Vintage Beer Ads: PBR Edition

Any brewery that has been around for more than 50 years has probably done some advertising that in today’s culture would be seen as odd, uncouth or even criminal. I think it’s hilarious, so I’ve decided to bring it to you here. Today’s subject is Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).

Pabst has been around since 1844, so there is no shortage of advertising material to choose from. Nowadays we think of PBR as a beer for hipsters or blue-collar types, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, for much of PBRs existence their ads showcased it as a beer for the affluent, to be poured by servants.


This looks like a healthy husband-wife relationship. Not only was she expected to bring him his beer, he couldn’t even be troubled to pour it, and why should he when he can spend those valuable seconds ogling her in a mildly creepy fashion. Eventually (probably around the time of women’s suffrage), it probably became less acceptable to portray wives as servants, so they started using children, in this case teenage beer vendors:


What a great suggestion! Next time I’m at the old ballgame I’m gonna yell “Hey Boy!” and flip him a nickel and see what happens. The only thing that would make that scenario better is if I yelled that to African-American beer vendor… oh wait, they’ve got the racist angle covered:


Now I’m not saying PBR is racist, in fact any company that advertised in the pre-civil rights era most likely has advertising like this in their skeleton closet, but I am saying that the Ad Execs that worked for Pabst during this time period “Sho was quality folks” (sarcasm). At some point they moved forward and embraced a more 1950s version of servant:


Just look at all the progress they’ve made! This time the servant isn’t a wife, an adolescent or a black person. In fact, this servant works for the wife (or the “fine Missus”). I’m not sure what type of accent she’s supposed to have other than “ignorant”, but at least we’re moving in the right direction.

Sometime in the late 1950’s Pabst got away from the servant theme, and went with a more progressive ad campaign:


Pounding a 12-Pack of PBR while riding a tandem bike sure looks fun and fancy free in this 1959 ad, but today this activity would be considered DUI or DWI by many states, not to mention getting ticketed for no bike helmets,… what a buzz kill! The good news is, when all else fails you can always count on celebrity endorsement:


Nothing says “enjoy a PBR ” more than Hall-of-Fame tennis player Pancho Gonzalez doing an unnecessary and awkward crotch-in-your-face deep lunge in the direction of his dining partner. Now that’s smooth…

Maybe I’m reading too much into some sexual innuendo that isn’t there, but I’m definitely not reading into it on this advertising item:


Say hello to the Pabst Mr. Super Cool Blue Man sponge. “Dip in water and watch him swell”. Clearly we all know how sponges work, so I would interpret these “operating instructions” as more of a warning.

Well, I’m sure we’ve just dipped our toe in the shallow end of PBRs 170 years of advertising pool (and I didn’t swell, in case you were wondering), but it was well worth it.