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Pabst Blue Ribbon: A Hipster’s Paradise Lost

The crumbling remains of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery may be foretelling of this brand’s future.  Pabst Blue Ribbon has gone from blue collar, working class staple to almost extinct, to a resurgent hipster brand that has been closely identified with the folks who look like they are the product of a grunge artist and a preppy.  That is begining to change, and not for the better I’m afraid.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, as well as Schlitz and Old Style were owned by a California Charitable trust.  The article in the Chicago Tribune did not identify which trust owned the brewery.  But for the first 14 years they owned the brand sales had remained inconsequential and flat.  However in 2005 the trust decided to try and make something of the brand and hired Kevin Kotecki as their Chief executive and things began to change.  Slowly at first, but as their grass roots, word of mouth marketing efforts began to take hold in the northwest slowly the brand began its resurgence, and in 2009 and 2010 it was the fastest growing national brand with 69% growth in ’09.

This growth attracted attention from two sources.  First from possible investors or purchasers and also from the State of California.  See a charitable trust in California needs to be a “not for profit” organization.  Long story short, the State forced the sale of the brewery to outside investors.  Here’s where all the problems begin…

Enter the Metropolous family, Daddy Dean, and son’s Evan and Daren, also known as Uday and Qusay (not really, but they might as well be).  These are the guys that killed the golden goose.  In a matter of a few short months they had completely alienated upper management to the point that over two dozen top executive level employees quit within 6 months of the take over, including the man who’s vision put PBR into the mainstream of craft beer in the US, Kevin Kotecki.

Lavish parties, hanging with Snoop Dog and Hugh Hefner, and being tyrannical in the office are just a few of the lovely traits that Uday and Qusay posses.  All of the grass roots marketing, all of the bringing along of their customers, convincing people that it was better to pay $16.99 for 24 good beers instead of $10.99 for 30 bad ones was all for naught.  As soon as the Metropolous family took over, ingredients were skimped upon, prices went down, and new brands like Colt 45 Blast were introduced.

Everything that they were doing was lost.  So bad has the bite been that they have former management wishing ill on the company publicly.  They want to see it fail, they’ve said so to the press!  And it looks like they might get their wish.  These jokers have taken PBR and the associated beverages from first with a bullet to losing money all within a year.  But don’t take my word for it, the Chicago Tribune has done the research:

Since the family took over the company, Pabst Blue Ribbon’s growth has steadily slowed, and the company’s four other largest brands collectively saw double-digit declines for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 26 and May 15, according to data from Symphony IRI Group.

But what the hell, these clowns are worth Billions and they had some fun.  I wonder if we will see more of this in the future, or if this is just an isolated example of what not to do to a beer company.  Whatever the hat looks fly, and those Bitches is fine…

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24 Comments on “Pabst Blue Ribbon: A Hipster’s Paradise Lost”

  1. June 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    I had no idea that Jeremy Piven now owns PBR…

    • Don
      June 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      I see the resemblance. I also thing Jeremy Piven could do a better job than these two asshats.

  2. Mark Moeller
    June 8, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Interesting and sad insight. You guys have unique views on the future of the brewing industry. It makes me wish I had a cooler last name and worse fashion sense. PBR seems to be a tweener in the industry and I sure hope this is an isolated case of the wrath of the fallen middle eastern regimes.

    • Don
      June 9, 2011 at 9:35 am #

      Sad thing is Mark, Pabst was in the middle of a renascence of sorts. They were improving the beer and making it more crafty, and at the same time increasing its price and doing word of mouth marketing. In come Uday and Qusay and it is all bikinis and rappers, and the beer? Well the beer went down in quality to make it cheaper and improve margins, and basically pay for their party boy lifestyles.

    • February 25, 2014 at 9:27 am #

      While this situation is probably one of the few times when an underhanded, almost racist comment could be appropriate. The kids are obviously of Greek ethnicity. Greece isn’t in any way linked economically, geographically, or culturally to any middle eastern nations. But I guess if you were interested in self education you would know that, and you would realize that race doesn’t discriminate when it comes to spoiled kids making poor business decisions. End of the day, it’s more of a case of the wealth gap in the United States ruining a good business than any fallout from the turmoil in the middle east that our government is fueling at the current moment.

  3. CrazyHorse
    June 8, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    PBR isn’t a beer. It’s a label. It’s brewed by contract at a number of Miller breweries, but here’s the rub: it’s the same exact recipe as (no less than) four other Miller-brewed beers. I’m not going to divulge industry secrets here and name names, but if I went to any grocery store looking for Pabst and they were out of stock, I could simply buy a case of Brand X, Brand XX, or Brand XXX and end up with EXACTLY THE SAME SWILL, and maybe even for a cheaper price.
    And this is not even counting the sub-labels like Schlitz, which are also the exact same recipe but diluted to a different strength.
    Who cares if PBR fails? It’s made out of corn and rice and amylase. It’s only a beer if you can call Totino’s a pizza. I hope they do go under. It will be great for beer.

    • John King
      June 9, 2011 at 8:36 am #

      I agree with the Totinos claim.

      • Don
        June 9, 2011 at 9:43 am #

        Funny, my kids LOVE Totinos Pizza. Maybe I should give them a Pabst when they eat it…It’s mostly water anyway, right?

    • Don
      June 9, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      Well I don’t know what timeline you are talking about, because when the Motropolous family took over they changed the recipe to make it worse. They don’t care about the beer as much as the image, and trying to make money. Obviously they know nothing about how to make money by making good beer. If you read the Chicago Trib article it talks about what they had done to improve the quality of the beer. I’m not saying you aren’t correct, but I am saying the the former management’s heart was in the right place and they were in the process of improving things. Sad thing is that is all gone now, and I agree that them going under would be a good thing for craft beer.

    • Kyle
      June 9, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      Crazy Horse, you’re ignorant about the formulas. They are not all the same. They are all distinct…”award-winning” or not. “60s Schlitz” is unique from PBR and PBR is unique from High Life. Moreover, Pabst lines are managed by a dedicated team of Pabst brewmasters and quality control analyst. -Former Member of the Old Pabst Gang.

      • June 9, 2011 at 11:02 am #

        Very interesting stuff.

        Plus this whole exchange has a cool old west vibe to it: Crazy Horse versus the Old Pabst Gang!

      • CrazyHorse
        June 10, 2011 at 9:27 am #

        “Pabst lines are managed by a dedicated team of Pabst brewmasters and quality control”

        This made me chuckle.

  4. SaveOnBrew
    June 9, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    Well, some folks like the swill, just sayin… Cheap swill ain’t goin away… To each his own. 😉

    • Don
      June 9, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      Greg, I think you are correct, the cheap stuff isn’t going away. And lets be clear they weren’t trying to pull Pabst into the forefront of the craft beer scene, but they were trying to make it what it once was. Lets say they were trying to return it to its former glory as a household beer that was well made. That ain’t gonna happen now, and I wonder if they will even be around in a few years.

    • CrazyHorse
      June 10, 2011 at 9:41 am #

      You’re right, it won’t go away, because nobody who drinks it gives a damn what’s in it.

      BUT, “cheap” and “swill” don’t have to be synonymous. With beers this simple it’s not hard to make an inexpensive quality product. Just don’t blow all your money on marketing BS.

      This reminds me of the Fosters commercial, where under the hugely lettered “Fosters: Australian for Beer” is tiny, almost invisible text that reads “Brewed in Ft Worth, Texas”. For all the money they spend on TV spots, they could import a hundred times the amount of a beer actually brewed in Australia as they make at Miller.

  5. June 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    I never understood the appeal of PBR to hipsters, though it always amuses me that the great line from Blue Velvet (“F*@k Heineken, PABST BLUE RIBBON!”)is now completely irrelevant, as both brands are quasi-hipsterish. Hipsters are a fickle bunch anyway, so PBR was unlikely to remain cool forever.

    • Don
      June 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      Good point Mark. If your marketing is aimed at hipsters it is a short lived strategy.

  6. Kenny Powers
    June 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Fact Check?

    You’re facts are completely unverified and incorrect. Ingredients skimped on, really please elaborate this vague and unsubstantiated claim? You also claim that Pabst is losing money, please provide some sort of data to back this up? What “lavish parties” are you referring to? Something like Heineken sponsoring Coachella for multi-millions, that’s not what PBR does.

    Stop hating and write about something you have some hard information on. This is totally ridiculous and silly. I really expect more from you guys than this…

    • Don
      June 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

      All I can say is that I got my facts from the article that was printed in the Chicago Tribune. If their fact check department fell short, so did I, however I think they are a pretty reliable source. If you read the quote I didn’t say Pabst was losing money, but that their growth had slowed dramatically and the four other brands owned by this company are experiencing double digit losses. Perhaps you need to better comprehend what you are reading before I run off to independently verify sources. Just a thought.

  7. June 11, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    I honestly do lament the loss of PBR, as much as I love a really good craft beer, sometimes I’m broke. When I’m broke and need beer, or just need a cheap beer to drink when I’m a little too buzzy to taste the good stuff, I reach for Pabst. When you’re broke and going out for a quick hike a $4 six pack of Pabst pints is perfectly acceptable in my book.

    • Don
      June 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      Everyone needs a cheap go to. For me it is Ranger IPA. I’d try the PBR but I’ve only seen it at Costco in a 24 pack. That is just too much of a commitment for me.

  8. February 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    In today’s society where a majority of americans have been programed to go directly to the Bud Light/Miller Lite/Coors Light or Ultra section of the store, I get a kick out of those blasting PBR and Schlitz as cheap swill. They are not the best beers available, but they are half the price of those best sellers, and these best sellers offer nothing but “Easy Drinking”, just like tap water.

    I don’t think the worst of them all “Bud Light” even has foam when poured straight up? Why doesn’t anyone rip into these so called beers? PBR at $8.99 vs Bud Light at $13.99 is a no brainer, unless you like the taste of tepid tap water?

  9. cgrossmeier
    March 13, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Found the following last night: Own a piece of Pabst Brewery and remember the good years with a new Kickstarter project featuring a Pabst Brewery Picture Book, a Brick from the Creamery, and a piece of Stock. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/585382058/pabst-an-excavation-of-art

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Glad I’m Not A Hipster, Because Pabst Blue Ribbon Sucks! | Beer & Whiskey Bros. - July 25, 2012

    […] discussed our family history with PBR, and I have even discussed PBR’s recent history on the blog here.  Jim and my history with this beer began when we were children.  Our aunt worked for Pabst for a […]

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