All We Are Saying...Is Give Pabst A Chance.

Photo: underwhelmer

Many apologies, fans of John Lennon, for the shameless hijacking of a wonderful song title. I couldn't resist. Now, this post is aimed at beer drinkers far and wide, and it's a plea to do a paradigm shift and open your eyes to the "low-end" beers that are considered cheap and nasty. They may be cheap, but I can assure you, nasty is not a fitting phrase. (See also: 21 Great Uses for Beer)

I have been a fan of beer since I turned 18, the legal drinking age in Britain. My personal favorites have always been the darker beers, the bitter, the stouts, and the wheat beers. I like flavor. I love microbrewery beers. But sometimes, on a hot day or when you're chugging a few pints at a party, the heavier beers are a little too much.

That's when most people turn to the crowd-pleasers. First, the light and regular domestic beers from Miller, Coors, and Budweiser. Or the premium beers, like Sam Adams, Stella Artois, Heineken, Red Stripe, Kingfisher, Kronenbourg, and so on. Lastly, if you happen to like spending some cash, are the microbrews and exotic beers. I've paid $12 for one bottle of beer, and that was the liquor store price. If I'd ordered it in a restaurant, it would easily have cost the same as a bottle of wine.

However, stuck in the back of the liquor store, in a darkened, shameful corner of the fridge, are the red-headed stepchildren of the beer world. You know their names. They include Keystone, Colt 45, Miller High Life, Bud Ice, and the most infamous of them all, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

These beers are branded as cheap, and rightly so. They are cheap. The average price for a 30-pack of 12oz cans comes in at between $18-$20. That's around 60 cents per can. Compare that to $1 for a bottle of Bud ($6 for a six-pack) or $1.50 for a premium beer ($9 for a six-pack) and you rack up some big savings by drinking the cheap beers.

"Ah, but you're sacrificing flavor," the beer aficionados will say.


I guarantee that the majority of the loyal drinkers of the three biggest light-beer brands (Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light) could not tell the difference between those beers in a blind taste test.

If you scoff at that, take the test yourself. Better yet, put money on it. That will really make things interesting. As I have several friends in the beer industry here in Colorado (the home of Miller/Coors) I know that the test has been done several times.

The results are always the same; most people do no better than chance. Even people who have been drinking the same brand for 20 years usually don't know the difference once the label is out of the picture.

And if that's the case, how would something like Pabst Blue Ribbon stand up? After all, PBR is a gold medal winner. The following extract came from Wikipedia:

Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, published the following tasting notes for Pabst Blue Ribbon in 2008: "A contrasting counterpoint of sharp texture and flowing sweetness is evident at the first sip of this historic brew. A slowly increasing hoppiness adds to the interplay of ingredients, while the texture smoothes out by mid-bottle. The clear, pale-gold body is light and fizzy. Medium-bodied Blue Ribbon finishes with a dusting of malts and hops. A satisfying American classic and a Gold Medal winner at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival.”

Now, that's not too shabby. Miller High Life won the silver that year, too. These are good beers folks. They're not amazing beers, but they don't deserve the stigma attached to them, either. Next time you have a barbecue or birthday party, grab a case of PBR or another "cheap" beer and display it with pride. You're serving good beer and you're saving money, too. Which means you can afford more beer! Now, that's one more reason to celebrate.

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Guest's picture

If your a fan of miller and want to try a cheap beer give miller high life a try. It's as good as miller lite, and priced like pabst.

Guest's picture

Good post. As a "beer guy", I'm on board with this. I too am a fan of microbrews, stouts, porters, wheat ales, scotch ales, and all that delicious stuff. But I also agree that if we're talking about a long day of drinking, like tailgating, a bachelor party, or Labor Day, then you're better off with the domestics mentioned above. For the price, and also for your hangover. You'll get drunk fast on those heavy, high alcohol content beers, and be hurting the next day. Or you could drink less... just saying.

To me, different types of beers have their purpose. Quality can go down when the quantity goes up. I'm not going to pound young's chocolate stouts all night. I might splurge on a few just hanging out but, if it turns into an all-nighter, I'm switching to PBR. And of course, I wouldn't be driving, right kids?

I have my likes and dislikes in the beer world, but I'm no snob. Every beer has its purpose.

Guest's picture

The term you are looking for is sessionable.

Sessionable? The word is derived from an English term for beers mild enough that one can theoretically consume multiple pints over the course of a several-hour session without becoming drunk.

Guest's picture

I love darker beers and wheat beers and I tried Pabst Beer and it wasn't bad at all. I heard it tastes better on tap. The price is reasonable. My local grocery store was selling a 12-pk for $7.99. That's 2 six packs for $4 each. The taste is good and would highly recommend it especially if you are having a party or a bar-b-q

Guest's picture
Another beer Charlie

Good article. Somebody had to write it! Beer, like life, is better with variety. I like most kinds of beers, from micros to mass-markets; and some are better than others, in certain conditions. I certainly don't thirst for a heavy bock on a hot day. Though I can't attest to Pabst, I can endorse the heat-beating flavor of the occasional MGD, or a Miller High Life. Beer snobs, like wine snobs (and various other kinds of snobs), sacrifice true quality for status or image. Their loss.

Guest's picture

I am in the camp that Coors, Bud, and Miller don't even taste good. I agree that the difference between a Coors Light and Key Light is not huge, but the difference between a Dogfishhead 90 minute IPA and a PBR is massive. I would rather drink three less beers to have something really good.

P.S. One day to Great American Beer Festival in Denver!

Guest's picture

East coast drinkers know that Schmidt's is fine stuff from Philly. Unfortunately it gets confused with Schlitz, which is cat barf.

Guest's picture

Total nonsense. The beers you mention are crap. Better to drink one good micro, or maybe a Guinness, than a case of PBR etc.

It's all well and good to be frugal, but when you tell yourself Coors is good who are you fooling?

Guest's picture

Just recently I tried a Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) after listening to a band call Ceann. They have a song called "Pabst Blue Ribbon" pretty funny. I found PBR to be a decent pilsner. Most domestic big name beers are pilsners. Another cheap decent pilsner is Old Milwaukee.

Guest's picture
Another beer Charlie

Dude! Thanks to you, I bought my first sixer of Pabst. I was pleasantly surprised. It was very good (especially for the money). I am officially adding it to my regular "what's on sale this week" rotation. Thanks for the tip!

Guest's picture

While I do appreciate PBR in cans and bottles, the taste doesn't hold up in draught. I've discovered Stroh's at my local liquor store and I like it just as much if not more than PBR.

Marla Walters's picture

Paul, I was skeptical (I love my husband's home-brews) but gave it a try. I'll admit it -- I was pleasantly surprised. It was also priced very well. Thanks for the great tip and really fun post.

Chris Birk's picture

Amen, Paul. When I'm out to dinner or "on the town," I tend to have slightly more discerning tastes. But there's almost always some PBR in the fridge at home. The more troublesome issue with PBR is avoiding the hipster moniker.

Great headline, too.


Guest's picture

I used to think Pabst was good for a cheap beer, but now I'm on the "Name Tag" bandwagon. It's less metallic tasting than Pabst and it's cheaper: $3 for a six pack at Trader Joes. Check it out.

Guest's picture

I love PBR. I work in a bar with over 100 different brews. I appreciate the craft brew industry; I actually just recently became a Certified Beer Server, or a Cicerone. But you can frequently find me drinking Mickey's or PBR. There is a right place and time for everything.

Guest's picture

I love PBR. It is much better than Bud and I used to drink nothing but Bud.

Guest's picture

PBR will always be my budget beer of choice. As someone who could be considered a "beer snob," I normally drink Belgian beer with a higher alcohol content (8-9 percent). It costs more, but I only need a couple glasses before I'm feelin' pretty good. On a hot summer day, however, I reach for Pabst, and prefer it hands down over other macrobrews.

Guest's picture

I gots no problems with PBR. It's delicious.

Also, since you live in Colorado, have you ever been out to Golden and taken the Coors tour? I was out there a couple years ago, and they gave me and my wife four free samples a piece (and each same was at least 1/2 a pint). In fact, that tour is the main reason I would want to go back to Colorado. :)