Pabst Blue Ribbon

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Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst Blue Ribbon logo.svg
Type American-style lager
Manufacturer Pabst Brewing Company
Introduced 1844
Alcohol by volume 4.74% – 5.9%

Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) is an American brand of beer sold by Pabst Brewing Company, originally established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1844, but now based in Los Angeles.[1] Pabst Blue Ribbon is contract-brewed in six different breweries around the U.S. in facilities owned by Miller Brewing Company (a few of which were actually Pabst breweries at one time).

Originally called Best Select, and then Pabst Select, the current name came from the blue ribbons that were tied around the bottle neck, a practice that ran from 1882 until 1916.


Brand name[edit]

Pabst Blue Ribbon got its start with the arrival of Gottlieb and Frederika Pabst, and their son twelve-year-old Frederick, in the United States in 1848. The family eventually settled in Chicago, Illinois, where Frederick eventually found work on the ships of Lake Michigan.[2] In March, 1862, Frederick married Maria Best, daughter of the founder and owner of the Best Brewing Company and by January of the next year Frederick had joined his father-in-law's as a brewer in the Best brewery.[3]

When Philip Best retired to Germany in 1867 (he would die in 1869), Pabst and Emil Schandein—his sister-in-law's husband and the vice-president of Best Brewery—worked to transform the company into one of the nation's largest brewers, capitalizing on, among other things, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that destroyed nineteen Chicago breweries and helped position Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the leading beer-producing city in the United States.[4] In December, 1889, Shandein died, leaving Pabst as president and his widow, Lisette Schandein, as vice-president.[5][6] In early 1890 Pabst changed the "Best" letterhead to "Pabst," and the Pabst Brewing Company had officially begun.

The company has historically claimed its flagship beer was renamed Pabst Blue Ribbon following its win as "America’s Best" at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Whether the brand actually won an award in 1893 is unclear. Some contemporaneous accounts indicate that many vendors were frustrated by the fair's refusal to award such prizes. One account says that the only prizes awarded by the executive committee were bronze medals, in recognition of "some independent and essential excellence in the article displayed", rather than "merely to indicate the relative merits of competing exhibits".[clarification needed][8]

Peak, decline, and revival[edit]

A 1911 advertisement showing a blue ribbon tied around the bottle

Sales of Pabst peaked in 1977, when they reached 18 million barrels.[9] In 1980 and 1981, the company had four different CEOs, and by 1982 it was fifth in beer sales in the U.S., dropping from third in 1980.[10]

In 1996, Pabst headquarters left Milwaukee,[11] and the company ended beer production at company's main complex in downtown Milwaukee.[12]

By 2001, the brand's sales were below a million barrels. That year, the company got a new CEO, Brian Kovalchuk, formerly the CFO of Benetton, and major changes at the company's marketing department were made.[13]

In 2010, food industry executive C. Dean Metropoulos bought the company for a reported $250 million.[14]

In June 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission forced two advertising executives to cease efforts to raise $300 million to buy the Pabst Brewing Company. The two had raised over $200 million by crowdsourcing, collecting pledges via their website, Facebook, and Twitter.[15]


Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, published the following tasting notes for Pabst Blue Ribbon in 2008: "A contrasting counterpoint of sharp texture and flowing sweetness is evident at the first sip of this historic brew. A slowly increasing hoppiness adds to the interplay of ingredients, while the texture smooths out by mid-bottle. The clear, pale-gold body is light and fizzy. Medium-bodied Blue Ribbon finishes with a dusting of malts and hops. A satisfying American classic and a Gold Medal winner at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival."[16]

Nutritional content[edit]

A 12 US fluid ounces (0.35 l) Pabst Blue Ribbon has:[17]

Marketing and revival[edit]

Pabst Blue Ribbon concession stand at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

The beer experienced a sales revival in the early 2000s after a two decade-long slump, largely due to its increasing popularity among urban hipsters.[18][19] Although the Pabst website features user-submitted photography, much of which features twenty-something Pabst drinkers dressed in alternative fashions,[20] the company has opted not to fully embrace the countercultural label in its marketing, fearing that doing so could jeopardize the very "authenticity" that made the brand popular (as was the case with the poorly received OK Soda).[18][21][22] Pabst instead targets its desired market niche through the sponsorship of indie music, local businesses, facial hair clubs (RVA Beard League), post-collegiate sports teams,[23] dive bars and radio programming like National Public Radio's All Things Considered.[19][24] The beer has also been featured prominently in films such as Blue Velvet,[25] Everything Must Go and Gran Torino,[26] and in television shows such as AMC's Breaking Bad and South Park. The company encourages fan art to be submitted online, and is subsequently shown on the beer's official Facebook page.[27]

Outside of the United States[edit]


As of September 2013, there are plans to distribute Pabst Blue Ribbon in Australia.[28] Dan Murphy's liquor stores have been stocking the beer since 2012 due to its popularity.[29]


Pabst Blue Ribbon America has a licensing agreement and joint venture arrangement with China Pabst Blue Ribbon. It is produced, marketed and distributed by CBR Brewing Company, which jointly owns the company along with Guangdong Blue Ribbon Group under a sub-licensing agreement with the Pabst Brewing Company. CBR is a British Virgin Islands owned company but it is based in Hong Kong.[30][31][32] China Pabst recently released a new beer called Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 for consumption in the domestic market; it sells for 44 U.S. dollars a bottle.[33]


Pabst Blue Ribbon was launched in Sweden in April 2012, imported by Galatea Beer Spirits & Wine and sold in Systembolaget stores. The Pabst Blue Ribbon sold in Sweden is labeled as the "export" version. According to Galatea it is an "extra flavorful version brewed for the Swedish market", and contains 4.5% ABV. Pabst Blue Ribbon export is brewed and bottled in America and then shipped to Sweden.


Pabst Blue Ribbon is brewed by Sleeman Breweries of Guelph, Ontario (although credited as 'Stroh Canada' on the labeling).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Li, Shan (2011-05-14). "Pabst headquarters moving to Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times). Retrieved 2011-05-16. 
  2. ^ Ogle, Maureen (2006). Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. New York: Harcourt. p. 49. ISBN 0151010129. 
  3. ^ Ogle. Ambitious Brew. p. 51. 
  4. ^ Skilnik, Bob (2006). Beer: A History of Brewing in Chicago. Ft. Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books. pp. 24–25. ISBN 1569803129. 
  5. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. J.T. White. 1893. p. 294. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The brewery's flagship beer was finally renamed Pabst Blue Ribbon following its win as 'America's Best' at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago". Retrieved 9 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Bancroft, Hubert Howe. The Book of the Fair: an historical and descriptive presentation of the world's science, art, and industry, as viewed through the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893, designed to set forth the display made by the Congress of Nations, of human achievement in material form, so as to more effectually to illustrate the profess of mankind in all the departments of civilized life. Chicago, San Francisco: The Bancroft Company, 1893. p.83. (10 v. [approx., 1000p.]: illus. (incl. ports.), 41 cm.)
  9. ^ Pabst Brewing Co. Timeline from the company's website
  10. ^ Ray Kenney (January 24, 1982). "The Blue-Ribbon Battle for Pabst". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Carrie Antlfinger (April 4, 2014). "Group Wants to Bring Pabst Blue Ribbon Back to Milwaukee". Associated Press. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  12. ^ Don Terry (November 6, 1996). "Brewery's Exit Leaves a Bitter Taste". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ Rob Walker (June 22, 2003). "The Marketing of No Marketing". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Pabst Brewing Sells Itself to Metropoulos". The New York Times. June 25, 2010. 
  15. ^ Michael J. De La Merced (June 8, 2011). "S.E.C. Stops Would-Be Buyers of Pabst Beer". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ "365 Bottles of Beer for the Year". Workman Publishing. 2008. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Rob Walker (June 22, 2003). "The Marketing of No Marketing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  19. ^ a b "Marketing With a Whisper". Fast Company. January 11, 2003. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  20. ^ "Pabst Blue Ribbon Homepage". Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  21. ^ Carly Berwick (June 25, 2008). "Murketing to Hipsters Saves Pabst, Boosts Apple". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  22. ^ Edward McClelland (August 11, 2008). "And the next great American beer will be...?". Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  23. ^ "Pabst Blue Ribbon Lacrosse".  PBR Lacrosse is the official lacrosse team of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. PBR Lacrosse is the premier post-collegiate lacrosse team in Houston, Texas. The team is made up of post-NCAA Division I, II and III and MCLA players. They compete against SWLA teams throughout the state of Texas and play in tournaments in the southern United States region.
  24. ^ Dan Eaton (November 16, 2008). "Pabst gives marketing campaign a blue ribbon for effectiveness". Columbus Business First. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  25. ^ Blue Velvet Pabst Blue Ribbon on YouTube
  26. ^ "Pabst Blue Ribbon, Everything Must Go and Gran Torino - Coolspotters". Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Pabst Blue Ribbon to be distributed in Australia". Australian Brews News. September 25, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Pabst Blue Ribbon Premium Lager Cans 473mL". Dan Murphy's Online. Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
  30. ^ Sittig, marshall (1995). Guide to China Business Contacts: Companies, Places, and Markets. 
  31. ^ Hoover's Masterlist of Major U.S. Companies 1998-1999. 1998. 
  32. ^ Miller, Russell (2000). Doing Business in Newly Privatized Markets: Global Opportunities and Challenges. 
  33. ^ Gibson, Megan (July 21, 2010). "Pabst Blue Ribbon Is Classy and Expensive in China". Time. 

External links[edit]