“The Champagne of Beers” is having a moment.
Miller High Life is enjoying a steady and swift comeback as beer drinkers are connecting with the less expensive and easy-drinking alternative to craft beers in bars and stores across the US.
MillerCoors, which brews High Life, identified the beer as a brand with potential to be a key player in its bid to return the brewer to total overall volume growth by 2019, according to AdAge.
The brand was given a “genuine” refresh, with new marketing that speaks to the beer’s history and heritage in what the company says in an authentic way.
Since the beer has been around since 1903 and was once considered a high-end brand, the company has a lot to draw from. Its new slogan – “If you’ve got the time we’ve got the beer” – came from a jingle used to promote the beer in the ’70s. A snippet of the jingle plays over close-up shots of the distinctive bottle, while a disembodied voice welcomes viewers to “the high life.”
The packaging has changed somewhat as well. The clear longneck bottle it is served in allows drinkers to peer at the pale golden suds inside, and the vintage-looking label is an eye-catching anachronism that proclaims “The Champagne of Beers” is within. The aesthetic is a standout from the brown glass bottles most beer is sold in, and it all looks remarkably close to how the beer was sold in the early 20th century.
It’s all about “celebrating the authenticity that this beer and brand has stood for for over 100 years,” according to Ryan Marek, the director of the economy portfolio at MillerCoors.
These new efforts seem to have appealed to both longtime, loyal High Life consumers – most of whom are over 50 years old and have been drinking it for decades – as well as younger, hipper beer drinkers who are looking for a brand that tells an authentic story, Marek said.
Younger consumers can “sniff through the bull—- out there” and “know when they’re being marketed to and it’s not a real deal,” Marek said.
In an earnings call with investors to discuss the results from the first quarter of 2017, MillerCoors president and CEO Gavin Hattersley told investors that the beer saw a return to growth and had its best quarter since the third quarter of 2009. High Life’s growth is well-distributed across the country.
“That to me is the greatest level of success, because we are not having to push ourselves,” Marek said. “We’re simply being who we are, standing for the values that we stand for and that’s resonating with enough folks that they’re actively requesting it for their bars.”
That popularity is playing out in bars across America.
When bar owner Jon Ehrlich opened Jackbar in the popular nightlife destination of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2013, he asked his distributor specifically for Miller High Life. Ehrlich said he goes through about 140 cases of High Life in a month. They don’t carry close to that kind of volume for the other bottled beers they stock, and at $4 a bottle, High Life is one of the cheapest beers that the bar carries.
Ehrlich (who says he drinks High Life himself) speculates that the beer has become more popular, especially in expensive metro areas like New York, because of the classic beer-and-shot combo. A bottle of High Life and a shot of well liquor – often whiskey – is frequently known as a “Low Life combo” in bars. It costs $6 at Jackbar.
“You can barely get a hot dog in NYC for that little,” Ehrlich said. “And that’s a common deal throughout many neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”