Your dad's favourite 114-year-old beer is suddenly cool

Miller High LifeMillerCoorsMiller High Life has returned to growth for the first time since 2009.

It seems these days more beer drinkers are living the high life and choosing “The Champagne of Beers.”

Miller High Life is enjoying a steady and swift comeback as some beer drinkers connect with the less expensive and easy-drinking alternative to heavy 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. It’s 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 is accounted for, as is 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 long-time loyal High Life consumers, most of whom are over 50 years old and have been drinking it for decades, as well as younger beer drinkers looking for a brand telling an authentic story, according to Marek.

Younger consumers can “sniff through the bullshit 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 call to discuss the results from the first quarter of 2017, MillerCoors president and CEO Gavin Hattersley told investors the beer that 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.

High Life’s growth is well-distribute across the country. Marek called the beer’s turnaround “remarkably fast,” though he said he said he wasn’t surprised as he always knew the beer brand contained an “embarrassment of riches.”

High Life has become so popular that without MillerCoors even pitching the beer to wholesalers and others in the market, Marek said they’re asking for it specifically.

“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.”

In major cities across the US, the beer’s popularity has become obvious to bargoers.

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 $US4 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 $US6 at Jackbar.

“You can barely get a hot dog in NYC for that little,” Ehrlich said. “And that’s a common deal throughout many neighbourhoods in Brooklyn.”

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