Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Refresh, Rejoice, Regurgitate - Pabst Gets the Call

The sign outside of the Barrel Head is announcing that they now have PBR on tap. This totally misses the point. People don’t drink Pabst Blue Ribbon because they prefer its taste over other brands of pilsners. They do so because PBR is enjoying a blip on the hipness meter, having been adopted as the libation-of-choice for snowboarders, neo southern-fried rockers, and other anti-establishment sorts. So you need that classic red, white, and blue bottle or can to announce to the rest of the patrons that you aren’t down with the Miller and Bud conformists. If you pour the PBR into a clear glass, all you are left with is another watered-down beer.

I give the people at PBR credit for letting their new cult status grow organically and not targeting millions of beer drinkers with an ad campaign touting its eclectic appeal, although they really couldn’t afford to even if they wanted. And there aren’t many people left at PBR to give credit to. Not even a brewmaster. The brand's management is based in Texas now and the beer is contracted out for brewing to Miller, a South African-owned company. We’re not in Wisconsin anymore.

I don’t put much stock in a lasting PBR renaissance. It’s riding the same wave that had city boys wearing seed company caps and Kid Rock exploiting the spurious talents of midgets and the future Mrs. Lance Armstrong. I’m hoping that I’ve seen the last of Kid Rock and while I harbor no ill feelings towards PBR, provided that I’m not made to ingest it, I’m guessing that it will go the way of ZIMA before long.

Something will soon replace PBR as the hipster drink of choice. Many marketers hire coolhunters or trendspotters to see what the young and impressionable are into so that they can strike quickly and make a few bucks before the fickle consumers move on to something else. It’s a tricky business.

Society is either blessed or besieged by constant communication, depending on how you look at it. Nothing stays on the periphery of the mainstream for very long. One of the results of this is that trends go from zero to passé in the time it takes Renee Zellweger to become a divorcee. Bands can go from "fresh and innovative" to "tired and derivative" in the course of one album. And, likewise, a beer that conveys “rural retro chic” at happy hour will degenerate to “dumb redneck wannabe” by closing time. Fifteen minutes? More like fifteen seconds.

Of course I could be wrong about the Barrel Head’s decision to offer PBR on tap. For all I know they’re selling the stuff pitcher over fist. If that is the case, I bet the guys tipping them back are wearing mesh-back John Deere caps and “Vote for Pedro” t-shirts that they recently bought at Famous-Barr.


La Lubu said...

PBR on tap at the Barrelhead? But....why? Ptooie! Sorry, when it comes to the Barrelhead, I think I'll stick with that uncool, unhip, but damn tasty Guinness!

Anonymous said...

I noticed that sign, too, Dan. With much amusement, of course. I recall an article in the SJ-R biz section a year or two ago about how PBR was becoming the hipster's suds of choice in Portland and other such (actually hip) locales. Funny how the Springfield hipsters are always behind the curve. And is Barrel Head a place that local cool kids go these days? Their beer selection is OK, and the pizza is decent (the roast beef on Black Forest rye is darn tasty, tho), but the gang and I never went there socially.

I also recall about 10 years ago in college, when I worked as a parts runner for the university motor pool. The shop foreman (a true "Son of the Soil") asked what I was doing one particular night and invited me, in all earnestness, to "PK's for some PBR." I politely declined, since it was Pint Night at Tres Hombres, where they served actual tasty beer.

Anonymous said...

Used to get it at Charlie Zaubi's for 35 cents a (frosted) mug back in the 70s. At that price, it tasted pretty good, although they also had Bud and given the choice, I'll take the Bud 99 times out of a hundred. And I did. It's not bad in the same way that Stag or Milwaukee's Best is bad, but you'd have to be pretty bold to drink one off-temp, slightly warm. A Bud will go down that way and still be good, Pabst not so good and others toxic and possibly fatal.

For me the only thing that gives PBR any cachet whatsoever is the Allman Bros. double album photo (Live at Fillmore East) in which they are all sucking down PBR tall boys. If they were on that stuff, and making music like that, then it must be good for you somehow. Or maybe Duane and Gregg didn't pay the band and roadies that well and that's all they could afford. In NYC, no less.

I think maybe that's it----it's so UN-cool that it's cool.

Never had "Old Buckhorn" but had some friends at SIU and they said it was the worst beer ever. I quit drinking a long time ago but I never understood people putting lime in their beer. I quit drinking before they came out with "DRY" beer and kinda wondered what that was all about, even though I think it is gone now. I guess that's pretty telling; it must not have been very good. At least PBR is consistent and maybe that is the attraction. It is a very old brand, and maybe that is why they can market it as a classic, when it's taste really isn't. Although ice cold, once in a while it was pretty good. To me, it's kinda like Old Style in that way. A different, distinctive taste, nothing to write home about but a decent change of pace from time to time.

The last time I was in Barrel Head, they had no draft whatsoever. If I were drinking beer today (based on advertising), it would be Coors because they use the O'Jays "Love Train"---do I sound stuck in the 70s?

Anonymous said...

My guess for what's next:


Now there's a classic for ya.

Anonymous said...

How 'bout Schmidt's?

Ever try that river water?


Little Kings?

Mike Wilson said...

Oh, you beat me to the Schmidt's punch. That is a HORRIBLE beer. I'm more into the scotch scene with the occassional port. La dee freakin da.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

I agree with La Lubu that Guinness is one fine stout. After the kids go to bed on Saturday night and my wife and I settle in for a few hands of Euchre, I usually reach for a Sierra Neveda Pale Ale.

I have had Little Kings back in my college years, but not Schmidt's. I also didn't participate in the Dry beer movement and am confounded by it as well.

Anonymous said...

Schmidt's trivia -

I believe there is a Schmidt's neon sign prominently displayed at the country bar that the Blues Brothers played at...