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Let's find a new beer, hipsters


  • Pabst Blue Ribbon (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)
Pabst Blue Ribbon (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)
May 20, 2012|By Ryan Smith, For RedEye

Shed no tears in your beer, fellow Chicagoans, especially if that beer's a PBR.

The recent news that Pabst is trading its Chicago-area headquarters for shiny new L.A. digs isn't as sad as you might think.

As a semi-regular Pabst Blue Ribbon drinker, I got a little choked up myself when I first read PBR was going all 90210 on us—especially since Playboy pulled off the same move to SoCal earlier this year. (Side note: Both porn and cheap beer leaving seems an especially cruel blow to the young male.)

But I engaged in a little soul-searching during the past couple of days and achieved a Zen-like peace about the move. Granted, I may be mistaking inner peace with a buzz from downing two PBR tallboys, but still.

For those oblivious to the whole PBR phenomenon, here's a summary:

Sometime over the past decade and a half, a group of particularly cool people often derisively labeled "hipsters" agreed that edgy, culturally relevant people needed a cheap beer to latch onto. Obviously, they picked the least cool, least marketable beer possible—PBR, which was known previously as a blue-collar beverage downed by schlubby guys.

This move was borderline genius because it allowed broke-ass cool people to feel superior to people who drink other mainstream brands such as Bud Light but still pay only a buck or two for a brew.

PBR eventually started popping up everywhere in cool bars, despite the fact that it tastes a lot like most other macrobrews. Its flavor can be summarized as: "watered-down gasoline with a slight hint of metal." But served super-cold, hey, it's tolerable.

PBR was especially dominant in Chicago, where good criteria for a dive bar would be:

1. It's a stop on the Tamale Guy's route.

2. It offers PBR on tap or in cans.

But Pabst's local ties are suspect.

There is one true Chicago connection. The "Blue Ribbon" designation was earned via an award at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. But the headquarters have been in suburban Woodridge since 2006 and the beer was founded in Milwaukee. Would we be sad if the Milwaukee Brewers left to play in Dodger Stadium? Doubtful.

Pabst doesn't brew in Chicago, and, actually, it doesn't make beer anywhere. The brewing of PBR was contracted out in 2008 to MillerCoors, which makes it in Irwindale, Calif. That's kind of the equivalent ofGiordano'soutsourcing its deep-dish pie to Pizza Hut in Dallas.

These facts in mind, it's high time we retire PBR as the official cool, cheap beer of Chicago and crown a new champion.

If anyone knows how to organize a "Hunger Games"-like contest to the death for beer brands, please let me know.


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