Pabst Blue Ribbon Now More Popular Than Ever; Sorry, Hipsters

In twist of irony, alternative drinkers pushed beer mainstream

By Matt Bartosik
|  Tuesday, Nov 3, 2009  |  Updated 3:27 PM PDT
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Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon is doing better than ever, but NOT because it's a cheap beer in the midst of a recession.

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Sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon are up a whopping 25 percent this year, according to Information Resources Inc.

"Well, of course," you say. In this economy, consumers are looking for low-cost options, and cheaper beers are going to do better than more expensive ones.

But Pabst raised its prices last year and now it isn't as cheap as you may think: The beer now costs $1.50 more than MillerCoors' Keystone, $1 more than Anheuser-Busch's Busch and Natural brands, and 50 cents more than Miller High Life, Crain's reports.

Yet, despite being more expensive, PBR is doing remarkably better than all those brands in profits.

Pabst's success actually comes from years before the recession.

Pabst managed to pull of a strangely effective word-of-mouth campaign that made the long-declining brand an "ironic downscale chic choice for bike messengers and other younger drinkers who viewed the beer as a statement of non-mainstream taste," reports Crain's.

Let's call a spade a spade: Those "non-mainstream," "younger drinkers" are hipsters.

Usually found smoking European cigarettes and/or cloves, hipsters are known for their despise of anything "mainstream" and their fondness for irony. They listen to bands that no one has ever heard of and start fashion trends that are cool because of their "uncoolness", e.g., trucker hats or vintage plaid shirts.

This is where Pabst Blue Ribbon comes in.

"It's an anti-establishment badge," said a major market wholesaler. "It seems to play to the retro, nonconformist crowd pretty well."

Hipsters enjoy drinking a beer that isn't as "established" as other better-known brands, asserting themselves are more "genuine" and "unique" than the mainstream that surrounds them.

They should be careful though. With the incredible rise in sales, Pabst Blue Ribbon could become so popular, it may enter the mainstream, and hipsters will have to abandon it in favor of another "cheap" beer.

Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, will drink any beer you buy for him.

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