I ran into an interesting column the other day on the rise of Pabst Blue Ribbon and what might be the cause of said rise. It was an interesting take and covered some of the “hipster” movement which has carried the brand to double digit growth over the past decade, growing 69% from 2005 through 2010, including a 20% spike in 2009 alone.
As cited in the second link above, I think one of the big reasons for the PBR comeback was the total lack of advertising. It allowed hipsters to drink “macro beer” without the macro-beer price and without the Madison Avenue stigma of heavily advertised brands like Budweiser, Miller or Coors Light.
The history of the brand is interesting, if nothing else than an exercise in brand management – both the good and the bad. Founded in the mid-19th Century, they once actually tied blue ribbons around their beer bottles by hand. The company now exists as a contract brand (physically brewed primarily by Miller), owning no actual brewery, although it’s brands’ sales have risen from the dead and now amount to the third largest beer company in the U.S. As you may know, they were once the nation’s largest brand, and reportedly made the fatal mistake of lowering price in an effort to maintain market share against a rising Anheuser Busch back in the day…the net result was that it’s been a “cheap” beer ever since.
Now owned by a brand management company, headed by investor C. Dean Metropoulos and his family, they’re seeking to capitalize on the classic brand as they have with other food products, steadily engaging in stealth marketing and slowly increasing the price to increase profits.
Bottom line is this: they’re still an adjunct lager produced using low cost ingredients and marketed to their current hipster clientele…just using guerrilla techniques, rather than straight and obvious commercial campaigns. There’s nothing wrong with drinking “cheap” beer, but please don’t think that Pabst is any more “genuine” than any other large commercial lager produced by Bud, Miller, Labatt or any other large high gravity brewer, because the only real difference is their marketing department.