Friday, October 30, 2009

Attention Hipsters: You are Doing It Wrong

So, you are a hipster. Good for you. You show your disdain for society by wearing your vans, your tight jeans, your white belt, your unkempt hair, and your general better than thou attitude.

Back when I lived in Alaska, every summer there would be a bunch of trust fund kids who would get off the airplane, with their huge backpacks, and start to trek across the state. They had their ideals, they thought they would save the world, hugging one tree at a time. They are anti-corporation, anti-government, anti-big business.

Modern hipsters are now known for their taste in beer. Specifically, hipsters drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. (Do a google search for hipster pbr and there are 585,000 results; including "Why do hipsters drink Pabst Blue Ribbon?")

Most of the time, it's said that hipsters drink PBR because "its ironic". Exactly how it's irony, I don't know. Perhaps they think they are sticking it to the man, and avoiding BudMillerCoors (which is a good practice). Sadly, drinking PBR doesn't help the little guy. PBR is made by the Pabst Brewing Company.

The Pabst Brewing Company started in 1844. PBC has won more than 120 medals at the Great American Beer Festival, twice they were selected as Large Brewery of the Year. That category again, Large Brewery of the Year.

How did Pabst get to be a large brewery? That's a long story... It's pretty much the story of four brewing companies.


In 1848, they (then Best's brewery) only produced 300 barrels. By 1872, they were making 100,000 barrels. In 1889 the name was changed to Pabst Brewing Company. In 1946 Pabst bought the Hoffman Beverage Company in Newark. In 1948, Pabst bought the Los Angeles Brewing Company. By 1977, 18 million barrels were being sold a year.


Schlitz started in 1849 brewing 300 barrels. In 1867 they made 5,578 barrels. In 1879, 139,154 barrels. After the great Chicago fire n 1871, Schlitz supplied beer to Chicago with the tagline "The beer that made Milwaukee famous". In 1950 Schlitz sold 5 million barrels, in 1952, 6.35 million. In 1955, Schlitz and Anheuser-Busch were battling for the #1 spot. In 1963, Schlitz purchases Burgermeister Beer. In 1973 Schlitz hd 21.3 million barrels of sales. Things went downhill in 1967 with a different brewing process. In 1982, Schlitz was purchased by Stroh Brewing Co.

G. Heileman Brewing Co.

Gottleib Heileman started the City Brewery in LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1858. In 1902 City Golden Leaf Beer was relaunched as Heileman's Old Style Lager. From 1950 on Heileman's goes on a purchasing spree. 1959 Kingsbury, 1962 Fox Head, 1963 Independent Brewing, 1964 Duluth Brewing, 1964 Gluek Brewery, 1967 Weidemann Brewery, 1967 Oertel Brewing, 1969 Blatz, 1972 Associated Brewing (Schmidt), 1976 Grain Belt Brewery, 1976 Rainier Brewing, 1978 Falls City, 1979 Carling (Colt 45, Natty Bo).

In 1979, Heileman had 34 brands and 9 breweries; they were the 4th largest brewer in the country. In 1982 they bought Lone Star. In 1990 Heileman declared bankruptcy. They were sold to Hicks Muse Tate in 1993, and to Stroh in 1996.

Stroh Brewery Co.

Bernhard Stroh started the Lion's Head Brewery in Detroit. In the 1890's Stroh's uses fire-brewing technique, instead of steam to heat the kettles. In 1956, Stroh's sales were 2.7 million barrels. In 1964, purchases Goebel Brewing Company. In 1973 sold 4 million barrels. 1978, purchases Schaefer Brewing, sells 6.4 million barrels. 1982, buys Schlitz becomes third largest brewer. 1996, purchases Heileman for 290 million. 1999, acquired by Pabst Brewing Company.

So that's how Jacob Best's 18 barrel system in 1848 wound up owning most of the regional breweries in the United States.

What's Ironic about PBR is that the hipsters drink it. They may think they are sticking it to the man, by avoiding Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. But instead, they are purchasing a beer from a brewery that has gobbled up every possible little man in an effort to increase market share.

Were all of these acquisitions hostile takeovers? Probably not. I'm sure many of them were just regional brewers that got in over their head. They created a good product that the locals enjoyed, and then tried to expand. As these small breweries increased their size, they probably became incorporated, and were forced to attempt to expand even more. This probably led them to near financial ruin. During that time, the companies that still had money (Stroh's, Heileman, Schlitz, and Pabst) came in and bought up the brewery.

So, this beer that is loved by the counter-culture hipsters is made by a company that owns this:

Schaefer Brewing Company; G. Heileman Brewing Company; Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company; Lone Star Brewing Company; McSorley's Ale House; Narragansett Brewing Company; Pabst Brewing Company; Pearl Brewing Company; Piel Brothers; Primo Brewing and Maalting Company; Rainier Brewing Company; Southampton bottling, LLC; Specialty Brewing Company; St. Ides Brewing Company; and Stroh Brewery Company.

Instead of drinking an alternative beer; you are buying a mainstream, corporate, white collar, boardroom, hostile takeover and dismantle the little guy beverage.

How can you sleep at night?



Anonymous said...

Too right! I've never got that-- I mean, no matter what you think you are saying with your ironic beer choice, you still have to drink the stuff! That's gotta be pretty unpleasant!

Virgil G (vgrid) said...

Well, Pabst Brewing Company is apparently for sale now.

It might go for $300 Million.

Shawn said...

Actually Pabst was gobbled up by a larger company, Pearl Brewing Company in San Antonio Texas. Of course by then Pearl wasn't Pearl, it was just the operating name for Paul Kalmanovitz's monster General Brewing Company/S&P Corp. Pabst was dismantled like all the rest of Kalmanovitz's aquistions. When S&P bought Pearl, they took the name, because it was more famous than the other brands they had at the time. When they got ahold of Pabst they did the same thing. It's funny that hipsters drink that crap to try and stick it to the man (Bud/Miller/Coors). Pabst doesn't brew their own beer, every beer Pabst owns is contract brewed, mostly by Miller. So, typically Pabst is the left over crap that can't pass as Miller's swill.