Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer Review

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There are some beers whose reputation is so bad that even Joe Six Pack types who only drink “The Big Three” will mock them – the most famous being Pabst Blue Ribbon.

So I decided to sit down and give it a fair shake to see what all the hubbub is about. I was pleasantly surprised at just how offensive this beer was not, but truth be told it’s far from a good beer.

History of Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) is a beer that was first brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1844 by a German immigrant named Jacob Best. In the late 1800s, PBR became one of the most popular beers in America, winning numerous awards at international beer competitions.

During Prohibition, PBR was one of the few breweries that was able to stay in business by producing non-alcoholic beverages. After Prohibition ended, PBR struggled to regain its popularity and was eventually sold to a group of investors in 1985.

In the early 2000s, PBR experienced a resurgence in popularity among young adults, particularly in the hipster subculture. This was due in part to its low price point and association with working-class culture.

Today, PBR is owned by a Russian-American company called Oasis Beverages and is still a popular beer in the United States.

Fun fact: Pabst Blue Ribbon is the drink of choice of Mike Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul. It has also been the subject of parody in the animated comedy South Park.

Pabst Blue Ribbon: Appearance and Aroma

I poured a 12oz can into a pint glass. Not surprisingly, this beer pours to a crystal-clear shade of straw gold with some bubbles at first although it quickly dies down. It does generate a somewhat fluffy, bright-white, soapy head, but it dissipates down to a tiny layer of suds rather fast. There isn’t much aroma to speak of. Adjunct macro lagers, and especially “economy” versions like this are often off-putting or straight-up foul in the nose, but PBR is rather neutral. It’s that generic “beer smell” but milder. I detect a touch of metal and corn, but these notes are light enough to tolerate.

Pabst Blue Ribbon: Taste

Beer snobs like to mock adjunct macro lagers and especially the “lights” for tasting putrid, but I find them more often than not to be bland as is the case with Pabst Blue Ribbon. In a blind taste test I’m not sure I could distinguish between this beer and Coors, Miller or Bud lights. Upfront it’s very watery, thin, and bland – which makes it surprisingly refreshing. As it finishes there is an odd flavor combination of cereal grain sweetness and a touch of tin or aluminum. I’ve had this beer on tap and in the bottle and noticed these flavors as well, so it’s clearly not the can. Don’t get me wrong, these are definitely not appealing flavors. In fact, if this beer is consumed warm it becomes off-putting, but drank cold it’s tolerable at best.

Pabst Blue Ribbon: Drinkability

With its flat, bland body and noticeable wateriness, PBR is actually a highly drinkable beer. The palate here really doesn’t satisfy, but it does work well as a thirst-quencher on a hot day or when accompanying some ball park-style foods or during similar situations. I was surprised how well it paired with beer brats and could envision beer drinkers of virtually all calibers slugging it down at a BBQ or picnic. At 4.74% ABV, this truly is a sessionable beer. The only problem is I think the lack of taste will begin to wear on the average drinker’s palate after two or three servings.

Every time I see a bottle or can of Pabst Blue Ribbon I have to chuckle at the fact the brewery boasts that it was selected as “America’s Best in 1893.” Is this a joke or are they really trying to brag about this? Either way, when you drink PBR it’s kind of like time-traveling to the days of the Grover Cleveland administration (the first one), since the recipe probably hasn’t changed since then.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Calories and ABV

Pabst Blue Ribbon has 144 calories per 12oz can – similar to Budweiser (145) or Modelo Especial (143). Carbs wise, it has 12.8g of carbohydrates in each can or bottle.

At 4.8% ABV, Pabst Blue Ribbon is in the higher end of the alcohol content range for an American lager style beer.

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Carla Lauter was the founder of The Beer Babe and has been a beer blogger and expert for several decades. She's been interviewed in beer publications and podcasts about her favorite brews and the craft brewing scene. While she's ceased her involvement with The Beer Babe, her legacy remains in the various reviews and articles she has written.