Mug Shots: Pabst tense (ask for the original)

“Young consumers … are bellying up to the bar for the beers Grandpa drank … they’re sometimes called ‘retro beers,’ brands that might bring to mind old men in ribbed undershirts but are finding new life with the young. It worked for Pabst Blue Ribbon, and now others are trying.” —USA Today story from 2005

    Readers will be shocked to discover I’ve consumed my fair share of Pabst Blue Ribbon, beginning in the 1970s while underage, and continuing sporadically into the Reagan years. Recently I drank another can of PBR while pondering marketing trends that have nothing whatsoever to do with the essence of the product being vended.

    Today’s Pabst, known primarily as Dennis Hopper’s beer of choice in the film “Blue Velvet,” is the darling of yet another blithely unaware target consumer group that drinks beer because of what it sees and not what it tastes, and it bears scant resemblance to Grandpa’s choice, back when Pabst was a distinctly flavored product.

    Back then, you may or may not have liked Pabst, but you couldn’t accuse it of being watery. If you dared risk your flatware, Pabst could be poured in a glass, a spoon inserted, and it would stand straight up. The onetime Pabst signature flavor — rough-edged, grainy and enough to make the olfactory organs cringe — is still in evidence, but only slightly.

    In a blind taste test, today’s emasculated Pabst would be mistaken for Evian, reminding me of the dastardly 70-calorie Pabst Extra Light of the early 1980s.

    Oh, well. Sometimes I wish I could follow trends instead of always creating my own. It’s a curse, but at least the beer that passes between my lips does so because of its flavor — and not because of an accrued image of Americana accepted as gospel by those who never experienced the genuine article.

Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit for more beer.