Pabst Blue Ribbon, the cheap-but-tolerable beer that will forever be identified with early 2000s American hipsterdom, is being bought by Russian investors. According to the New York Times, Oasis Beverages will pay more than $700 million to acquire the Pabst Brewing Co., which also makes Colt 45 and Old Milwaukee. The sale will net a tidy profit for Dean Metropoulos, the businessman who bought Pabst for a mere $250 million in 2010.
After a quarter century of declining sales, Pabst came back from the dead during the early aughts because it was a dirt-cheap beer with a kitschy, blue-collar appeal that tickled the cool kids in places like Portland and Williamsburg. It also had an absolutely unbeatable endorsement from Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, that, due to Slate's profanity policy, I won't reproduce here. But unlike style statements such as trucker hats and handlebar mustaches, its popularity managed to sustain and grow through the decade, even as sales of pale American lagers like Bud Light and Miller Light flat-lined. In a relatively short period of time it has become a mainstream bargain brew with a global market.
But last year, something funny happened. According to Euromonitor, U.S. sales of Pabst by liter basically stopped rising in 2013, even as they continued their upward march globally. Granted, it was just one off year. But it seems entirely possible that Pabst's future will hinge on drinkers abroad. It certainly wouldn't be the first beer to try and sell an all-American image overseas even as U.S. drinkers lose interest.
"Pabst Blue Ribbon is the quintessential American brand—it represents individualism, egalitarianism and freedom of expression—all things that make this country great," Eugene Kashper, the chairman of Oasis Beverages, said in a statement after the sale was announced. Most Americans probably stopped buying that a while ago. But maybe Russians haven't.