Miller Brewing Company was founded in 1855 by Frederick Miller after his emigration from Hohenzollern, Germany in 1854 with a unique brewer's yeast. Initially, he purchased the small Plank Road Brewery in Milwaukee for $2,300. The brewery's location in the Miller Valley in Milwaukee provided easy access to raw materials produced on nearby farms. In 1855, Miller changed its name to Miller Brewing Company, Inc. The enterprise remained in the family until 1966.
In 1966, the conglomerate W. R. Grace and Company bought Miller from Lorraine John Mulberger (Frederick Miller's granddaughter, who objected to alcohol) and her family. In 1969, Philip Morris (now Altria) bought Miller from W. R. Grace for $130 million, outbidding PepsiCo.
In 1999 Miller acquired the Hamm's brand from Pabst.
In 2002, South African Breweries bought Miller from Philip Morris for $3.6 billion worth of stock and $2 billion in debt to form SABMiller, with Philip Morris retaining a 36% ownership share and 24.99% voting rights.
In 2006, SABMiller purchased Sparks and Steel Reserve brands from McKenzie River Corporation for $215 million cash. Miller had been producing both brands prior to this purchase.
On July 1, 2008, SABMiller formed MillerCoors, a joint venture with rival Molson Coors to consolidate the production and distribution of its products in the United States, with each parent company's corporate operations and international operations to remain separate and independent of the joint venture. SABMiller owned 58% of the unit, which operated in the United States but not in Canada, where Molson Coors is strongest. Molson Coors owned the rest of the joint venture, but the companies had equal voting power.