Speaking of beer, the Washington Post reported on the growing popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) beer. I’ve never drank PBR (and had no desire to), but after reading this article, I may just have to pick up a six-pack and see what the hoopla is all about.
The popularity of PBR is a lesson in reverse psychology. Young adults have taken to the beer because it wasn’t forced down their throats. Like ugly clothes and extreme sports, Pabst’s value lies in its expression of individuality and choice, a rejection of consumer society by those who feel manipulated by it. Pabst’s selling point is its distinct unpopularity, its unself-conscious existence among beers that reinvent themselves as regularly as political candidates.
…PBR [is classified] as “sub-premium,” a real category among beer producers but one that also reflects the attitude of many American beer drinkers, an attitude that is unlikely to change as the beer proliferates among Establishment dropouts. And nothing is so tenuous as a youth fad, particularly one embraced by the ever-vigilant American iconoclast, who is likely to bail once he suspects corporate America has found him out, not to mention the media. If PBR becomes too visible, too much of a commodity, then it will lose its newfound support.
In the 1890s Pabst produced the best-selling and most widely distributed beer in the country. It was the first beer to be accepted by the moneyed elite; sales were so brisk that Pabst purchased its own forest and barrel factories just to meet the demand. Today, Pabst products constitute about 4.2 percent of the domestic beer market, while Anheuser- Busch commands about 48 percent.