Pabst Brewing Company
|Founded||1844 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Owner||TSG Consumer Partners and Eugene Kashper|
|Parent||Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings, LLC|
The Pabst Brewing Company (/ˈpæpst/) is an American company that dates its origins to a brewing company founded in 1844 by Jacob Best and was, by 1889, named after Frederick Pabst. It is currently a holding company which contracts the brewing of over two dozen brands of beer and malt liquor: these include its own flagship Pabst Blue Ribbon, as well as brands from now defunct breweries including:
- P. Ballantine and Sons Brewing Company,
- G. Heileman Brewing Company,
- Lone Star Brewing Company,
- Pearl Brewing Company,
- Piels Bros.,
- Valentin Blatz Brewing Company,
- National Brewing Company,
- Olympia Brewing Company,
- Falstaff Brewing Corporation,
- Primo Brewing & Malting Company,
- Rainier Brewing Company,
- F & M Schaefer Brewing Company,
- Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company,
- Christian Schmidt Brewing Company,
- Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company, and
- Stroh Brewery Company.
About half of the beer produced under Pabst's ownership is Pabst Blue Ribbon brand, with the other half their other owned brands.
The company is also responsible for the brewing of Ice Man Malt Liquor, St. Ides High Gravity Malt Liquor, and retail versions of beers from McSorley's Old Ale House and Southampton Publick House (of Southampton, New York).
Pabst is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. On November 13, 2014, Pabst announced that it had completed its sale to Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings, LLC. Blue Ribbon is a partnership between Russian-American beer entrepreneur Eugene Kashper and TSG Consumer Partners, a San Francisco–based private equity firm. Prior reports suggested the price agreed upon was around $700 million.
The original brewery was founded in 1844 as The Empire Brewery, later Best and Company, by brewer Jacob Best. The brewery was run by Jacob Sr. and his sons Phillip, Charles, Jacob Jr., and Lorenz. Phillip took control of the company in 1860. They started the brewery on Chestnut Street Hill in Milwaukee with a capacity of 18 barrels (2.9 m3). Later, in 1863, Frederick Pabst, a steamship captain and son-in-law of Phillip Best, bought 50% of Phillip Best, and assumed the role of vice president. In 1866, Best's other daughter, Lisette, married Emil Schandein, to whom Best sold the remaining half of the business. This move made Frederick Pabst president, and Emil Schandein vice-president. Lisette Schandein took over as vice-president of the company through 1894 after her husband's death.
Two factors helped position the company for significant growth; the untimely death of Milwaukee brewing competitor C.T. Melms in 1869 due to an infection from a needle, and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Melms' brewery was sold to Best and Company after Melms' death, which greatly expanded capacity for the company. Then, with the fire in Chicago a couple of years later wiping out the Chicago brewing industry, the company was in a position to grow with less competition to worry about. By 1874 Phillip Best Brewing Co. was the nation's largest brewer. The brewery's best-seller was a lager, Best Select, which began public sales in 1875. By 1893, Pabst became the first brewer in the United States to sell more than a million barrels of beer in a year.
During much of the 20th century, Pabst was run by Harris Perlstein, who was named president by Frederick Pabst in 1932 after a merger of Pabst Brewing and Premier Malt Products Co. (the latter of which Perlstein had been president). Perlstein emphasized research and innovation; under his direction, Pabst worked with American Can Company to produce the first beer cans, worked to create product consistency among multiple location breweries, and invested heavily in advertising and promotion. Pabst was involved in the 1953 Milwaukee brewery strike. In 1954, Perlstein was named chairman, and served until 1972; he then served as chairman of the executive committee until his retirement in 1979. Pabst's sales reached a peak of 15.6 million barrels (2.48 billion litres) in 1978 before they entered into a steep decline.
During Prohibition, Pabst stopped making beer and switched to cheese production, selling more than 8 million pounds (3.6 million kilograms) of Pabst-ett Cheese. When Prohibition ended, the company went back to selling beer, and the cheese line was sold to Kraft.
Pabst was renowned in Milwaukee for its brewery tours. Visitors to Pabst's tour were rewarded with sometimes bottomless glasses of beer at its end-of-tour Sternewirt Pub. Complete with a statue of Captain Frederick Pabst and waitresses pouring from pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Pabst Bock, and Andeker, the pub was popular with tourists and locals alike, especially students from nearby Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
Paul Kalmanovitz, a "self-made" beer and real-estate baron, purchased the Pabst Brewing company in 1985 for $63 million in a hostile takeover through the auspices of his holding company S&P Co.; S&P Co.'s first brewery was Maier Brewing Company, purchased in 1958. When Kalmanovitz died in 1987, S&P became legally inseparable from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Trust.
In 1996, Pabst's entire beer production was contracted out to the Stroh Brewery Company, which utilized excess capacity at the former flagship brewery of the G. Heileman Brewing Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin it had absorbed earlier that year. In turn, the historic Pabst brewery in Milwaukee was closed, ending a 152-year association with the city and turning that company into a virtual brewer. In 1999, Pabst purchased the Stroh label, and the brewery in La Crosse was sold to City Brewing Company. In 2001, production was contracted to Miller Brewing Company, and by then what remained of the Pabst company operated out of San Antonio.
S&P was ordered by the IRS to sell the Pabst Brewing Company by 2005 or lose its not-for-profit, tax-free status. After a while, Pabst Brewing claimed that they were unable to find a buyer at market value and requested an extension until 2010 that the IRS granted.
In 2006, CEO Brian Kovalchuk resigned and the board replaced him with Kevin Kotecki. Kotecki swiftly moved the Pabst Brewing Company and its roughly 100 headquarters personnel to Woodridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. The offices in Woodridge were located on historic US Route 66.
Between 2005 and 2010, "PBR brand volume increased 69%, and Pabst's gross margins increased 48 percent, operating profit rose 81 percent, and net revenue per barrel increased 28 percent."
On May 28, 2008, a former Pabst Brewery in Newark, New Jersey, which was in the process of being demolished, caught fire and was seriously damaged.
On May 26, 2010, investor C. Dean Metropoulos reached a deal to purchase Pabst for about $250 million. On May 14, 2011, it was announced that Pabst would be relocating to Los Angeles, California.
Pabst retains a data center in San Antonio, Texas, the previous location of its headquarters. Pabst's shuttered brewery complex in Milwaukee was targeted to be redeveloped into restaurants, entertainment venues, stores, housing and offices. The $317 million project became the subject of public debate in Milwaukee.
Pabst Brewing Company announced November 13, 2014 that it had completed its sale to Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings, LLC. Blue Ribbon is a partnership between American beer entrepreneur Eugene Kashper and TSG Consumer Partners, a San Francisco–based private equity firm. Prior reports suggested the price agreed upon was around $700 million. Redevelopment of the historic Pabst campus continued, with the original brewhouse converted into a hotel, other buildings converted into condominiums and offices, and others still to be redeveloped.
In July 2015, Pabst announced plans to return to Milwaukee and refurbish a former church and training center on the site of the original Pabst Brewing complex as a micro-brewery and taproom. This project was completed in Spring 2017, with the taproom featuring both newly developed and historic beers in the Pabst portfolio. Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company closed the facility in 2020 and it taken over by Central Waters Brewing Company in 2021.
In November 2018, a lawsuit by Pabst against MillerCoors reached trial stage. Pabst argued that MillerCoors wanted to put it out of business by ending a longstanding contract through which MillerCoors brews Pabst's beers. Pabst said that MillerCoors is its only option for the 4 million to 4.5 million barrels brewed annually for the company, since Anheuser-Busch, which has the biggest U.S. market share, does not do contract brewing. The lawsuit was settled out of court, and the contract between the two companies was renewed.
Outside the United States
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 China. China Pabst recently released a new beer called Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 for consumption in the domestic market; it sells for US$44 a bottle.
In 1999, Sleeman Breweries in Guelph, Ontario, a division of Sapporo Breweries, acquired Stroh Canada which owned the Canadian rights to a folio of brands, including Pabst. Sleeman then became the Canadian manufacturer and distributor of those products.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst Blue Ribbon, also known as "PBR", is the namesake of the Pabst Brewing Company products. Originally called Best Select, and then Pabst Select, the current name came from the blue ribbons that were tied around the neck of the bottle, a practice that ran from 1882 until 1916, and discontinued due to a silk shortage during World War I. After Prohibition, the blue ribbons were once again tied around the neck of the bottle, a custom that endured from 1933 until 1950.
Besides the 4.8% ABV Original there are now also Pabst Extra a stronger 6.5% lager, Pabst Easy which is their low calorie light beer offering (3.8%ABV), and Pabst Non-Alc with less than 0.5% ABV.
In July 2019, the organization began testing a Hard Coffee line of drinks under the Pabst Blue Ribbon name in states along the East Coast, as well as a hard tea, hard seltzers, and even a whiskey.
Jacob Best Pilsner is a pale lager named after Pabst's founder, Jacob Best.
Ballantine Brewery was acquired by Pabst in 1985 when it bought the Falstaff Brewing Corporation. Ballantine's flagship beer, Ballantine XXX Ale, has remained on the market since Prohibition ended. Ballantine IPA re-launched in August 2014 after nearly 20 years off the market.
Schlitz was first brewed by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company in Milwaukee. Schlitz was one of the world's top-selling beers during the first half of the 20th century. Pabst Brewing Company also produces four Schlitz malt liquors—Schlitz Red Bull, Schlitz Bull Ice, Schlitz High Gravity, and Schlitz Malt Liquor.
Blatz was the flagship brand of the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company of Milwaukee. The brewery was a major competitor of Pabst, Miller, G. Heileman, and other Milwaukee-area brewers, but was bought out in 1968 by Pabst. Pabst then sold Blatz to the G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1969. Under contract, Pabst continued to produce Blatz beer into the 1990s, when it was discontinued. The brand was revived in 2007 and is currently being brewed under contract by the Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee.
Old Milwaukee is a pale lager. The beer was first brewed in 1890 by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company in Milwaukee, and was re-introduced in 1955 as a value-priced beer.
Colt 45 is a brand of malt liquor first produced in 1963 by the National Brewing Company in Baltimore, Maryland.
St. Ides is a brand of malt liquor first launched by the McKenzie River Corporation in 1987. St. Ides gained prominence during the late 1980s and early 1990s through the company's use of celebrity endorsements by rap artists such as Ice Cube, 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, The Notorious B.I.G., and Method Man & Redman.
The Stroh Brewery Company in Detroit, Michigan first brewed Stroh's beer in 1850. Stroh's is an American-style lager.
Old Style was first brewed in 1902 by the G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, under the name Old Style Lager; it was popular in Wisconsin, the Chicago metro area, Minnesota, eastern Iowa, Lincoln, Nebraska, southwestern Michigan, Upper Michigan, and Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota. It has been served at Wrigley Field for decades and is popular with fans of the Chicago Cubs. The original Heileman's Old Style brewery in La Crosse is now owned by the City Brewing Company. It brews La Crosse Lager, which is based upon the original Old Style recipe and is kräusened for 30 days.
In the early 1990s, Chicago-born actor Dennis Farina made a series of commercials for Old Style beer, mentioning that it was "our great beer... and they can't have it." In 2016, the production of Old Style returned to the La Crosse brewery under a new contract with Pabst; City Brewery became the sole producer of the Old Style brand. Along with the homecoming of the beer, the brand introduced Old Style Oktoberfest.
Lone Star was first brewed by Lone Star Brewing Company in San Antonio, Texas. It was Lone Star Brewing Company's main brand and marketed as "The National Beer of Texas".
The Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater, Washington first brewed Olympia beer. Olympia is an American-style pale lager.
Rainier Beer was first brewed in Seattle, Washington by the Rainier Brewing Company. It is popular in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Schmidt's of Philadelphia
Schmidt's of Philadelphia, which had no connection to the St. Paul Schmidt Beer, was brewed by the Christian Schmidt Brewing Company, founded in 1860.
Schmidt Beer was first brewed by the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1855. It is popular throughout the Upper Midwest.
National Bohemian was the flagship beer of the National Brewing Company in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a Bohemian-style American beer. Ninety percent of National Bohemian sales are in the Baltimore area.
Former independent brands
Pabst introduced a premium brewed European style lager called Andeker in 1939. After being discontinued in the 1960s it was brought back from 1972 to 1986. It has been described as "The most European of the Americans, with full body and well-modulated flavor. Creamy rather than violently carbonated, sharp but not bitter." Andeker has been revived by Pabst at their microbrewery on the old Pabst brewery grounds in Milwaukee, is available on tap, in growlers and crawlers.
Red, White and Blue
Red White & Blue was a brand of beer produced and sold by Pabst from before Prohibition until the mid-1980s. Pre-Prohibition advertisements lauded its mellow taste and drinkability. After years of average sales, the brand saw significant growth in the early 1980s due to creative marketing campaigns. However, Pabst reformulated it to reduce costs and by the mid-1980s it was known as a "cheap beer". Sales steeply declined and the brand was discontinued.
Awards at the Great American Beer Festival:
|1990||Silver||American Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|1990||Silver||Malt Liquor||Olde English 800|
|1991||Gold||American Lager||Pearl Lager Beer|
|1991||Gold||American Malt Liquor||Olde English 800|
|1992||Gold||American Malt Liquor||Olde English 800|
|1992||Silver||American Dry Lager||Olympia Dry|
|1993||Gold||American Dry Lager||Olympia Dry|
|1994||Gold||American Light Lager||Pabst Genuine Draft Light|
|1994||Gold||American Malt Liquor||Olde English 800|
|1994||Silver||American Dry Lager||Olympia Dry|
|1995||Gold||American Light Lager||Pabst Genuine Draft Light|
|1995||Gold||American Malt Liquor||Olde English 800|
|1995||Gold||American Specialty Lager||Olympia Dry|
|1996||Gold||American Light Lager||Pabst Genuine Draft Light|
|1996||Silver||American Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|1997||Gold||American Style Specialty Lager||Olde English 800|
|1997||Gold||Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverages||Pabst NA|
|1998||Gold||Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverages||Pabst NA|
|1998||Silver||American Style Light Lager||Pabst Genuine Draft Light|
|2000||Silver||Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverages||Pabst NA|
|2003||Gold||American Style Light Lager||Old Style Light|
|2003||Gold||American Style Lager||Old Milwaukee|
|2003||Silver||American Style Lager||Rainier|
|2003||Bronze||American Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2003||Bronze||American Lager/Ale or Cream Ale||Old Style|
|2004||Gold||Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage||Old Milwaukee NA|
|2004||Gold||American Style Light Lager||Rainier Light|
|2004||Gold||American Style Lager||Old Milwaukee|
|2004||Silver||American Lager/Ale or Cream Ale||Special Export|
|2004||Silver||American Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2004||Silver||American Style Specialty Lager||Schlitz Malt Liquor|
|2004||Bronze||American Style Lager||Schlitz|
|2004||Bronze||American Style Premium Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|2004||Bronze||American Style Specialty Lager||St. Ides Malt Liquor|
|2005||Gold||American Style Premium Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|2005||Gold||American Style Lager||Stag|
|2005||Gold||American Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2005||Silver||American Style Premium Lager||Olympia|
|2005||Silver||American Style Lager||Rainier|
|2005||Bronze||American Cream Ale or Lager||Special Export|
|2006||Gold||American Style Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|2006||Gold||American Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2006||Silver||American Cream Ale or Lager||Lone Star|
|2006||Bronze||American Style Lager||Blatz|
|2007||Gold||American-Style Cream Ale or Lager||Lone Star|
|2007||Gold||American Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2007||Silver||American Style Light Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon Light|
|2007||Silver||American-Style Cream Ale or Lager||Old Style|
|2008||Gold||American Style Cream Ale or Lager||Lone Star|
|2008||Gold||American Style Lager or Premium Lager||Olympia|
|2008||Silver||American Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2008||Silver||American Style Lager or Premium Lager||Blatz|
|2010||Silver||American Style Lager or Light Lager||Old Milwaukee|
|2010||Silver||American Style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale or Lager||Rainier|
|2010||Bronze||American Style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale or Lager||Old Style|
|2011||Gold||American-Style Lager, Light Lager or Premium Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2011||Bronze||American-Style Lager, Light Lager or Premium Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon Light|
|2011||Silver||American Style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale or Lager||Rainier|
|2011||Bronze||American Style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale or Lager||Old Style|
|2012||Gold||American-Style Lager, Light Lager or Premium Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|2012||Silver||American Style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale or Lager||Old Style|
|2016||Gold||American-Style Lager, Light Lager or Premium Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
Awards at the World Beer Cup:
|1996||Gold||American Style Malt Liquor||Olde English 800|
|1996||Silver||American Style Malt Liquor||Schlitz Malt Liquor|
|1996||Bronze||American Style Malt Liquor||Country Club Malt Liquor|
|1996||Bronze||American Style Ice Lager||Schlitz Ice|
|1998||Gold||American Style Malt Liquor||Schlitz Malt Liquor|
|2006||Gold||American Style Premium Lager||Pabst Blue Ribbon|
|2006||Gold||American Cream Ale or Lager||Old Style|
|2008||Gold||American-Style Cream Ale or Lager||Special Export|
|2008||Gold||American-Style Light Lager||Old Milwaukee Light|
|2008||Silver||American-Style Cream Ale or Lager||Lone Star|
|2008||Silver||American-Style Light Lager||Lone Star Light|
|2010||Silver||American-Style Cream Ale or Lager||Old Style|
|2010||Silver||American-Style Lager||National Bohemian|
|2010||Bronze||American-Style Cream Ale or Lager||Lone Star|
|2010||Bronze||American-Style Specialty Lager||Colt 45|
Golden Icon Awards by Travolta Family Entertainment:
|2006–2007||Golden Icon||Best Domestic Beer||Old Style Light|
Pabst Brewing Company won "Large Brewing Company of the Year" at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
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Sleeman purchased the Stroh Brewing Co. portfolio of discount beers in 1999 for $39-million. With brands including Old Milwaukee, Pabst Blue Ribbon, the deal helped Sleeman double the company's volume, but in a category with lower margins than found with premium beers
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- Pabst Brewing Company
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- Olympia Beer: The Death of a Brand
- Old Style Beer: History
- Illustrated History of the Olympia Brewing Company
- Pabst Brewing Company and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Urban Myth Debunked