Monday, April 21, 2003

PBR Me?

This isn't your father's Pabst Blue Ribbon. Well, actually it is but now it's hip:

Perhaps it's a sign of the times, or a remembrance of the way it was, or a toast to blue-collar virtue. However you pour it, PBR is America's new beer for a simple reason: It is not new at all.

Melissa Brown, a 28-year-old New York artist, recently served PBR at the opening of her art show at the Bellwether Gallery, located in the fashionable and hip Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. She explains her choice by saying that "it's time to get back to the basics." Others seem to agree. The owner of the gallery says that requests for PBR have become so common it's now "the official gallery beer."

In Washington, the manager of Chief Ike's Mambo Room in Adams Morgan wasn't finding success with sub-premium beers such as Schlitz and Tecate. "We switched to Pabst a few months ago and it's going like hotcakes," he says. At Whitey's in Arlington, suited-up young Republicans, faux cowboys and dead-serious blue-collar drinkers line up faithfully for a weekly PBR special. On a recent Thursday they exhausted the supply by 10 p.m.

In Park City, Utah, a group of professional and semi-professional snowboarders -- the trendsetting type popular with fans and revered by marketing agents -- have discovered Pabst. For the past few years, they've congregated on Super Bowl Sunday and played their own game of tackle football in PBR hats and jackets. They call it the Pabst Bowl.

Nationwide, grocery store sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon climbed 12 percent in the 52-week period ending in late November. Total sales have increased five percent over the past year. "For us that's a really big deal," says Pabst brand manager Neal Stewart. "That's one of the best increases we've had since 1978."


It's always nice to see an old brand like Pabst enjoy a resurgence which ensures its survival but for an anti-hipster like JB Doubtless it presents a bit of a dilemma. He was on the Pabst bandwagon three or four years ago, long before the art crowd and snow boarders discovered it. Now he's going to have to find a "new" beer. Any bars serving Olympia around here?


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