Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a brand of beer sold by Pabst Brewing Company, and has been rebooted more times than Batman, marketing wise.

What'll You Have?

Just The Facts

  1. Pabst Blue Ribbon is a historically low-priced beer originating in Milwaukee.
  2. The story of the "Blue Ribbon" award from 1893 is likely an urban legend.
  3. It is currently associated with hipsters, who drink it ironically because of it's previous association with blue collar workers, surly punk rockers, and other "tough" types.
  4. All these beer-snob hipsters ironically drinking this "cheap" beer has ironically driven up demand to where it is no longer cheap, costing nearly twice as much as it did 5 years ago.


It's quite a mystery how Pabst Blue Ribbon evolved from grandpa's favorite beer to the favorite beer of guys in short, tight pants in just a couple of decades, but we here at Cracked feel compelled to investigate. We're kinda like the Scooby Doo gang, except more out-of-shape and lonely.

First of all, the "Blue Ribbon" on the label is likely not a reference to any sort of award. It's inferred from the label on the can that it refers to an award won in 1893, likely from the World's Columbian Exposition of that same year. Other accounts from that fair contradict this story, stating either that no blue ribbons were given out at the fair, or that the awards given were not "intended to imply the merits of competing exhibits". In other words, a consolation prize.

In any case, this also doesn't take into account that Pabst was already tying blue ribbons on bottles of the beer, previouly called Pabst Select, since 1882, eleven years before it won any prize. A more likely story is that customers requesting it just called it "that blue ribbon beer" until the name stuck.

After founder Fredrick Pabst's retirement in the mid 1950s, sales began to slip until prices were drastically reduced. The lower price became a selling point, while maintaining an image of post-war 50s wholesomeness that only exists in the imaginations of older Republicans today.

Ah, that warm, healthy glow you can only get binge drinking cheap beer.

The 80s and 90s were tough on Pabst; plants were closing and PBR had all but dissappeared from the commercial landscape. It still remained a cheap standby, however, becoming a staple of dive bars, punk rockers, and blue collar watering holes. Strangely enough, all of that would add up to a massive and unexpected (or was it?) resurgence recently.

With the rise of the hipster subculture in the early 2000s, PBR suddenly became a kitchy, "retro-chic" option. It's association with earthy, working class individuals, as well as the fact that it had no overt ad campaign, worked in it's favor. At least that's what we overheard at a bus stop conversation between two genderly-confounding individuals in tight pants and wearing those stupid sunglasses that look like venetian blinds. Then they started talking about Facebook and we lost interest.

"Heineken! Fuck That Shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!"

From David Lynch's "Blue Velvet". Almost nobody understands the movie, but almost everybody recognizes that quote. Also, apparently, suave motherfuckers drink PBR from a glass.