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The Renaissance of Pabst Blue Ribbon

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My 3rd cousin, Jerry, was one of the more colorful characters of my youth. He was loud, drunken and unapologetically vulgar. And each day, he careened up and down the curling roads of Rockhouse Creek in an old pickup with a toolbox full of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

For many years, I avoided Pabst, associating it with images of my distant cousin’s family-reunion tantrums or his violent, uncomfortable outbursts at other family gatherings.

Nowadays, however, I purchase and consume PBR with unabashed vigor, my perception of the brand no longer suffering from the memories of cousin Jerry’s hijinks. So, what changed my mind about PBR?

It all started in 2003. Vacation: New York City.

My beautiful girlfriend (now wife) and I were poking around the Big Apple when we found a little dive called Arlene’s Grocery. We went inside and found a tavern packed with goths, in front of each — a PBR Tall Boy.

The scene stood in refreshing contrast to those of my youth, and the ensuing night of sharing PBRs with tourist-friendly goth-folk went a long way in warming me up to the brand.

The goths didn’t see PBR the way I did. To them, it wasn’t Cousin Jerry’s Yellin’ Juice®, it was the underdog. The anti-establishment beer. The ironic flagship of American B-List brews.

Since then, many more beer buyers have adopted that view, driving a resurgence of the brand which, having suffered a 90% decline in sales from its peak in 1977 to 2001, has been enjoying steady growth. As a matter of fact, PBR experienced a 25% sales increase from 2008 to 2009 alone.

I’m sure if ole cousin Jerry knew his brew of choice had developed such a following among hip, urban sophisticates, he’d curse out his grandmother.

Oh wait. He did that.

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