You might think it’s all PBR and irony, but Pabst Brewing, based in Los Angeles, is the fifth-largest brewer in the U.S. Established in 1844 in Milwaukee and best known for its Pabst Blue Ribbon brand (the aforementioned “PBR”), the brewery currently claims 30 brands to its name.
But Pabst’s 174-ish-year history — and its most popular brand’s 2010s-era hipster revival — can be difficult to pin down. To make sense of it all, we’ve put together 10 things you should know about Pabst Blue Ribbon and the company that made it.
Pabst died and was resurrected.
The original Pabst brewery in Milwaukee shuttered in 1996, bringing the brewery’s 152-year history to a close. However, Pabst went on the market again in 2014 and was acquired by Eugene Kashper, a beer entrepreneur and Pabst’s current chairman.
In 2014, Pabst was sold to Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings LLC, a partnership between Kashper and San Francisco private equity firm, TSG Consumer Partners, for a reported $700 million. The brewery is now headquartered in Los Angeles.
PBR: Milwaukee-brewed… by MillerCoors.
PBR, along with Pabst’s legacy beers, is currently brewed in Milwaukee by MillerCoors. However, the contract will be up in 2020, at which point the brand will once again be in danger of disappearing.
Aye aye, Captain!
Pabst is named after Captain Pabst, who took over as president of the brewery in 1872 after marrying Maria Best, daughter of one of the original owners, Phillip Best. At the time, the brewery was still called Best and Company.
The blue ribbon was real.
In 1872, Best and Company was the second-largest brewery in the U.S. One of its brands, Best Select, picked up awards at beer competitions throughout the 1880s, so, in 1882, Pabst and his team added pieces of blue ribbons to dress up his Best Select bottles. They must have been doing something right: In 1889, the brewery name changed to Pabst Brewing Company.
The deal was sealed in 1892, when Pabst purchased almost 1 million feet of ribbon to be tied by hand around each Best Select beer. “Blue Ribbon” was added to the beer name in 1895 and, in 1899, the brand name changed to Pabst Blue Ribbon, as we know it and love it (or at least tolerate it) today.
Pabst stayed alive during Prohibition as a cheese-making business. Pabst-ett, as the operation was called, was eventually purchased by Kraft.
Pabst went HAM for the holidays.
Pabst sold 99-can cases of PBR for the holidays in 2017. The bummer: It was only available in Canada.
Pabst wants you to wear its beer.
In 2017, PBR teamed up with winter wear brand 686 to make a Pabst-branded jacket that doubles as a beer cooler. Called the “Sixer,” the garb turns wearers into a mobile 12-pack with 11 pockets, and the 12th assumedly held in your hand.
Pabst has also partnered with O’Neill, Santa Cruz Skateboards, and Vans.
Pabst may have invented the 6-pack.
According to the blog American Beer Museum, Pabst is believed to be the first brewer to package beer in sixes. This allegedly became a thing after a study determined six beers was the ideal weight for the average housewife to hoist home from a store. An alternative explanation: Six-packs fit snugly in the standard paper grocery bag. (Other theories posit Ballantine, Coca-Cola, and a German immigrant brewmaster, William Ostner, as the 6-pack’s original creator.)
Big in China.
Pabst owns 30 different beer brands. Some recognizable names include Old Milwaukee, Colt 45 Malt Liquor, and Schlitz. But Pabst also owns Tsingtao, one of China’s most popular beers.
And, PBR allegedly has a fancy Chinese cousin, Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844, which reportedly sold for a steep $44 a piece in 2010.
Nobody puts Pabst in a corner.
Patrick Swayze starred in a PBR commercial in 1979. Technically, it aired eight years before “Dirty Dancing” existed, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink PBR while hosting a double feature. (Does anyone else remember “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”? On second thought, stick with the original.)