Pabst Blue Ribbon label beckons new generation of drinkers.

BatmanNate

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
12,444
2
0
Text



Friday, March 19, 2004

Old label Pabst beckons new drinkers
Some credit sharply rising sales with antipathy toward Bud

By JONATHAN DREW
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Young consumers in Portland started it.

And beer drinkers in Seattle quickly followed.

Now the resurgence of an all-but-lost label has spread across the country to a smoky corner of Betty's Food and Sprits, a dimly lighted hangout for local artists, college students and restaurant workers in Columbus, Ohio, where Matt Dixon sips from a red, white and blue aluminum can.

Bartenders pour 13 different microbrews for $3.75 a pint at Betty's, but the best-selling beer is Dixon's choice, $1.50-a- pint Pabst Blue Ribbon, a lager and former blue-collar favorite decades removed from its heyday.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, or simply PBR, is enjoying an unlikely comeback across the country. After a steady decline since the 1970s, sales rose about 5 percent in 2002 and 15 percent in 2003.

"It's just cold and refreshing," Dixon said between gulps. "It's not a bad beer. You just have to get beyond the fact that it's what your dad drinks."

In 2001, sales of the 160-year-old brand had fallen to less than 1 million barrels, about one-tenth its peak in 1975, said Neal Stewart, Pabst Brewing Co. senior brand manager.

Betty's owner, Elizabeth Lessner, said distributors laughed at her when she began asking for kegs of Pabst three years ago. But it was about that time that Pabst's comeback had started; Stewart said the beer's resurgence began when young consumers in Portland adopted the brew.

There had been no change in marketing. Pabst somehow appealed to trendsetters: punk rockers, people into bluegrass, kayakers and mountain bikers, Stewart said.

The brand is the top seller in Portland's Lutz Tavern, which began carrying it in 1999 to replace a discontinued regional beer.

"It's really popular with not only the college students, but also the working-class guy and the Social Security crowd," said Lilias Barisich, whose family has operated the bar since 1954.

The revival spread to San Francisco and Seattle before hopping across the country to the Northeast, Stewart said. By some accounts, its young buyers are rebelling against established, mass-marketed brands.

"There's a theory that there's a niche out here for a consumer that's anti-marketing," said Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketer's Insights.

Lessner at Betty's said: "People are really sick of the Budweiser-type marketing with naked girls and cars. Pabst is kinda hokey and nostalgic, and people like it."

The San Antonio-based Pabst Brewing Co.'s marketing strategy -- or lack thereof -- eschews conventional advertising in favor of generating word-of-mouth buzz.

Although you won't find any Pabst commercials on NFL telecasts or FM radio, Stewart said you might notice that the company sponsoring an art gallery opening or running ads for bands in local publications. But chances are, the only place you'll see the Pabst logo is at a local bar or convenience-store beer aisle: The company's marketing budget is minuscule by industry standards.

In 2002, Pabst spent $427,000 on measured media, which includes television, magazines, billboards, radio and newspapers, compared with Anheuser-Busch's $419 million and Miller's $275 million.

The low-key approach has appealed to customers. At Betty's, Tanya Brooks ordered a Pabst and explained that she's sick of beer advertising that exploits women. The 28-year-old waitress said she'd be disappointed to ever see a Pabst Blue Ribbon advertising campaign.

"My dad drank PBR. It was never about being sexy," she said.

At the Cave, a bar known for live music across the street from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Pabst is one of the most popular and cheapest beers, owner Dave Sorrell said.

"It's what I drink," he said. "It's just a plain, old, simple beer."

Distributors across the country confirm the brand's success but say they don't quite understand it. In Nashville, Tenn., sales shot up 99 percent in 2003, said John Curley, general manager at DET Distributing Co.

"It's almost got this cult-type following," he said. "I have never seen that kind of growth, especially in a brand that's been down and out."

On Chicago's North Side, Louis Glunz Beer Inc. added Pabst to a list of beers it recommends to bars and stores after sales went up by about 35 percent in each of the past two years, general manager Jerry Glunz said. "Pabst was not that kind of beer you had to sell in only the cheap joints anymore," he said.

Despite PBR's success, its parent company is still fourth in the domestic beer market, Shepard said. In 2003, the Pabst Brewing Co. sold about 8 million barrels overall and 1 million barrels of PBR, whereas Anheuser-Busch sold about 103 million barrels, Miller 38 million and Coors 22 million.

"It's a nice story for Pabst that Pabst Blue Ribbon has caught on and is quite popular in many markets, but I don't know if any of the major brewers are quaking in their boots," Shepard said.


w00t.
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
62,118
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Good for them. PBR isn't a bad "light" beer to sit back and sip on the porch on a hot summer night. That and the fact that you can buy a 40oz of it for $2.00 is nice too.

Beer snobs in 4...3....2.....
 

BatmanNate

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
12,444
2
0
Originally posted by: vi_edit
Good for them. PBR isn't a bad "light" beer to sit back and sip on the porch on a hot summer night. That and the fact that you can buy a 40oz of it for $2.00 is nice too.

Beer snobs in 4...3....2.....

:beer:


I've been telling people that for years. I would drink it before bud, miller, coors, etc because while it may not have as much taste as a good beer, it doesn't have the bad taste that most other domestics do. ;)
 

BigSmooth

Lifer
Aug 18, 2000
10,483
7
81
People in Seattle wish they were as cool as people in Portland. :p

"Heineken? F*** that s***. PABST... BLUE... RIBBON!!!" - Frank Booth, Blue Velvet
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
62,118
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I'd also gladly welcome blind taste tests to a good fraction of beer snobs out there. I'd give them blind tests of Natty Ice, Coors Light, High Life, Hieneken, Special Export, Newcastle, Harp, and Guinness and see how they rank flavors when drinking them blind.

Many people have eyes that can taste better than their own tongues.
 

Black88GTA

Diamond Member
Sep 9, 2003
3,430
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0
Maxim did a beer roundup a year or two ago that put PBR above everything else they tested, IIRC. It really isn't a bad beer at all, I never understood why people rag on it so much. Perfect for college students, it's cheap and tastes decent, as far as light beers go. Go PBR!
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
62,118
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Heh. I can go down to a grocery store near me and get a 24 pack of 16oz PBR cans for $10.

Hot deal!
 

AvesPKS

Diamond Member
Apr 21, 2000
4,729
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What the hell are these guys talking about? The only thing that tastes worse to me than PBR is Steel Reserve, and Steel Reserve tastes like regular beer that's left out in the sun, open, for a week. I'm surprised that this has become popular with "trendsetters." I'll stick to my Busch Light, methinks...and I still want to know who gave this beer a blue ribbon.
 

beatle

Diamond Member
Apr 2, 2001
5,661
5
81
Originally posted by: vi_edit
I'd also gladly welcome blind taste tests to a good fraction of beer snobs out there. I'd give them blind tests of Natty Ice, Coors Light, High Life, Hieneken, Special Export, Newcastle, Harp, and Guinness and see how they rank flavors when drinking them blind.

Many people have eyes that can taste better than their own tongues.
Bring it on! :D:beer:

I drank Natty, Coors, Beast, etc. in college because when you're under 21, all beer is good by definition. :) I guess I'm a beer snob now. A good wheat beers is so good. :p
 

BatmanNate

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
12,444
2
0
Originally posted by: AvesPKS
What the hell are these guys talking about? The only thing that tastes worse to me than PBR is Steel Reserve, and Steel Reserve tastes like regular beer that's left out in the sun, open, for a week. I'm surprised that this has become popular with "trendsetters." I'll stick to my Busch Light, methinks...and I still want to know who gave this beer a blue ribbon.
Steel Reserve isn't even beer, it's malt liquor. Although if you need to get sloshy for 2 bucks, you'd be hard pressed to find an easier way. :D
 

Babbles

Diamond Member
Jan 4, 2001
8,250
0
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I am kind of a beer snob, I suppose. I can stand the Millers, Buds, etc. Usually drink Shiner, Bass, Guinness, Fat Tire (and rest of those New Belgium Brewiing Co. beers), Harp, Sam Adams, etc. However, I have had more than my fair share of the 'cheap' beers, and I do not have a problem drinking them at times.

PBR is cheap and tastes okay (I just personally prefer ambers/stouts myself) so therefore it has it's place in life.
 

Vic

Elite Member
Jun 12, 2001
49,411
11,606
136
Ugh... I hate PBR. It sickens me that my hometown is credited with this fad. Look, people here started drinking PBR because a few bars started selling that piss for a buck a pint 'cause no one would buy it otherwise.

:disgust:


<- beer snob and proud of it
 

tweakmm

Lifer
May 28, 2001
18,436
3
0
Originally posted by: BatmanNate
Originally posted by: AvesPKS
What the hell are these guys talking about? The only thing that tastes worse to me than PBR is Steel Reserve, and Steel Reserve tastes like regular beer that's left out in the sun, open, for a week. I'm surprised that this has become popular with "trendsetters." I'll stick to my Busch Light, methinks...and I still want to know who gave this beer a blue ribbon.
Steel Reserve isn't even beer, it's malt liquor. Although if you need to get sloshy for 2 bucks, you'd be hard pressed to find an easier way. :D
If you are going to get a 40 of malt liquor, atleast get a 40 of OE 800.

 

BatmanNate

Lifer
Jul 12, 2000
12,444
2
0
Originally posted by: tweakmm
Originally posted by: BatmanNate
Originally posted by: AvesPKS
What the hell are these guys talking about? The only thing that tastes worse to me than PBR is Steel Reserve, and Steel Reserve tastes like regular beer that's left out in the sun, open, for a week. I'm surprised that this has become popular with "trendsetters." I'll stick to my Busch Light, methinks...and I still want to know who gave this beer a blue ribbon.
Steel Reserve isn't even beer, it's malt liquor. Although if you need to get sloshy for 2 bucks, you'd be hard pressed to find an easier way. :D
If you are going to get a 40 of malt liquor, atleast get a 40 of OE 800.

But the Steel Reserve is higher % and cheaper. Nobody drinks malt liquor for the taste.
 

tweakmm

Lifer
May 28, 2001
18,436
3
0
Originally posted by: BatmanNate
Originally posted by: tweakmm
Originally posted by: BatmanNate
Originally posted by: AvesPKS
What the hell are these guys talking about? The only thing that tastes worse to me than PBR is Steel Reserve, and Steel Reserve tastes like regular beer that's left out in the sun, open, for a week. I'm surprised that this has become popular with "trendsetters." I'll stick to my Busch Light, methinks...and I still want to know who gave this beer a blue ribbon.
Steel Reserve isn't even beer, it's malt liquor. Although if you need to get sloshy for 2 bucks, you'd be hard pressed to find an easier way. :D
If you are going to get a 40 of malt liquor, atleast get a 40 of OE 800.

But the Steel Reserve is higher % and cheaper. Nobody drinks malt liquor for the taste.
How much alcohol does Steel Reserve have and how much does it cost? If you are trying to get shloshed cheap it might as well taste as best as it can.

 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
62,118
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If I just wanted to get sh!tfaced on the cheap, I'd just buy a $6 jug of Fleischmann's vodka and some oj and be done with it :p

 

tweakmm

Lifer
May 28, 2001
18,436
3
0
Originally posted by: BatmanNate
IIRC, it is 9.x percent and costs about $2 at Albertsons.
OE 800 is 8% and costs about 1.40 for a 40, who cares about 20 cents though?
 

Turin39789

Lifer
Nov 21, 2000
12,219
5
81
Ive been drinking it for awhile now, I prefer that someone get me old bastard , guiness, sam smith, old engine oil, rasputin etc

but sometimes you cant afford that . If I can afford to buy a lot of good beer, I go with the cheap stuff. And then it is either PBR, Schlitz, or Falls City( originally a local beer - i have some great relatives that used to work for them it eventually shut down and is made up in pittsburgh somewhere)

I dont buy it because its trendy , I buy it because its cheap - oh and cant forget miller high life
 

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