October 16, 2009


You may have noticed a trend over at least the past couple of people raging against hipsters for being shallow trend-followers.  You don't necessarily have to actually know what a hipster is to complain about them, but more astute complainers will know that they drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for the "ironic effect".  This meme has even recently been cemented in the mainstream media with reports mentioning PBR's "[adverb, e.g strangely, highly, etc.] effective" "word-of-mouth campaign" playing up to the hipster sense of irony.  No evidence of this "word-of-mouth marketing campaign" is cited other than other articles repeating the same thing while relishing the irony of an anti-conformist, anti-corporate subculture being seduced by corporate marketing.

Having no preference, a hipster may be likely to choose PBR because of the can design.  The design hasn't changed in years, signifying a more authentic relationship with the customer than those beer companies that update their labels to entice customers.  Not so ironic a choice, just a conscious evaluation of the design as it reflects on the choices the company makes.

A hipster may choose to drink PBR because their friends drink PBR:  not much different from any social group that has their favorite beers such as Budweiser or Guinness.  If everyone in a group agrees on a brand of beer, it's easier to buy a 12-pack or a case for a party that no one will bitch and moan about.

The most important reason hipsters drink PBR is economic.  Hipsters are generally people from a middle-class upbringing who are involved in the local indie music scene.  What that should tell you is that they hold aesthetics above affluence.  Having a lesser drive towards affluence, they tend to not make much money.  Being middle class tells you they're advantaged enough to not have to drink the cheapest form of alcohol available like bums and welfare cases.  PBR is the beer of choice of people who have enough money see a band at a bar, but not enough to waste it on upgrading their beer while they're there.  It is in fact the drink of choice for white bar patrons living above poverty conditions with a limited disposable income, at least in the South.

Tennessee Rounders - 2007-01-12 - Pabst Blue Ribbon [128kbps vbr]

In the South, PBR is the cheapest beer you can get in most bars.   It's also the cheapest non-light, non-ice brewed beer you can get at just about any gas station, aside from Milwaukee's Best which sux.  This doesn't have as much to do with customer demand as it does with Pabst Brewing Company's pricing and distribution.  Bar owners there don't sell it because customers demand it, they sell it because customers there tend to go to bars that offer cheap beer and PBR has chosen to cater to that market. 

It shouldn't be surprising that traveling indie bands playing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, artists, and liberal arts majors who move to New York and live on a tight budget while starting their careers would bring their preference in beer with them.  In New York, PBR is expensive, like all beer, so it's particularly hard for people there to understand why hipsters drink it, but it's still usually one dollar cheaper in bars than other beers.  Aside from saving a buck, it's better to ask specifically for a PBR than to ask for "the cheapest beer you have" in front of a girl you may want to bone later. 

I just wanted to clear all that up because it's kind of sad to see the same rant repeated by different people about "hipsters" and their "trends" and the irony of their "ironic" beers.  You can go on believing that the trend started with PBR's marketing team showing up at drug parties and dingey rock venues telling people that PBR is ironic, but drinking PBR has less to do with irony and some vaporous "word-of-mouth marketing campaign" and more with economics and Pabst's distribution model.  There's people that drink PBR based solely on the brand's cultural cache while imbuing it with an aura of irony, but is that act any worse than criticizing it based solely on the brand's cultural cache while imbuing it with an aura of irony?


  1. Sad that people attribute 'irony' to like the one thing hipsters don't do out of irony.

  2. One time when I was 16, I was on vacation "in the country" and I was asked out on a date by a guy who worked at the local stables. He brought PBR and opened a can for himself and started drinking it. After a minute or two, I noticed a horrible skunk smell, and told him we should leave! Turns out the skunk smell was the PBR. Whoops!

    Anyway, I had three sips of one and got buzzed and then we made out. I think this pretty much means I'm a neo-classic hipster (as opposed to a postmodern one), which is the apex of both trendsetting and ironic irony. Hpstr4l!f!

  3. Yeah, I think redirecting anger at your parents into risky sexual behavior had been around way before the 1950s or whenever your story happened, gaelta.

  4. It's weird that you think kissing is risky sexual behavior, chrysler5thavenue. I don't think that's a right hipster attitude. It's my only PBR story though, and sharing is caring, and I care!!