Nose: Dry, malty, crisp.
Mouth: Very light, fizzy. Slight citrus, malty, nutty. Aftertaste is dry and malty
Pabst Blue Ribbon. The hipster’s brew of choice. It was originally introduced in 1844 so it’s been around a while. It’s called Blue Ribbon because, well, Pabst claims that it won “America’s Best” at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Thing is though, there’s no real evidence to support that. Especially since the fair refused to award such prizes. So how it won “America’s Best” in a fair with no awards, I dunno. That’s the source of the name though.
I think it’s a lie. One cannot deny it’s popularity though. It’s all over the place and while Pabst has refused to support the “hipster market” through pandering to the demographic that dug PBR out of it’s death spiral, it has been featured prominently in various establishments and media outlets where such a demographic tends to gravitate towards. The resurgence hasn’t been built around the quality of the beer but rather the “ironic” stigma behind PBR’s status as the Cadillac of frat house keggers. It’s the cream of the crop that includes such wonderful tidbits like Old Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s Best and even the venerable favorite “Natty Light”. So I guess being the best of the worst in the public’s view has some legs to it.
Anyway, with that out of the way, this is far from the greatest brew I’ve ever had. Like most of the macro brewers though, Pabst has this down pat. It’s consistent from bottle to bottle. It’s not exactly shooting for the stars though. It is a Pilsner though and uses 6-row barley for the malt. They use “Pacific domestic hops” but are not clear about what they actually are. They say they blend it with an imported Yugoslavian variety (website’s kinda dated in that respect since Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 1992) but again, they are not specific. I’m guessing that it’s probably a noble hop like Tettnang blended with a dash of Cascade from the Pacific Northwest. That would fit the faint flavor profile that is offered here. They yammer on about fermentation at high gravity and how the beer is cellared and so on. All fancy pants way of saying “we brew beer”.
The problem though is that they have this statement in their description of their beer: “…a carefully balanced carbohydrate profile from corn syrup…”. Why’s that a problem? Well, not for the reason you are probably thinking related to high-fructose corn syrup and the fattening of America. See, fermentation changes those compounds and hence how your body metabolizes them so stop being so…I dunno…dumb. See, if you read one of my other reviews about light beer, like the one I wrote about Miller Lite, you’d already know why sugars are added to the fermentation process. They boost alcohol content without boosting the calorie count. Consequently, PBR is fairly potent at 4.75% alcohol.
OK, but what’s the problem with corn syrup? Well, this is what the problem is. Regular old sugar is also known as sucrose. It’s a simple sugar that is easy to break down. Yeah, so? Corn syrup has those “coses” too. Yeah, but, corn syrup is a liquid, not a crystallized solid. In fact, the whole point of corn syrup is to prevent the crystallization of sugar so you can make awesome stuff like Pecan Pie! The compounds that keep it from crystallizing the glucose in the corn starch that corn syrup is made from are known as Oligosaccharide. The thing about that stuff is that when it breaks down, it produces a number of different Monosaccharides which are basically simple sugars. They are all water soluble which is important here but some of those monosaccharides and other compounds get passed through to your digestive tract where your intestinal microflora (bacteria) feast on them. They end up making gas which makes you bloated and farty. On top of that, some of the compounds might even make you feel bad with nausea or headaches.
So that’s why corn syrup as an alcohol booster is bad. It’s also likely why so many people say that PBR gives them headaches while other cheaper beers that use sucrose bases instead of corn syrup don’t give people headaches. Oh, also, corn syrup and that water soluble stuff? Yeah, when it breaks down, it releases the retained moisture. Since it’s added after the wort is created and before fermentation, that water goes right into the beer making it thinner and lighter. I’m sure the brewers account for this but to hit the calorie mark they are going for (it’s about 153 calories per bottle and they even make a PBR Light!) there isn’t much they compensate for without adding more calories to the brew.
So if you read my other posts about light beers and how some brewers take short cuts that hurt the end product? Here’s a shortcut. This makes for a very light, weak flavored brew with a high alcohol content. With the extra compounds in it that can’t be filtered out from the fermentation of corn syrup, it’ll also make for a pretty bad “day after”. So as beers go, this….well, it’s a beer. It gets a half point for consistency but hey, consistency doesn’t mean much if, say, you’re a carpenter and you consistently miss the nail head 75% of the time. It also gets a half point for the simple fact that it’ll get ya drunk! And boy will you know about it the next day too!
PBR, the hipster brew. It might be fun and cheap to hang out with but the next day is going to be full of failure and regret. Leave this one to the “ironic hipsters” Those douche nozzles deserve it.