Let me concede at the outset that yes, to the majority of beer lovers, Pabst, the wonderchild of the Pabst Brewing Company, is the laughing stock of the world macrobeer selection for two main reasons:
1) It claims to be “America’s Best” due to the single blue ribbon that it won at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago back in 1893 (and that historical fact itself is dubious).
2) It’s enjoyed all around by millennial hipsters (aka a large number of twenty-somethings, apparently myself included, that comprise my generation).
Still, there’s this scene in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet that summarizes my opinions on PBR despite what anyone might say:
Despite these two stigmas I, like the outspoken character in Blue Velvet, love my cans of shitty PBR.
When I got to college and began my drinking days, I was pretty much a booze novice, especially in terms of beer. My dad was a Scotch man, my mother pretty much avoided the sauce, and I kid you not when I say I did not drink in high school. Okay, I had sampled two beers before I turned 18—a very warm Corona Light and a Budweiser my dad bought me once that I left unfinished. Essentially, my experiences with beer were minimal, and furthermore, I had no idea about the “cool-ness” attached to PBR. So when I found myself at a freshman dorm party and my options were either Bud or Pabst Blue Ribbon, I opted for the uncharted Midwestern waters.
Unlike the watery Corona Light that could’ve used a blast freezer and a lime, or that “meh”-grade Budweiser, PBR tasted like, well, a decent, solid beer. There was (and consistently is) a definitive sweet, biscuit-y malt grain that comes across crisp and affirmative, kissed with a slightly grassy hop-driven bitterness. PBR is delicious to come home and drink after biking around in the sweltering New York City sun, and fortunately, it was almost always present at parties, either in 12 oz. cans or 40 oz. bottles for the heavy drinkers.
Admittedly, PBR did more than just become a reliable go-to beer. “America’s Best” got me my first college girlfriend. She showed me the Blue Velvet scene on her iPhone when we were drinking PBR at a fairy-light-tinged and Dharma Tapestry adorned dorm party, and that was enough to break some serious ice. PBR’s Texas cousin, Lone Star, was featured heavily on HBO’s True Detective, proving that the best of crappy macrobeer also can resonate with state pride. PBR is what loosened (and continues to loosen) me up at concerts, most notably at the now-defunct Death By Audio in Brooklyn, NY (R.I.P.). These are all solid reasons to love PBR, but I’d be lying if I said economics doesn’t play into my admiration of this beer. PBR is dirt-cheap.
When it was said ex’s birthday and sake bombs were the requested “specialty drink” for her birthday party, $17 was enough to acquire a 30-pack of PBR from the nearby bodega, leaving plenty of cash for the $5 sake bottles and take-out chops sticks. Let’s just say that I won major brownie points for what turned out to be a painless expenditure, and there was still beer for the next day.
So sure, there are plenty of reasons to hate on PBR. But after growing from a beer novice to the resident beer snob in four quick years, my opinion on PBR hasn’t changed. When the microbrew chips are down and I’m stuck with the macros, the question of what to drink found its answer long ago: Anything else? Fuck that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!!