The 'Champagne of Beers’ is making a comeback.
Despite my career as a professional beer snob, I’ve always had a soft spot for Miller High Life. The macro lager brewed with corn strikes a drinkable balance between more traditional American pale lagers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and sweeter suds like Rolling Rock. Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds some nostalgic appeal in the “Champagne of Beers.” According to Business Insider, the brew that’s been around since 1903 is making “a steady and swift comeback,” recently posting its first sales uptick in over seven years.
Miller High Life’s recent resurgence isn’t entirely unexpected. Last year, MillerCoors reinvested in the once lagging brand, more than doubling spending, tweaking the packaging and launching a new ad campaign, with the mega-brewer believing it could use High Life to coax growth out its economy beer portfolio. Despite the new angle, however, MillerCoors’ Ryan Marek, director of that portfolio, said the idea is about “celebrating the authenticity that this beer and brand has stood for over 100 years.”
Something is apparently working for Miller because as of the first quarter of 2017, High Life finally saw a return to growth and its best quarter since the third quarter of 2009. Marek told BI that the beer’s success came from both stalwart fans over the age of 50 who had been enjoying the High Life for decades as well as younger, hipper drinkers. The growth was also described as being well-distributed throughout the US. “That to me is the greatest level of success, because we are not having to push ourselves,” Marek was quoted as saying. “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.”
Granted, part of what’s help boosting Miller High Life’s cause is that it has room to grow. Last year, the brand landed at number four on 24/7 Wall St’s annual list of “Beers Americans No Longer Drink” thanks to losing over a quarter of its sales from 2010 to 2015. And according to Statista, despite being MillerCoors’ best-selling non-light beer, the brand still only does about a quarter of the sales Budweiser does, just barely beating out Busch. Amazingly, Miller shipped nearly 24 million barrels of High Life back in 1981; now, that number is closer to 4 million. It’s extremely doubtful The Champagne of Beers will ever return to those astronomical heights, but for now, at least, some people are interested in living the high life again.