Babst Blue Ribbon - Energy drinking.

In 1986, Pabst Blue Ribbon was an unhip brand of beer, and had been for some time. That's when Blue Velvet was released: a movie in which a crazy old man played by Dennis Hopper shouted his preference for PBR to a freaked out Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan). That may be all you know or want to know about Pabst. This ad from 1941 tells us the tale of two reg'lar guys who seek the seclusion of the wilderness to discover the secrets of PBR's flavor and in the process, learn something about themselves.
Pabst Brewing brags that their beer is blended 33 to 1 "like the finest coffee and champagne". As far as an explanation for that goes, I found this page on a home brewer's forum that's authoritative enough for me. Many food manufacturers do this. They mix many batches together so the flavor is more consistent. One poster on the thread calls it "beer averaging". That makes sense. Mystery solved (or solved enough for me, at least).

But apparently Joe and his unnamed friend - let's just call him Joe, too - got a batch of PBR that was slightly heavy with an unnamed stimulant, and maybe some finest coffee.

Panel number three shows Joe and Joe soaring on the PBR rocket ship. Holy smokes. I've never looked like that after one beer - or any number of beers, really. What's Pabst blended with? Thirty three kinds of speed? Joe says he "feels like a NEW MAN now!" "We'll be in camp in NO TIME!" I think this ad might be a little dishonest about the effects of beer... unless "in camp" is code for something else, like "sleeping face down in a woodchuck" or "curled up together on a bed of pine needles, whispering our secrets to each other." By the look on Joe's face, it must be his first experience with beer, but not as first as his friend Joe's.

It may be that the artist exaggerated the expressions, knowing that the final print size would be on the small side. That panel in the ad is about 2 1/2 inches wide, with the faces maybe 5/8 of an inch across. That's pretty small. Any time I'm beginning a project, I always need to know the final use of the piece. That may influence decisions made along the way, like how much to "push" the expressions in these two faces. Or, maybe these two guys just get really really REALLY cranked off one can of PBR.

In my travels on the Google train to plumb the mysteries of the "33 to 1" claim, I found this picture of an old Pabst Blue Ribbon sign from 1943, here in Our Fair City of Chicago. It's part pf a collection of unearthed color photos of depression-era America, in the Library of Congress. Looking at photos this old in full color is slightly incredible. I recommend a look at them, especially if your mind has been in a state of un-blown-ness lately. I gave every photo a rude finger salute right into a folder on my drive, for safe keeping.

In 2001, Pabst engineered a comeback of their brand, using their obscurity and misfortune as an advantage. They used word-of-mouth marketing and sponsorship of counter culture events like scooter rallys and bike messenger races. Here's a link to that story. Clever. Now, with virtually no advertising done, Pabst is enjoying a renaissance all their own, among the hipster beardy types who ride fixed gear bikes with no brakes and mustache handlebars. Makes sense. Those pedal pushers could use the extra energy a can of PBR priovies. They'll be in camp in no time.


Steve Miller said...

If your story head is any indication, PBR still don't get no respect!

MrsBug said...

Ah PBR. The beverage choice of my Dad.

Steve Miller said...

Nice scans, tho...

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

We regret that we have given the impression that we regard PBR with anything other than mild apathy. I personally have never tried it, but the commenters on the home brewing forum spoke of it disparagingly, accusing it of having "no flavor". Sometimes, that's just what I'm looking for. I'll have to try a six of Pabst and keep it around, just to balance out the undrinkable microspew some guest left in my fridge at my last terrible movie-viewing event.

Thanks for reading!


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