Over the past two and a half years I have tried like hell to get in touch with the people from Miller because I really love their flagship beer (old=flagship) — Miller High Life. I wanted to be involved, I wanted them to sponsor ACL, and well, shit, I wanted some free beer! In addition to obsessing over their super bubbly deliciousness, I have long been obsessed with the W+K produced / Errol Morris directed series of commercials. I think maybe the Errol Morris spots were ahead of their time. Especially when you consider the what is happening these days with this whole Americana thing. I also think that maybe the marketing folks at Miller don’t get it — just look at the “common sense” ads that the company has been running for the past few years. High Life is a gold mine of heritage, the best bottle shape in beer drinking and is a relatively unbiased product. When I say “unbiased” I mean — that while some people may view High Life as cheap and watery — they don’t attach the same connotations as the Bud Lights of the world.

I think a lot of people sort of forgot about High life because so few bars and restaurants serve it. Last night a friend and I went to Quality Meats in midtown for dinner and I was surprised that they offer Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders along with a host of craft beers. That reminded me of a few weeks ago when I was in Madison, Wisconsin when friends and I had steaks at the Tornado Club and they served High Life in the bottle. That’s a nice touch. Fancy food and an “everyman” beer. Now I don’t profess to know everything about the politics of restaurant beer sales — but why isn’t High Life sold at more places? I understand how some people may not like High Life and how many prefer small batch beers. But come on, High Life is just as tasty as Amstel Light, and most people think that beer is “upmarket” or however you want to call it. That’s horse shit.

At the end of the day — even if you don’t like High Life — you have to give it credit for it’s amazing packaging. When I heard that Landor San Francisco was updating the look and feel I got nervous they were going to bastardize it. That was until I saw what they did, and man they nailed it. (Packaging update is pictured above and below.) Thankfully they didn’t walk away from their history and iconic design. Now if I couldn’t only get someone from Miller on the horn…

The best part — Landor made the reverse of the labels appear as bottles of champagne.

All images (via The Dieline)

Comments on “A Shiny New HIGH LIFE

    jfox/10eon June 23, 2010 @ 12:23 PM:

    The back of the bottle labels is pure genuis… also previously I could never find any info on the little stars.. what did they represent? (a constellation??) and love how the redesign takes them and notches them above the red “soft cross” on the cases as bubbles… champ-ale.

    There is also very little academic (i am saying this w/ a straight face) writing on these errol morris ads. there must be something out there (any filmheads in Cambridge who ‘graduated’ from Morris’ stable want to jump in??). have to say 2 of our fave joints in Boston have championed the High Life forever -Silvertones and now Trina’s. Their “Adult Happy Meal”, a high life and a shot… smiles.

    Don’t see it referenced much on the loop, but Sam Peckinpah’s Junior Bonner also might interest. i think i saw it mentioned on another blog…

    Shawnon June 23, 2010 @ 12:26 PM:

    Great post. MHL is all I have in the fridge at the house. Father-in-law turned me onto it a long time ago and I have not looked back since I opened that 1st Red Lady. Love the fact it is a ‘real’ beer. If I don’t get an Old Fashion, I order a MHL when I am out.

    Johnon June 23, 2010 @ 12:33 PM:

    Georgia’s Eastside BBQ and Enid’s in Williamsburg both carry it and I’m pretty sure they both have $2 happy hour specials on High Life. I know for certain Enid’s does because I happily took advantage a couple weeks ago while watching USA v England there.

    Markon June 23, 2010 @ 12:41 PM:

    Nothing like a High Life on a hot day. And the Tornado Room is a gem in its own right. Best Old Fashioned in the world.

    Evanon June 23, 2010 @ 1:06 PM:

    “High Life is just as tasty as Amstel Light”

    Um, what?

    tarik salehon June 23, 2010 @ 1:07 PM:

    Nice. I think the 8 ounce bottles served really cold is the perfect hot and muggy in the south beer at parties. When I lived in Knoxville I drank many a stubby bottle of high life. Last time I visited knoxville the time warp 1982 bar in the sunsphere was serving 2 dollar high lifes in champagne glasses.

    The bar still had the original fixtures, wood panels and black toilets from that weird early eighties period where it was not sure if it was still the 70’s or not.

    I think you will find PBR and high life much more common than you would expect. PBR especially has resurged on the back of the hipster market.

    Michael Williamson June 23, 2010 @ 1:15 PM:

    Evan — you don’t really think Amstel tastes good do you?

    Bretton June 23, 2010 @ 1:27 PM:

    I’ve always liked the clear bottle (do they really use a preservative to “protect” the beer when its in a clear bottle?) and the shape. With the REAL-MAN retro-sexual look on the upswing, and a return to “American Values”…AND the rising cost of beer here in CA!!!!! I don’t know why the American labels aren’t mining all of that opportunity to sell us some good times. I like MHL, but my lady-friend thinks it’s declasse.

    “It says Champagne right on the bottle honey!”

    Hopefully this post will give you some traction with them.


    Bretton June 23, 2010 @ 1:37 PM:

    …wait, I think i just saw some MHL in the new Green Hornet trailer…

    chrison June 23, 2010 @ 2:06 PM:

    none of the commercial american beers taste good. love for logos and old designs/design, americana is another thing, but drinking this swill??

    Ryanon June 23, 2010 @ 2:15 PM:

    High Life is the best, 4 pack of tall boys for less than 5 bucks is something we can all agree on.

    I liked the Busch redesign too, camo and blaze orange cans were just fantastically tacky.

    Andyon June 23, 2010 @ 2:15 PM:

    You need to move to Wisconsin. You’d fit right in, and we’d be proud to have you. And, oh yeah, High Life is served everywhere here. In glorious bottles, no less.

    Coreyon June 23, 2010 @ 2:37 PM:

    you know when a High Life tastes best? right after a boob shot

    Charleson June 23, 2010 @ 2:48 PM:

    Amstel is a joke. As far as cheap American beer goes, High Life kills it. I always enjoy high gravity and/or small batch beers, but when the temp rises down here in Alabama nothing beats an ice cold High Life. Great post. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the new labeling among kindred devotees, yet no one has mentioned the back of the labels. Thanks for pointing it out to us.

    branton June 23, 2010 @ 2:48 PM:

    check out the cowgirl seahorse in the seaport area of nyc-they serve bottles. if you are still thirsty head up the street for a scotch at the bridge cafe-the selection/price is unreal-bourbon too…

    Benon June 23, 2010 @ 2:55 PM:

    I’m not sure what awful planet many of you are from, but the rest of us have been drinking High Life all over this country in bottle, cans, tall boys, 32s, 40s, and minis for years. It’s always looked good, and tasted great, no matter how many you have.

    Except the second week of February.

    Windhamingon June 23, 2010 @ 3:34 PM:

    Wish I liked High Life – I do like the other Miller Beers.

    Speaking of Americana, about 15 years ago, Miller did a great series of ads invoking the industrial workingman with the tagline “It’s time for a good old Macrobrew.” They were really ahead of the curve there, and did make me rethink the creation of beer in vast quantities as an industrial process with close monitoring for quality. Different than craftsmanship, but valuable in its own right.

    Andrewon June 23, 2010 @ 3:42 PM:

    Have you been to Ernestine and Hazel’s in Memphis? Kind of a famous dive. All they had in a bottle was ice cold High Life. Not something I normally choose but it sure tasted great on a hot night, with the smell of burgers frying up behind the bar.

    Dylanon June 23, 2010 @ 3:55 PM:

    You may not see it much in Manhattan, but High Life is all over Brooklyn. Usually paired with a shot of Evan Williams or the like as a $5 special. There is even a nice wine bar that I frequent in my hood that’s sells the 16 oz. cans, which are listed on the menu as “Tall can of our finest Champagne” or something like that. I’ve been drinking 30 packs of this since I got my driver’s permit.

    alexismaiaon June 23, 2010 @ 3:55 PM:

    Man, I don’t even like beer and now I want a High Life!

    Kevinon June 23, 2010 @ 4:23 PM:

    If you’re ever in Des Moines stop by the High life Lounge.

    adamon June 23, 2010 @ 4:50 PM:

    this post = big ad
    ACL, i hope you were paid handsomely for such an obvious and egregious sell out

    Michael Williamson June 23, 2010 @ 4:52 PM:

    Adam — I wish I was paid for that.

    FLScotton June 23, 2010 @ 5:03 PM:

    Man… really? High Life equals low life…. but I guess that everybody’s got their own set of tastebuds, so cheers anyway mate – to USA’s spectacular victory over Algeria today!

    Tedon June 23, 2010 @ 6:36 PM:

    These pretzels are making me thirsty

    Tintinon June 23, 2010 @ 6:40 PM:

    I know a guy who works at Miller in Milawaukee. I’m pretty sure he told me employees get 4 or 6 free cases a month. I’m not sure that would hold you.

    beckyon June 23, 2010 @ 6:44 PM:

    High Life= Low Life, nice one.

    Jasonon June 23, 2010 @ 8:13 PM:

    Nice packaging, but it’s mind boggling how people could have refined tastes for chambray this and japanese selvage denim that, and then those same people go and put miller high life in their mouths. ick. I understand there is nostalgia involved, but we actually have good beer these days in the way of microbrews! The same level of connoisseurism should be applied to all aspects of life. Let’s all set down the pbr and miller high life along with our ironic trucker hats.

    Hallockon June 23, 2010 @ 8:20 PM:

    Good packaging, bad beer. Would much rather have a Summer Shandy for the price.

    Ryanon June 23, 2010 @ 9:19 PM:

    High Life, really? Why would you waste calories on this swill? The branding is alright, but drinking this over any of the numerous quality microbrews is a travesty!

    Roberton June 23, 2010 @ 10:52 PM:

    The best of the Errol Morris ads… Then again, how bad can scurvy be?

    robbieon June 23, 2010 @ 11:07 PM:

    d’you ever get the ad I mailed you?

    Russell Sproutson June 23, 2010 @ 11:33 PM:

    Corey, I prefer my High Life after a shot of Boob Scotch.


    Willon June 24, 2010 @ 12:25 AM:

    MHL=Watery American Corporate Swill. Thanks to Odin for the microbrew revolution.

    Keithon June 24, 2010 @ 12:46 AM:

    High Life is fantastic and many bars around Chicago carry it.

    I too love a good microbrew, but some occasions just call for inexpensive lager, and for those situations there’s nothing better than High Life. Pretty standard for my fridge to have a 30 pack in it at any given time.

    MaroonHoosieron June 24, 2010 @ 3:27 AM:

    I agree with Keith: given the choice, I’ll take a microbrew or Belgian every time! But not everyone shares those tastes so, especially when stocking the fridge for a party, I turn to:

    1.) Cheap domestics with style: I can easily pick up a sixer (or 30) of a classic American brand for several bucks less than Miller/Coors/Bud. Today these brands are almost always owned by a larger brewing concern (look ’em up) but also often have a long history tied to a specific region, and (more recently) have devoted attention to classic packaging designs. Favorites available in IL/IN include Stroh’s (originally Detroit), Schlitz (Milwaukee), Hamm’s (Minnesota) and the ubiquitous Pabst. When on the West Coast, look for Olympia (“Oly”, Seattle). Bonus: most are available ‘Light’: why consume extra calories for crappy beer? Amstel Light is no exception- give me quality or give me value!!

    2.) Regional offshoot of #1:Ask any Cubs fan to associate a beer with the team. Unless they’ve never been to Wrigley Field and have only followed results from ESPN or FOX-broadcast games, they will respond with “Old Style”. Essentially the same as any beer mentioned in #1.), Old Style is married to the team in a way only exceeded by European soccer teams that have the company logo displayed right on the uniform. Despite being a company owned by Pabst & brewed by contract in Milwaukee, Old Style runs the ‘Think Local, Drink Local’ ad campaign focusing on Chicago-specific attributes. This team-centered branding means that Old Style will cost more per pack based directly on its distance from the Windy City. Nevertheless, if hosting a Cubs-themed party, accept no substitutes.

    3.) For just a little more than the swill above, anyone from NY-FL (plus a few Appalachian states) can tell you that Yuengling is “America’s Oldest Brewery” and that, for roughly the same price as Miller/Coors/Bud, this is perhaps the best beer value on the East Coast. The Bald Eagle & script on the bottle puts it miles ahead of any nationwide competitor. If only they would expand distribution- my roommate and I sweet-talk/cajole any friend who travels east of the Alleghenies to bring back a case of the traditional Lager or highly-coveted Black & Tan, which manages to surprise and delight party-goers from PA and VA.

    Once again, thanks for opening the door on American “heritage” brands. For all readers, please do your research and consult your local supermarkets and convenience stores- you will NOT find the best brews around (for that see RateBeer and BeerAdvocate), but you WILL find cheaper & more interesting alternatives to Bud/Miller/Coors Lite…

    Tonyon June 24, 2010 @ 8:43 AM:

    Beer snobs, lighten up. We all love microbrews but sometimes the occasion calls for a $20 case of High Life or Coors Light.

    Nickon June 24, 2010 @ 9:09 AM:

    even if i was an alcoholic bum i wouldn’t want to drink this miller low life, bud or any american commercially produced piss water

    Todd Simmonson June 24, 2010 @ 9:42 AM:

    Very very well done. Beautiful work.


    richfellon June 24, 2010 @ 11:09 AM:

    if your not living the high life, your not living..

    Christian Coxon June 24, 2010 @ 11:48 AM:

    I love drinking an ice-cold High Life. My favorite place is Back Room BBQ in Knoxville, TN (where I live) and I walk in every evening and the bartenders always reach for the cooler stocked full of high life. They know me far too well. I think it really is one of the better domestic, inexpensive beers. Drank PBR for so long, but eventually grew tired of it.

    Good post!

    Cuongon June 24, 2010 @ 11:51 AM:

    Hmmm, for a Blog that is into craftsmanship and good clothing this post contradicts. I would think you would be doing a post on Brooklyn Brewery and the like of local Craft beer, you might as well do a PBR post too. Just saying.

    jbjoneson June 24, 2010 @ 1:37 PM:

    high life is headache juice but it was the first beer i ever had so i’ll cut it a little slack. if i’m going american low-brow, i always enjoy a bottle of rheingold. great with peanuts and old guys.

    Larryon June 24, 2010 @ 1:41 PM:

    Kevin, High Life Lounge is a trip back in time… I agree, highly suggest stopping in there for a shorty of the Champagne of Beers and some Tater Tot Hot Dish. For the craft connoisseur it’s connected to El Bait Shop serving hundreds of craft brews from Saranac (Utica, NY) to Lagunitas (Petaluma, CA).

    A couple other great Americana beers (without the feeling that you just consumed 15 jalapeno sliders the next morning…. rumble, rumble) Minnesota’s own Grain Belt Premium and “from the land of sky blue waters” Hamm’s!

    Vinceon June 24, 2010 @ 1:47 PM:

    The new redesign by Landor for this run of the mill beer is great and all, but any highly profitable company can afford a slick re-branding project like this. I don’t want to drink beer that can be bought at Walmart. And let’s not get started on PBR. Seriously though, denying that beer is an “upmarket” is like denying that denim is an “upmarket.” If you’re going to feature Miller, you might as well feature Buddy’s Jeans.

    There are countless numbers of American craft brewers who break their backs making amazing products for a low profit, simply because they love their work. Sound familiar? Hopefully you’ll eventually feature some of these American craft brewers one day. I consider you a purveyor of lesser known, more than worthy, quality made Americana goods. Denim, bags, wallets, shoes, whatever it may be. I think some of these craft brewers deserve some respect and recognition too. Miller will do fine on it’s own.

    Kyleon June 24, 2010 @ 2:25 PM:

    Michael, gotta agree that High Life is just so necessary on a warm day and it’s easy to throw down…even tastier when ice cold. I also love that it’s a measly $10 for a 12-pack in my hood. The new re-design is glorious and classic, some commentors are losing site of the MO for your post, to embrace the fantastic branding/design and not boast the taste.

    Though, as a self-proclaimed beer snob myself, I’d advise swinging by the Whole Food Beer Room on Bowery and then take a trip around the corner to New Beer Distributors on Chrystie. If you’re looking for some damn fine branding, look no further than many of the best small domestic breweries and their beers carried at both outlets. Not to mention you can buy some amazing brews. I go once a month, my favorite routine shopping trip.

    Kevinon June 24, 2010 @ 3:29 PM:

    Larry….Your right. The High Life Lounge and El Bait Shop together satisfy every range of beer drinker. Both are on Esquire’s list of best bars in America and the fact that they are connected means your mouth is never bored.

    The only rule for High Life is that it must be ICE COLD.

    growingon June 24, 2010 @ 4:57 PM:


    From the About page:

    A Continuous Lean is about things. American things, good looking things, well designed things and all sorts of other things. Sometimes A Continuous Lean even talks about people and ideas. That’s it, keep it simple. More good, less bad.

    And what is wrong with PBR!?

    Williamon June 24, 2010 @ 5:06 PM:

    I loved how a year or so after the Errol Morris no fruit in beer ads they came out with Miller (swill) Chill. We sure have a short memory…

    Ulysseson June 24, 2010 @ 6:03 PM:

    Favorite beer – will always be. They serve it out of the can at Georgia’s Eastside BBQ here in New York.

    Isaac Buieon June 25, 2010 @ 12:20 AM:

    I don’t drink beer, but If I did, it would be MHL.

    richard austinon June 25, 2010 @ 9:38 AM:

    I read ACL 3/4 times a week and its turned me on to some very cool stuff, don’t think I would have found Quoddy without this site for instance.

    But the beer debate is too much! Microbrews? Crafted beer. Look, I love some local/small US beers, but if you can’t see the need for a cooler full of easy drinking, gentle buzz MLH, then you’ve never been down South, sweating it out as you drink it, watching a band.
    Or you’ve never been fishing, cracking the first one at 10am on the water… basically you’ve probably never done any of the “real” stuff the work clothes and redwings you obsess over suggests you’ve done.

    Travison June 25, 2010 @ 12:12 PM:

    This post made me go out and buy a 12 of MHL.

    Larryon June 25, 2010 @ 12:17 PM:

    This post made me order three MHL’s at the bar last night.

    Jon June 25, 2010 @ 1:26 PM:

    I have always preferred my champagne in the bottle, but there are two exceptions. In the fall in Michigan, High Life comes ready for hunting season in a beautiful “hunter’s” orange can with all-black graphics. The looks is very vintage Halloween, but its also a great way to keep drunks from shooting at your beer. The second is the giant quart can, relatively new to the Detroit area. It is a simple golden can and looks like a prop from a movie due to its immense size in your hand. Reminds me of the album art for “The Who Sell Out”.

    HBon June 25, 2010 @ 2:16 PM:

    I will second richard austin’s post. I can’t say it any better!

    CLWon June 25, 2010 @ 2:29 PM:

    An icy cold Miller is pictured in the July Southern LIving magazine.’Nuff said!

    Zachon June 25, 2010 @ 4:01 PM:

    Thank you so much for this. High Life is my go-to. I have been on it for a decade, but thank you for spreading the word.

    Adamon June 25, 2010 @ 4:17 PM:


    I’m not sure what you were going for since you proved Cuong’s point. SABMiller is not American, whatever neato label is on there. Reach for a Brookly Lager or Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yellow Pils…super easy drinking and refreshing beers right there.

    Michael Williamson June 25, 2010 @ 4:20 PM:


    You are wrong actually, this falls under the “well designed things” section.

    Tim Ton June 25, 2010 @ 9:51 PM:

    I much prefer the previous generation cans but how can you argue with 30 of them for under $15?

    Jinxon June 26, 2010 @ 3:41 AM:

    There’s only one thing left to say……………


    That is the AD CAMPAIGN, not Errol Morris ,that should remind you
    and help you to remember the way it’s supposed to be.

    Whether its Weekends were made for Michelob, Tonight let it be Lowenbrau,
    When you say Bud you’ve said it all, the spirit of those times had it right.
    The atmosphere of the old fashioned steak dinner, the old fashioned pub,
    where cigars flowed freely, the poker table with Oscar Madison type
    men,the connection and sponsorship to the sportsworld, what was
    watching Wide World Of Sports without the classic beer ads,
    the skiers, the outdoor activity, the campfire grills,the warm holiday ads,
    the hard day at work laborers, where the beer capped of the day perfectly,
    and made it all worth it……….ADULTS. Not this asinine party atmosphere
    marketing to those just becoming of legal drinking age for the last 20-25
    years. Return to celebrating the way it used to be. That’s what’s missing
    in modern translations of yesteryears classic beers.

    markon June 28, 2010 @ 1:12 AM:

    Wow Michael you really stirred up a hornet’s nest of beer snobs. On occasion I like a domestic served in a glass with chipped ice. So what??? About 15 years ago I lived close to the Miller Plant in Irwindale, Ca. Kind of nice to pass your time in traffic on the 210 fwy and smell those hops a brewing. Cheers to your write up and I think you raised a nice observation of how Miller really should be capitalizing on this Americana Fever with a decent ad campaign.

    athompsonon June 28, 2010 @ 1:03 PM:

    Of all the beers made by the big 3 I give High Life the crown. If you haven’t already you should read Travels With Barley by Ken Wells. Americana+beer book+road trip=great reading.

    d bonaventuraon June 28, 2010 @ 8:57 PM:

    New packaging, but the same great taste… the only beer i’ve purchased for the past 5 years… after all it is the “champagne of beers” oh – the High Life!!!!!

    Don’t tell a friend – keep it cheep…. God know’s that we don’t need another over priced beer.

    Lord Lucanon June 29, 2010 @ 1:37 PM:

    This strata of commercial American beer is complete pig-swill! It’s as false a product as a MacDonald’s hamburger and just as disgusting. This is not to mention the massive and ominous empire that the American beer lobby represents in Washington.

    If you’re really a proud American you should seek out a smaller American brewery like Dogfish Head (there are a ton more) that tastes better, is made better and supports a true American industry…not a massive global empire that’s more likely than not owned by foreigners.

    apparatuson July 9, 2010 @ 2:59 PM:

    im sure half the people talking sh*t about high life haven’t had one in a while. it’s cheap, easy to drink, available everywhere and freakin’ rad when it’s ice cold and hot as hell outside. it’s american beer it’s not some microbrew and it’s not trying to be. put that trucker hat on grow a manbeard be ironic and drink some high life crash your fixie blow some sh*t up. be american. be rad.

    but seriously f*ck McDonalds

    jfox/10eon July 14, 2010 @ 11:28 AM:

    @vince, @lordlucan. this one’s for you. i tried. i liked. http://10engines.blogspot.com/2010/07/mayflower-brewing.html
    sidenote; the smell of hops has disappeared from Edinburgh. used to be a huge memory for me…

    Joe Mon July 18, 2010 @ 4:40 PM:

    Miller High Life is truly an awesome beer. It’s price is low and the quality is high. Sure it’s not a craft beer or “high class” but as far as I am concerned, it gives you the most ‘bang for your buck’. I live in Arizona, and it’s widely available. In fact, at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, they actually serve it on tap. That’s awesome!

    Guy Wiseon July 20, 2010 @ 3:24 PM:


    If anyone is ever in NW Indiana, please visit our store: Wise Guys Discount Liquors as we’re help the Miller High Life cause by collecting tabs and caps from Miller High Life and High Life Light to help support returning veterans.

    Miller is donating 10 cents for every cap and tab collecting and putting into a returning veterans fund. To find out more info, please visit:


    Join in and give a veteran a piece of the high life.


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