.


When a California trail looks like an alien planet.
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