Birth of an Empire
German immigrant Jacob Best and his sons establish the Empire Brewery in Milwaukee, WI and produce 300 barrels of Best Select lager in their first year. Presumably they celebrate with a pint.
Meet Frederick Pabst
Jacob’s son Phillip takes over and renames the company Phillip Best Company. His new son-in-law, steamship captain Frederick Pabst, sells his shipping interest and buys a partnership stake in the brewery.
100,000 Barrels of Beer
Phillip Best Company produces 100,000 barrels, becoming the second largest brewery in the US. Captain Pabst takes over as President of the company.
The First Gold Medal
Pabst's Best Select lager wins a gold medal at the Centennial Celebration, marking the first of many awards the beer will win throughout its 150+ year lifespan.
A Blue Ribbon on Every Bottle
Having earned awards at US and international competitions, Pabst begins hand-tying a blue silk ribbon around the neck of each Best Select beer to identify it as a first-place winner. You know, because it was.
Another New Name
Pabst follows in his father-in-law’s footsteps, changing the brewery’s name to honor himself. The Pabst Brewing Company is born.
One Million Feet of Silk
As production rises, so does the demand for blue silk ribbon. The company purchases nearly 1 million feet of silk ribbon per year, which workers tie by hand around each bottle of Best Select.
America’s Best Beer
Pabst is awarded the blue ribbon at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, beating out many other popular American brewers. And not surprisingly, some unpopular ones.
What'll You Have?
Patrons keep asking bartenders for the beer with the blue ribbon, and the nickname sticks. The phrase “Blue Ribbon” is added to the Best Select name on the label.
A New Name for the Classic Beer
The beer’s name is officially changed to Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the brewery produces one million barrels. Pabst begins exporting heavily to New York, even opening his own hotels, theatres and restaurants that, oddly enough, do not serve rival Schlitz beer.
The Captain Sails On
Frederick Pabst passes away, leaving his brewing company in the hands of his sons, Frederick Jr. and Gustav.
The First Brewery Tours
Brewing output reaches two million barrels per year. The company invites visitors to receive tours of the brewery.
There’s No Ration Slip for Silk
World War I leads to a worldwide silk shortage that puts an end to the practice of hand-tying blue silk ribbon around each bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
From Brewers to Cheese Mongers
When Prohibition begins, the company drops “Brewing” from their name and changes course to something the temperance movement (not to mention Wisconsin-ites) can get on board with: Cheese. Pabst-ett cheese is produced at a farm upstate and aged in the brewery’s ice cellars. The company also produces soft drinks and malt extract, which is marketed—thanks to a lack of Surgeon General warnings—as a tonic for nursing mothers.
Pabst’s cheese making business is thriving, with more than 8 million pounds of Pabst-ett sold. Know what goes great with cheese? Bootleg beer.
Back to Brewing
When Prohibition ends, Pabst sells their cheese operations to Kraft and gets back to the good stuff—brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon and tying iconic blue silk ribbons around them. The beer is as popular as it was before Prohibition. (And likely during.)
The Nation Needs its Beer
Pabst purchases the Premier Malt Products Company in Peoria, IL to boost production in response to post-Prohibition (and tailgate) demand.
An American Export
Pabst develops keg-lined Tap-a-Cans, with “Brewery Goodness Sealed Right In,” becoming one of the first breweries to offer beer in cans. Oddly, the canned product is called Pabst Export Beer, while the Pabst Blue Ribbon is reserved for the bottled beer.
Pabst on the Radio
Radio becomes a popular advertising medium for Pabst, with several Hollywood celebrities, including Danny Kaye and Eddie Cantor, promoting Pabst Blue Ribbon on their radio programs. Oddly, they’re never seen drinking the beer.
Pabst's Northeast Stronghold
Pabst purchases the Hoffman Beverage Company in Newark, NJ, allowing the company to serve the northeast more efficiently.
Pabst expands to the west with the purchase of the Los Angeles Brewing Company. With breweries now located throughout the entire country, Pabst is truly a national brand.
Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts
From 1948 to 1955, Pabst was the title sponsor of Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts, a weekly boxing match that aired on major television networks. The program featured many fights from top US arenas, as well as regular title bouts.
Pabst on the Boob Tube
Pabst embraces television early on, sponsoring live sporting events like boxing and baseball, and producing commercials featuring two singing blue ribbons. Which aren’t at all creepy.
No More Blue Silk Ribbons
The blue ribbon is officially removed from around the necks of Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles, but earns a permanent spot on the label. Production soars to 3.4 million barrels, making Pabst one of the nation’s top five brewing companies.
The Fashionable Beer
Pabst engages celebrated fashion photographer Richard Avedon to shoot elegant couples enjoying Pabst Blue Ribbon for a new advertising campaign. The ads appear in high-end magazines like Vogue and the New Yorker with the headline, “Pabst Makes it Perfect.” We still agree.
A Time For Fun
100 Millionth Barrel
Pabst celebrates its 100 millionth barrel with an elaborate ceremony featuring a golden barrel, a plane trip for 60 to Jacob Best’s hometown in Germany, and a modicum of fanfare.
Millions of Barrels of Beer
Pabst’s volume continues to grow, reaching 4.7 million barrels in 1960. Ten years later, it more than doubles to 10.5 million barrels. That’s a lot of beer.
Pabst: The People's Beer
Pabst opens a new brewery in Perry, GA, bringing so many jobs to the town that it is briefly renamed Pabst, GA. That Perry guy is not pleased.
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is immortalized in a song by country singer Johnny Russell, whose “Rednecks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer” becomes a top-five hit. And should still be considered a classic.
An All-Time High
Pabst sells 18 million barrels, the company’s all-time record. Awesome.
Blue Ribbon On My Mind
Patrick Swayze shows off his sweet disco moves and fantastic hair in what is arguably one of the best beer commercials ever produced. Arguable if you’re argumentative by nature, that is.
Ripe for the Picking
Pabst’s debt-free balance sheet attracts corporate raiders like Irwin “The Liquidator” Jacobs. The company spends $11 million in legal fees fighting the hostile takeover. The media speculates Jacobs has a PBR fetish.
New Owner, No Ads
Paul Kalmanowitz buys Pabst for $63 million. During his ownership, he closes the flagship brewery in Milwaukee and terminates all advertising. Members of the “kill your TV” movement rejoice.
The Awards Pour In
Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s ever taken a sip of PBR, the beer wins awards at the Great American Beer Festival 14 of these 20 years. And it’s pretty clear the judging was fixed the other years.
Overall sales make an unexpected upswing this year, as much as 5.3%. The unlikely source of new interest in PBR? Bike messengers, millennials, and other young people who see the beer’s scarcity and lack of advertising as a personal challenge. They seek it out, embrace it, and make it their own.
A New Owner
The Metropoulos family acquires Pabst.
White Trash in Trouble
South Park spoofs Pabst, implying that PBR is a white trash beer. Ten million millennials beg to differ.
Even without traditional advertising, Pabst Blue Ribbon continues to be one of the fastest-growing consumer brands in the country, embraced by a wide cross-section of the population. Including South Park fans. Now owned by American beer entrepreneur Eugene Kashper, Pabst remains American owned and operated, as we have been for 170 years. Our team is committed to staying true to our roots in everything that we do.