Ah, good ol’ PBR. Perhaps the most iconic of American beer. Referenced in movies and songs, brought to “I’m cooler than you” levels of hipster snobbery and possessive of that oh-so-important bang for your buck quality… yes, even this seeker of all quality ales has to admit: there’s nothing quite like a Pabst.
Before we get knee-deep in our “Blue Velvet” references and Dennis Hopper impersonations, let’s cover a little history. Begun as Best Select in 1848, the name changed to Pabst in 1889. Then began a practice of tying actual blue ribbons around the neck of the bottle as a method of standing out amongst the herd. Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were so many local breweries that brand recognition was almost unheard of. One would simply walk into a neighborhood tavern and order a beer. The blue ribbon got Pabst noticed. “Gimmie a… oh, I’ll take that one with the fancy ribbon.”
PBR enjoyed about half a century of growth and prosperity until 1977. A lack of debt and an output of 18 million barrels of beer caught the eye of corporate raiders. $11 million dollars in court battles later, Pabst found itself on the verge of collapse. They consolidated with the makers of Hamm’s and Olympia, both notorious and beloved northern beers as well, and struggled until the late 1990s when they were all acquired by Miller Brewing Co.
Somewhere around that time there was a revival of sorts. Grimy traditionalists of real rock and roll came together with 50s nostalgists and sought to bring back the kitsch and cool of that magical era when music became dangerous and cars became more than a way to get from A to B. As denim cuffs got rolled deep and hair scooped up into a pompadour, Pabst came back with a vengeance.
Honestly, PBR is a no-frills drink. Not terrible, yet not incredible… but still more than a mediocre beverage. Whether we drink it because our grandfathers did, it’s the cheapest thing at the bar or you simply can’t make up your mind, PBR will, somehow, reign supreme over the fancy-fied and complex craft ales every time. It’s crisp, it’s not fussy, it’s cold, it doesn’t cost a lot and it’s gonna get the job done. PBR me ASAP.