Reprieve for PBR


For nine days in November the fate of Pabst Blue Ribbon was in the hand of a jury of 12. MillerCoors, which had been brewing PBR since 1999 wanted to ignore a clause in their brewing contract with Pabst that gave the smaller company an option to extend for five years after the end of their current agreement in 2020. MillerCoors claimed capacity shortfalls, Pabst argued bad faith on the much larger conglomerate’s side and suspected MillerCoors wanted to make room on shelves for their own brands of cheap lager at the expense of the mysteriously beloved brew (hint: it’s really not very good). Yet just as the jurors started deliberations - hooray - both parties announced an “amicable” resolution to all issues and PBR lives to see another day.

It’s been a rocky road especially since the actual 170 years old Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee shuttered its doors in the fall of 1996. Even though MIllerCoors rescued the brand shortly thereafter, it took PBR until the early 2000s to register an uptick in sales - mainly driven by West Coast proto-hipsters (Portland again!) who saw the shuttering of a beer plant by the realities it faced as a rallying cry to support the brand. PBR’s image as workman-like icon for the counter culture has remained not only despite a decided lack of marketing but probably because of it.

And now, in decidedly un-hipsterish fashion an army of corporate lawyers on both sides have hashed out a plan to make sure the brand has yet another lease on life - at least until 2025. Hats off and respect for a brand that simply refuses to do anything the ordinary way - including die.

Roger KunsemuellerComment