In Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are, Rob Walker discusses the “mysterious return of PBR.” When I was an undergrad in Oklahoma in the late ’90s, PBR had very distinct connotations: it was a crappy, cheap beer you only drank if you didn’t have the money to buy better beer. I know this in large part because I had a number of friends who weren’t in college and lived on low incomes for various reasons, including some who were in bands and kept crappy day jobs just until they got their big record deal. [Just FYI: a punk-influenced song about Schrodinger’s cat can be quite catchy and informative, but it may not be the key to fame and fortune.]
I digress. The point is, they often drank PBR because it was cheap. As far as I could tell, they didn’t do so out of a sense that PBR was good or cool, but because they could buy larger quantities of it than other beer (I was never a beer drinker, so I wasn’t directly engaged in the decision-making process about which brand to buy). It was the beer version of ramen noodles: not necessarily exciting, but it’ll suffice if it’s all you can buy. And at various times I would overhear other people make nasty comments about PBR. It, and its drinkers, were, to put it bluntly, considered trashy by a lot of people.
But as Walker describes, PBR has become hip in a lot of places. Walker describes its resurgence since about 2002, when sales, which had dropped precipitously over the last twenty years, suddenly rose 5%. Portland, OR, seems to be the epicenter of the rediscovery of PBR, though it soon spread to other cities, with trendy bars adding it to their menu.
PBR, surprised by this, set about finding out what was going on. They eventually decided that PBR had become a “protest brand,” the non-hyped underdog beer that hipsters chose because it was non-mainstream and wasn’t constantly pushed at them by a PR machine. As a result, PBR rejected a lot of standard marketing tactics (though they did pay to have the beer placed in the 2009 movie Whip It, among others). Instead, they chose to focus on sponsoring events that the new customer base attended or participated in, but in a relatively quiet, non-intrusive way. Here’s a post for an event PBR is sponsoring this Saturday in Atlanta:
Part of PBR’s image, and attraction to people who consider themselves outsiders, is its association with what Walker calls a “blue-collar, honest-workingman, vaguely anticapitalist image” (p. 113). It’s old-school, blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth beer from the days of Milwaukee’s manufacturing and beer-producing glory. When you buy PBR, it lists a P.O. Box in Milwaukee, and the website lists Milwaukee at the bottom of the page.
Except…not so much. PBR is no longer headquartered in Milwaukee. In 1985 PBR was purchased by a man who was buying up a lot of low-market-share beer companies. He moved the headquarters to San Antonio (in May of this year he announced he sold PBR to another company; the headquarters are now in a suburb of Chicago). The move put about 250 people in Milwaukee out of work, including a lot of the blue-collar workers the beer is associated with.
On top of that, PBR doesn’t actually make beer anymore. Miller brews beer for the company, which then packages it in PBR cans. PBR is no longer a producer of beer; it’s a name and logo attached to beer made by a company many of the people drinking PBR would probably dislike.
On the one hand, PBR is a case that shows how consumers make decisions and can affect the marketplace independent of advertising campaigns; PBR certainly wasn’t spending a lot of money trying to woo this new demographic and didn’t initially know quite what to make of it. A group of consumers identified with PBR. That is, they saw the company as like them. They dislike in-your-face marketing, the feeling that companies are trying to manipulate them. They’re outsiders who see themselves as dissenters from a lot of mainstream culture. And PBR fits well with this identity; it’s the underdog, old-school beer company that isn’t actively trying to win over consumers. No TV commercials, no PBR babes in bikinis giving away free samples at bars. And it has working-class cachet.
But much of this is symbolic. Buying PBR makes money for Miller, a company that uses the loud marketing techniques hipsters express disdain for. At this point, you could argue that PBR is simply a beer fashion label. And while it might have associations with the working-class, the process of outsourcing its beer to Miller and moving headquarters to a different state left quite a few members of that class out of work. Walker argues that this indicates a new form of solidarity with blue-collar workers. It isn’t about making sure you’re buying from companies that pay a living wage or fighting for better working conditions. Symbolic solidarity — paying a nod to the working class by buying products (beer, clothing, etc.) — is often seen as sufficient. By drinking PBR you’re identifying with blue-collar workers in spirit, if not in any specific, concrete way.
PBR capitalizes on the perceptions of the brand while engaging in or working companies who engage in many of the practices that those who repopularized it were rejecting when they switched to PBR in the first place.
And, just to add one more twist to the story…in China, PBR sells a specialty beer called Blue Ribbon 1844:
How much does the beer sold by the cheap, working-class company cost in China? Why, $44 a bottle. A PBR executive who oversees the Asian market explains, “There’s the nouveau riche, and in China, perception is everything—look at me, I’m rich.” Not exactly the bike-messenger hipster crowd.
So there you go…the long, bizarre, contradictory story of PBR.
UPDATE: I got an email from an employee of PBR, who says this in defense of the brand:
I just want clear up a huge misunderstanding…We actually are independent American Company, not owned by Miller Brewing. Pabst itself contracts out all its production to other breweries, and has become, in effect, a “virtual brewery.” This keeps our beer fresh and saves us the cost of shipping large distances. It saves the earth, and helps us keep cost low. Many brand do this, also a few micro brands, you be surprised. We are 100% American Company. We also have NOTHING to do with the China Brand. They are a totally separate company just to let you know.
I thought it was only fair to share his viewpoint. However, I don’t know that there’s really a misunderstanding there. I know PBR isn’t owned by Miller, but rather that the company outsources production of their beer, and I *think* my discussion made that distinction. I apologize if anyone was confused by that. As for my assertion that buying PBR makes money for Miller, it’s not because Miller directly owns them, but because they get money for the outsourcing, which common sense indicates they profit from or they wouldn’t keep doing it.
I’m more skeptical about the claim that PBR has nothing to do with the China beer. The Chinese website for the beer has the regular PBR logo prominently displayed on both the site itself and the poster for the beer:Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Thomas — August 11, 2010
Branding and hipness aside, however, one of the main things that keeps PBR popular is the price. PBR is still often the cheapest beer available in a bar. It would be interesting to see what would happen to its image if it were priced on the same scare as Budwieser or Miller.
lsmsrbls — August 11, 2010
I remember around 2002-2003 (when I was in college in Nashville), people buying cans or kegs PBR for parties or weekends when they didn't want to spend money on good beer. The main draw was that it was cheap, but the key was that it was able be enjoyed somewhat ironically, which would have been an instant no go for budweiser or coors. And unlike other cheap beers, it was acceptable for people to say they liked the taste of it. By 2004-2005, I remember a number of people who would actually go to bars with many beers on tap and get the PBR.
Kyd — August 11, 2010
PBR just recruited a bunch of local artists here in AZ to pain billboards and the sides of buildings with their image. Seems to me that the corporate sponsorship takes away from the independent artwork...
Matt — August 11, 2010
PBR is still $3/12 pack cheaper than Bud, Miller or Coors on San Diego shelves. It's also a much less offensive product. I say this as a homebrewer and beer snob.
Jacob — August 11, 2010
Never drunk it, being outside the USA
but I always associated it with the dennis hopper line in Blue velvet
"what do you drink? ... HEINEKEN!? FUCK that shit! PABST - BLUE - RIBBON!!"
and that as a counter culture thing...
also the symbolism is only hypocritical if there are more ethical bear companies that people know about or if they'd go without beer...
if it's positive outlook brand + bad history vs negative outlook brand + bad history... then the one with the positive outlook is still better.
plus cheap is a good aesthetic.
apocalyptopia — August 11, 2010
Okay, so a bunch of dumb hipsters who actually have money to spend on ironic beers might drink it because they feel guilty about spending Daddy's money (no, I'm not bitter...) and they think they're helping out the "working man", but the majority of the people drinking this stuff ARE the working man. Why? It's insanely cheap. You can get a 24 pack for about $15. Me and all my disgusting, dirty, crusty punk and hippy friends all just assumed that it was a subsidiary of some huge evil corporation anyway. Aren't most things in this country? But we weren't out on the street politely asking passers-by for beer money because we wanted to waste it all on Corona (though some of us would splurge on a bottle of Boulevard every now and then). We wanted to get as drunk as possible as cheap as possible!
There was a sense of camaraderie in it. We were all dirt poor and ate out of dumpsters and had the same shitty lives, which included shitty beer. Quite frankly, it annoys me to think there's a bunch of jerks out there that think drinking cheap beer helps out the "little guy". You want to help out the poor and destitute people in this country? Start by questioning why suck a class exists to begin with and then actually try to make some changes instead of just sitting around and getting drunk. When you all decide PBR isn't cool enough for you anymore, my friends will still be sitting on that street corner politely asking for donations until we can afford a 24 pack to share.
rootlesscosmo — August 11, 2010
1844... say, that's a familiar year:
drea — August 11, 2010
I was drinking Peebers one night and a hipster was shocked and dismayed to learn that the union seal is for Bell bottling, not PBR. Ha.
Last I heard, they'd slated the PBR brewery in Peoria, IL for demolition. Been years so it's probably gone now. But before WWII, my great-grandfather worked there. Workers could drink all the free beer they wanted. Not so great for the families -- but the draft mostly sobered up the ones who survived.
Oh well. It tastes better than a forty.
Ravi M. Singh — August 11, 2010
I think the writer pretty much nails it when discussing the badge value associated with PBR. A lot of my friends go for it as the anti-snob alternative to the more expensive and in my opinion, drinkable, beers. The bottom line is that it's cheap and of course when a bunch of university students go out, we're usually concerned with the quantity of our alcohol consumption rather than its quality. Combine that cheapness to the "working man" appeal of the beer and you have a pretty winning combination.
It did surprise me to learn that PBR is just a label on another brew from a major alcohol conglomerate, though. Even though I don't fancy it, I always thought PBR was indeed authentic in its horribleness. Nonetheless, I hand it to Miller for pulling of such a branding success.
bxley — August 11, 2010
For a non-USian analog example: Ceveza Indio.
Like PBR, it is a dirt cheap beer with strong regional associations to an industrial city, manufactured by a large beer conglomerate --Cervecería Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma- crecently bought by a yet more enormous beer conglomerate-- Heineken International. Like PBR, it is the drink of choice for hip starving artists, and recent sponsor of music festivals, rock venues and artists. Unlike PBR, it actually tastes good.
J Mccaffery — August 11, 2010
Bike messenger hipsters drink 4 Loko now. PBR is old news.
Glen — August 11, 2010
Aside from firing some people, which any well-run company must do from time to time, what is "anti-working-class" about PBR? The low price, I would argue, is pro-working-class. And one of the ways you keep product prices low is by optimizing your production -- sometimes by firing people, relocating, and outsourcing. It's not as though the 250 people who got fired will never, ever work again. In a market economy, they get allocated to other jobs. Given that this happened in 1985, they probably already have been, quite possibly more than once.
Maybe Miller the parent company has engaged in some ugly practices I'm not aware of (I haven't done any research), but even if that's true, there's nothing specifically anti-working-class about the PBR label.
Ciega — August 11, 2010
I don't drink myself, and I haven't noticed any of my friends drinking PBR either, which surprises me a little after reading this (I grew up in Wisconsin and go to college in Iowa). So my main image of PBR is hearing a genial 1950s announcer talk about its superior flavor and quality, and how it's carefully blended from twelve separate brews, on rebroadcasts of old radio programs. Just thought I'd add this other piece of Pabst's history.
maria — August 11, 2010
the "it's a cheap way to get drunk" theory always baffled me... i'm an extreme lightweight, and it even takes ME at least three or four pbr's to even feel anything. averaging $1.50 a draft at the local lower-middle class watering hole, that's $5 for a minor MINOR buzz. on the other hand, i can go to the other locally owned, cleaner bar with non-rude and snarky patrons and a bartender who is there to take my money and give me beer, not look me up and down and sneer at my choice of non-thrift store t-shit and have a good stout or local microbrew for $4.50 and get knocked off my ass.
Sally — August 11, 2010
I know a lot of people who drink Pabst Blue Ribbon ironically. I don't know about Portland, but I think kitsch has something to do it with it. It's so bad it's good.
I bet there's people near circles of PBR drinkers who reject PBR because *they* are too hip for the hipsters.
DoogieHowser — August 11, 2010
"Bike messenger hipsters drink 4 Loko now. PBR is old news."
Right, this article is about a decade late. Salon had an article on PBR's resurgence years ago.
The thing is, this article presupposes that hipsters drink PBR because they see the working-class image as a positive thing. It is true that hipsters have appropriated other elements of working class culture. However, apparently the author of this article never heard of *irony*. How can you be sure hipsters are sincerely promoting the working-class, anti-commercial image instead of enjoying it or even mocking it through irony? A related phenomenon is hipster guys with beards. Its hard to unravel whether its meant to be positive or mocking. But I don't think the fact that it's so hard to unravel is because hipsters are trying to make some grand cultural observation or point, it's just that they're extremely averse to making any kind of sincere cultural commitment and enjoying everything through the lens of irony allows them to put some distance between themselves and cultural or historical trends.
I do think the author is right that the resurgence of PBR has to do with cultural choices and not solely price. In every store that I've been to Natural Ice/Natural Light, Keystone, Busch, Milwaukee's Best and probably a few other brands I'm missing are all cheaper than PBR. There is also malt liquor (Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Mickey's, etc). However, the aforementioned beer brands are still drunk by "frat boys" / non-hipster guys and malt liquor is associated with Black men. Also, in dismissing Bud, MGD and some of those brands you only mentioned anti-commercialism as a motivation. You forgot to mention that the majority of Bud drinkers are Latinos and I'd bet a pretty high % of MGD and Coors drinkers are also Latinos.
styleygeek — August 12, 2010
This reminds me of the New Zealand soft drink "Lemon and Paeroa (L&P)". It became (and still is) popular as a sort of "New Zealand nostalgia" drink, and many of the people who drink it wouldn't be caught dead drinking mainstream soft drinks like Coke or Sprite. But it was bought by Coca Cola a while ago and is now manufactured by them. Even though I know that, I still find it hard to ignore the automatic association of L&P with "outsider" and "little company" and nostalgia.
Hern Berferd — August 12, 2010
OMG: could this post possibly use the fully ambiguous term "hipster" a few more times?! JESUS. The liberal sprinkling of this word throughout the piece does absolutely nothing to facilitate understanding on the readers behalf:
"...Miller, a company that uses the loud marketing techniques hipsters express disdain for."
"...the non-hyped underdog beer that hipsters chose..."
Huh? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!?!?!?!
The extra ridiculous problem with using this term (PARTICULARLY on a blog like this!) is how the current manifestation of the word is fully rooted in othering. Speakers have to assign motivations to "hipsters" because no such grouping of people actually exist. It's "hipsters think this," and "hipsters do that," never "I do this or that." This is the reason we never get an actual definition for "hipsters"; for every speakers it's basically "not me."
The "hipster" group doesn't exist because no one self-identifies with the term WHICH SHOULD BE THE RED FLAG to critical listeners that we're actually dealing with a pejorative. Applying sweeping categorical labels to people without their consent is kind of the definition of problematic behavior.
The following YELP review touches on similar issues (and it was written in 2006?!??!?!?):
RR — August 12, 2010
The big beer companies like to hide their up-market beers, too. See, e.g., Blue Moon.
honeycomb frog — August 12, 2010
i think the australian equivalent must be goon (cask wine). my friends drink that all the time despite the fact that it is total rubbish, just because it's dirt cheap.
also, hipster, to me, is just a label that has been recently created for a group that has always existed (or at least been around for a while). each generation since the 70s perhaps has had groups of young people who go through that period of experimentation and wanting to be perceived as alternative and anti-establishment.
Pabst Blue Ribbon as Cultural Whipping Boy « Central State Asylum — August 12, 2010
[...] am offering commentary on this because a friend of mine recently shared this blog post from Sociological Images which essentially puts an academic sheen on the story as reported by the New York Times Magazine [...]
Anonymous — August 12, 2010
And the hipsters have their heads up their asses again.
Michael — August 12, 2010
I toured the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee last year. The warehouse included acres of the Miller brands, plus Coors, Molson, Peroni, Fosters, Mickeys, Olde English Malt Liquor, and perhaps a dozen other brands. All had been brewed in the Miller plant for whomever owned the brand, and were awaiting shipment.
Pabst is inexpensive because the big, evil brewing company has enough volume of scale to make brewing Pabst relatively inexpensive.
Tommy — August 12, 2010
All beer (except the kind made at home) is marketed. Everything is marketed to someone. It doesnt "belong" to anyone because uh its beer. Get over yourselves! Just relax and enjoy life. Hey have a beer. Quit analyzing this because once again its BEER!
Some people try and take the fun out of everything.
Im going to my fridge and drinking whatever beer is in there. At last glance it was 1 PBR, 1 Trader Joes beer, and 1 Anchor Steam. Hell I might even consume all three.
hint....you enjoy it more when you are relaxed and dont care about the "politics" of it
Sabine — August 12, 2010
Hmm...as a current college student who may fall into the very vague category of "hipster", not sure I see the irony of drinking PBR. It's bad and everyone knows that, but it's the cheapest. When we can afford better beer, we buy it. But mostly all we can afford is PBR.
Maybe there's some image associated with it that I'm unaware of, but since I'm part of that target "hipster" demographic, I feel like maybe I'm missing something big here. It's gross, it's cheap, it gets you drunk after a while. Good enough for me.
Now I'm going to splurge and buy some better beer tonight!
avisioncame — August 12, 2010
Yeah, Hipsters are lame. I strictly drink Busch to rebel against them.
Beersen — August 13, 2010
When do you hipsters learn that cheap things aren't possible anymore without screwing the earth, the ppl or both?!
There are city breweries with tasty beer and if not, found one, establish a city brand that works. It works in Europe, I am sure there are city breweries in America too. Just local brands for local markets. THATS where beer could help blue collar men.
Mike — August 13, 2010
I don't see how bike messengers are some separate demographic from the working class.
Messengers aren't in the ownership class; they don't profit off the wealth of others; they aren't capitalists.
They aren't even professionals (skilled workers trusted to act in the interest of a corporation without direct oversight: engineers, managers, attorneys), nor are they even non-professional white collar workers (they don't work in an office nor have a dress code).
Bike messengering is an exhausting, physical, low paid, dangerous, deadly job. It doesn't require a degree. Conditions and remuneration are all determined by management (unless the messengers in question were smart enough to unionize) Messengers are as working class as steelworkers, carpenters, cooks, or truck drivers.
Sarah — August 13, 2010
As far as the issue of the Chinese brand and whether PBR is actually associated with them - as anyone who has been to China can tell you, seeing a particular logo on a product (online or otherwise) means nothing as far as whether that company is actually affiliated with the product in question. Intellectual property laws are non-existant/not enforced and there are many, many Chinese companies that use well known American logos without permission to promote their products.
Stach — August 13, 2010
If you want to be super-cool and drink shite beer,
try America's Best.
floods — August 13, 2010
i didn't read every single comment, i started scrolling about 2/3 of the way down... but let me possibly be the first one to say.... i like the taste of PBR. It is by far the best of the pale american lagers. for me, it's either PBR or craft brew and taste makes the choice, not the wallet (most of the time).
Greg — August 14, 2010
nice story but what about those of us who are not hipsters yet drink PBR since its cheep and taste decent compared to other low cost beers. PBR normally is half the price as any Bud product yet taste better,
Bosola — August 14, 2010
I'm late to the party, but a couple of notes, just because I love beer...
--China leads the world in demand for fake French wine. The Chinese moneyed classes have cellars full of supposed French old-growth vintages that simply do not exist anymore, like Lafite 1982. Maybe three quarters of the Lafite in China is fake. It seems doubtful that many Chinese wine collectors really care--that the bottle cost a fortune is what matters, not what it actually contains. "Chateau Lafite" is a badge, like that Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt. http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/07/08/lafite-datapoint-of-the-day/
--Portland, Oregon, is the epicenter of perhaps the single most vibrant beer-production culture in the world today. I say that with some assurance, having toured Belgium, England, Ireland, Germany and Bohemia. And they want to drink mass-market beer-flavored spritzers like PBR. No prophet has respect in his own country.
--There is no law of nature requiring major American beer producers to make garbage. They are highly capable organizations that can make whatever they want, with astounding levels of quality and consistency. Lots of Samuel Adams, for instance, is brewed under contract by Budweiser.
--Finally, PBR is what you drink when you decide you've just moved up in the world too much to keep drinking Old Milwaukee.
Naomi — August 15, 2010
I read somewhere - can't remember where - that PBR quite deliberately gave free beer to bike messenger companies, and that this was one reason for the brand resurgence. Anyone know anything about this? Forgive me if it's already been covered and I missed it!
Sara — August 16, 2010
Totally late to the party now, but my significant other has a completely non-ironic love for PBR, and I think she's right. It's not drinking it because it's cool - she thinks that's weird - it's because it's affordable and decent. It's a lager, which to me means it's lighter flavored, good for hot weather (lots of beers from hot climates like SE Asia, Mexico are on the lager side of things). It's good with spicy food. It makes a kickass beer can chicken. At my local supermarket it's $13 for 20 at most. Works for me. Once in a while we splurge on fancier beer but we hardly have the money to do that on the regular.
I do also take issue with the corporate-backed company posing as "the little guy" to curry favor with a particular type of consumer. As someone who tries when possible to support local and smaller businesses with practices I want to encourage, it's just annoying to find out you are being duped. Not surprising, just annoying.
That said we were stunned when we went to Canada for the first time and we saw a bunch of young, white, cutely dressed, cool-looking people (you may call them hipsters) in a park drinking PBR. We thought maybe it was also the least expensive there as it was in our USian home country, but when we got to the liquor store we were wrong - it was a good five dollars more than the base price of can beer, akin to buying Fat Tire level in the US. We got something called Thirsty Beaver (I think this is the type, not the brand name, someone fill me in if you can), which was one of the rock-bottom inexpensive ones, and it was pretty bad. Not sure what kind of rep that has in Canada, but I definitely would not be drinking that for coolness factor if you paid me.
As far as Pabst being just a bottler, not a producer of the beer anymore, I'm not sure if I think negatively about that - I guess I would want to know more about it. Like whether they still have any control over the quality of the beer, or if they are only putting a label on it. Like there are lots of winemakers that do not have the capital and space to grow their own grapes, so they buy grapes from someone else to make their wine; or they buy grapes from someone else and they share space with other winemakers to do the processing and fermenting, etc. I guess I just don't know that much about making beer except there are generally hops involved.
Steve — August 22, 2010
o wait i thought it was PGR Pabst gold ribbon as of 2006
The Resurgence of PBR | shortstack : online — August 23, 2010
[...] it must not be all that great. Apparently I am not the only one suffering from this conundrum, as The Society Pages has a write up on The Resurgence of PBR – even giving a nod to Atlanta’s own ‘Sloppy Seconds‘ parties, which like a [...]
tim — September 8, 2010
this article is dumb
people drink pbr because it is cheap
Daniel — October 13, 2010
Thank goodness we have this article and commenters to tell everyone else which white beer consumers are "real" and which are "artificial."
brickbatcat — October 26, 2010
Hello. Back in the late 80's, early 90,s, my frinds and I had settled on Piels being the official beer of the working class. I moved to Portland , Oregon in 97 and was surprised to see all the punks n such drinking pbr. I think it was just a reaction to the huge explosion of craft brewing in the area and a massive influx of "people from California". Beer Snobbery was taken to absurd levels so enter the counter snob and the rest is wrested from the wrens nest at a predetermined hour if the hawkwind of the luna moths wing brushes against your delicate cheek... oh, wait .., what?... never mind....,
Sean — October 27, 2010
China is well known for having weak to nonexistant intellectual property enforcement. I would not be surprised at all if the Chinese premium beer marketer was just some company trying to make some extra profit using PBR's label.
JL — December 4, 2010
Pabst has also been the beer of the rockabilly scene for quite some time. Red Stripe recently won me over, Pabst is just horrendous. But if I drink beer, I'd much prefer something delicious like Augustiner. And if I can't afford that, I'll buy a bottle of gin and be great.
Lance — January 14, 2011
Isn't PBR one of the few mass market beers not brewed with rice? I've never really cared for bud and I think maybe it is because it is a rice beer.
Donald — January 15, 2011
i am a cliche since i moved from the northeast to Austin texas like a hundred thousand others before me. i had planned before i made the move to bicycle commute when i got here. The 'bike beer' as i saw it was new belgium fat tire ale because that company runs the urban assault ride and some other cycling advocacy issues. Also, from a standpoint of beer values, new belgium aces in all the categories that this article fails pbr on.
i currently have one remaining pbr from the only 12 pack i ever bought of it last week in my fridge since my car is dead and the components on my bike just died and i'd rather save a ton of cash by *gulp* converting to a fixie drivetrain and still be able to ride it than buying up to better components at a much higher cost. pbr was purely an economic choice. And yes, i'm at least grateful to still have a budget for a little beer here and there.
i realized while reading this that i have opted to fit a stereotypical image of hipsterdom for the purely economical reasons that i am young, broke and making it carefully in a new city, typing lowercase i's because of the age of my computer,, not because i'd like to appear poor but because i'm just working towards a better condition by leaving Scranton for a better market and i'm not all the way 'there' yet.
the idea that people would see my '09 Diamondback big-box store bought fixie conversion as totally not 'genuine' when juxtaposed with a vintage Peugot or Raleigh is highly ironic since i'd gladly rather own a BMW motorcycle if i had the means.
but, hipster politics aside, pbr is a tasty beer,,, when it has to be.
Jaclyn Biskup — July 26, 2011
I know I am late to the discussion. But, as someone who worked in a bar that sold PBR, I can attest that many purchased it because it was the cheapest option. When we sold beers at competing prices many people would switch over and try a new beer. In fact, Okociam, a Polish beer was a rival seller to PBR when both were priced equally. However, there were many who still only purchases PBR. I can say from my observation a lot of people like a quick go to beer, one they can order without having to look at the menu an make a decision. Also, PBR has the unique status of being relatively high in alcohol content (5%) among American domestics. Therefore it is not only the cheapest, it has the greatest value. Interestingly it is also perceived by many craft beer drinkers as suitable downgrade when they get too drunk on beers in in the 7%-9% abv range.
Joemax93 — July 27, 2011
I'm late to this one too, but I recently went to a co-worker's retirement party and was wondering why a very hipster bar in the San Francisco Bay area had PBR on the menu. I grew up in the midwest, and PBR was right up there (or down there) with Hamms, Schlitz, Blatz and any number of other "working class" cheap domestic beers. A friend at my table informed me that it was the latest hipster beer, and I almost choked on my Anchor Steam.
But then I remember when, living in upstate NY in college (the land of Genesee Cream Ale and Rolling Rock) in the mid 1970s, that Coors beer enjoyed a similar hipster image on the east coast. One bar in town sold it, and the bartender said he had to contract a trucker to bring it to him in refrigerated trailers, since it was "not pasteurized". Of course, it was the most expensive beer in the bar.
I tried it, thought it was pretty watery.
Imagine my surprise when I moved to the west coast a few years later and found that Coors was the Schlitz of the west.
Hey, maybe we can get hipsters to start drinking Olde English 800!
Bartending Schools — August 9, 2011
I blame hipsters for this and everything else that irritates
me. When I found nothing but PBR at a beer garden last summer at a
concert I attended, I was shaking my fist at them all.
PBR, White-Trash Parties, and the “Ironic” Working-Class Aesthetic « The Smith Association of Class Activists — September 13, 2011
[...] college-aged crowd was recently written about at Sociological Images. You can read the entire post here. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]
Exporting America - 7 Iconic US Brands China Can't Get Enough Of - Daily Deals Blog — July 25, 2013
[...] set you back $44. As an executive at Pabst explained, “There’s the nouveau riche, and in China, perception is everything—look at me, I’m rich.” And playing on that need to keep up appearances has clearly paid off for [...]
The Resurgence of PBR | icnt.mx — March 7, 2014
[…] it must not be all that great. Apparently I am not the only one suffering from this conundrum, as The Society Pages has a write up on The Resurgence of PBR – even giving a nod to Atlanta’s own ‘Sloppy Seconds‘ parties, which like a […]
Bros and Beer Snobs – No Comment Diary — January 18, 2018
[…] rise of craft beer in the United States gives us more options than ever at happy hour. Choices in beer are closely tied to social class, and the market often veers into the world of pointlessly gendered […]