The Untold Truth Of Miller's Ale House

For a restaurant chain founded more than 30 years ago, Miller's Ale House is often underrated. Even though the company boasts more than 90 locations, as listed on the chain's website, they are in only 10 states, with a majority of Miller's restaurants in Florida. 

For those lucky enough to live near a Miller's Ale House location, the chain's cult status makes perfect sense. This restaurant is quietly humming along as a favorite go-to for many, a reliable destination for a wide selection of craft beer, delicious bar fare, and American dining classics. It's become popular for friend and family gatherings, as well as for watching the game — so much so that considering Miller's no-reservation policy, you should be ready to wait for a table to open up (via LancasterOnline). 

Despite its devoted fan following, Miller's Ale House has a lesser-known presence in the overall, nationwide restaurant scene. So we'll unpack some key facts about the chain, many of which you may find surprising.

Miller's Ale House is no longer owned by a Miller

Husband and wife duo Jack and Claire Miller opened the first Miller's Ale House in 1988 in Jupiter, Florida (via Miller's Ale House). After their success in this location, the couple decided to grow their restaurant into a chain. By 2013, Miller's Ale House had expanded to 65 restaurants in Florida and other states. That's when Jack Miller and SKM Equity Fund III sold the chain to Roark Capital Partners, according to a Roark press release provide by PR Newswire.  

"Jack Miller and the entire Ale House team have created a truly unique restaurant concept focused on great food, great service and great value," said Phil Hickey, who took over as chairman of Miller's Ale House after the sale. Since the deal was done, Miller's Ale House has grown to 98 locations and counting, according to its website. The company is in growth mode, targeting eight to 10 new openings a year. Miller's appears to be in good hands with its current owners. Roark Capital Group owns other dining-out favorites, including Arby's, Auntie Anne's, Cinnabon, Carvel Ice Cream, Moe's Southwest Grill, and Wingstop.

Miller's has a huge beer selection

It makes sense that a restaurant with "ale house" in its name would put an emphasis on beer. Miller's Ale House really marries the restaurant and bar concepts, focusing equally on food and drink. While all kinds of drinks are on the menu, from sodas to cocktails, the chain stays true to its name with an especially well-planned beer program. Regular customers can expect to try something new every time they visit, or they can stick to their favorites. Either way, newcomers who walk in the door because they see "ale house" on the sign won't be disappointed. A lager lover will be just as happy as an IPA enthusiast. 

Miller's Ale House has been known to have as many as 75 beers on the menu. According to the Bar-i blog, the old standard was for a bar to have maybe six or eight taps. Nowadays, places that want to lean into the craft movement may have 20 to 40 beers on tap at the same time. Miller's Ale House's selection is right up there with other breweries, as the chain boasts on its website that it has more than 35 beers on tap.

Miller's has its own version of chicken tenders

Is it a boneless chicken wing? A chicken finger? A chicken tender? None of the above: Miller's Ale House calls it a "Zinger." Not content to follow the pack without making its own mark in the pub grub category, Miller's fine-tuned a fried favorite to create a signature item. Zingers take center stage on Miller's menu and in its promotions, as the chain's menu webpage attests. Zingers are a staple for regulars and the thing to try for first-timers, according to LancasterOnline

In case you're already thinking it: No, Miller's didn't exactly reinvent the wheel here. But they have perfected their own proprietary approach to chicken strips that's proven a winner over the years. Zingers are boneless, fried, never frozen, coated with buttermilk, and hand-breaded. The best part, arguably, is choosing a sauce. With two new sauces introduced in August 2020, Miller's now has 17 options to accompany your Zingers, from Nashville Hot to Mango Habañero, Caribbean Jerk, Teriyaki, and Garlic Parmesan (via Facebook). You can also get Zingers on a salad, sandwich, flatbread, or even macaroni and cheese

Miller's Ale House is a sports bar

A Miller's Ale House motto is, "If you have a team, we have a screen." According to Miller's website, Miller's Ale House boasts "wall-to-wall screens," which can mean more than 60 TVs in one restaurant — as the website for the Media, Pennsylvania ale house brags. While a huge menu of consistently great food and beverages provides the restaurant half of the Miller's equation, a mission to help every patron cheer on their favorite team brings the whole sports bar side of things into play. Thanks to the perfect combo of beer, fried chicken, and tons of televisions, the different locations of this chain have become major destinations for people to gather with friends and watch any game (or set, or match) in any sport. 

This means you might want to time your visit with a little consideration, reports LancasterOnline. If you're going for the excitement of viewing the game with fellow fans, then proceed without caution. If you'd like to sit at a table and engage in deep conversation with the rest of your party, you may want to go when there are no extra-popular games on. Things can definitely get a little loud at Miller's Ale House.

Miller's Ale House learned the hard way that you can't trademark 'ale house'

One of the reasons Miller's Ale House might not be so well known is because it takes a geographic approach to naming its restaurants. Technically, these locations are fully called Miller's (name of city) Ale House, but the restaurants' signs often omit the "Miller's" part. For example, the sign outside the Miller's Ale House in Fort Lauderdale, Florida says "Ft. Lauderdale Ale House" (via South Florida Sun Sentinel).  

This approach to naming may create a nice connection with each location's community, but it can also cause confusion. In a blog post titled "Miller's Ale House: How Not to Name Your Restaurant," law firm David Lizerbram & Associates writes of the Miller's Ale House, Inc. v. Boynton Carolina Ale House case. The dispute pitted a Miller's in Boynton Beach, Florida, against another company that opened an establishment in the same town called Boynton Carolina Ale House. (This company was based in North Carolina, and all of its restaurants had "Carolina" in the name.) The law firm pointed out that place names can't be trademarked, and "ale house" is a generic term any restaurant would be allowed to use. The company's locations will just have to co-exist in Boynton Beach, along with any other ale houses that might want to open there.