Pabst Blue Ribbon: A Beer Enigma

Most mass produced beers know their place. In the hierarchy of beers, they fit some niche or demographic. Amstel Light is for people that want to drink a light beer but want more flavor than the cold watered-down “gym sock squeezins” offered by most other companies. Miller 64 and Bud Select 55 are for people that think they can drink beer and lose weight at the same time. Guinness Blonde is for people that are jealous of people that drink Guinness, and want to be part of the club. Then there’s Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).

At first glance you’re tempted to lump it in with all the other big name American Lagers, but for some reason Pabst is different. Hipsters and trend setters in booming craft beer areas like Portland, OR and Seattle, WA seem to love the stuff. Grumpy old men swear by it (Clint Eastwood’s character from Gran Torino was a PBR guy, for goodness sake!). It’s the most popular beer on the dating site FarmersOnly.com. Thus, the enigma.

Clint PBR

I will even make a confession. There is a dive bar about 5 minutes from my house that I occasionally pop into (mostly on 35 cent wing night), and they only have 5 beers on draught (PBR, Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light and Yuengling). I always order a pitcher of PBR for the table (they’re only $5), and it usually leads to more than one pitcher. The toughest part to admit is that while I don’t do it often, I do look forward to it a little when I do. As a craft beer lover, I consider it a guilty pleasure.

I’ve talked with a lot of people who drink it, and the dirty little secret is, we all know it’s not that good. It’s just one of those things, like Bologna, Backwoods cigars, game shows, Reno, NV, bad over-the-top action movies, 80s music, watching baseball on TV and going to your friend with the old above-ground pool’s house when it’s really hot. We know it’s not that good, but we’d miss it if it were gone. That’s probably why PBR has survived since 1844…