Imagine, if you will, stopping by your neighborhood Wendy’s for a hamburger. You place your order and wait patiently for it to be filled. To your surprise, you see a Wendy’s employee in the back room with an armful of Burger King bags. He unpacks them carefully, and you notice that they’re full of burgers that employees soon unwrap and then re-wrap in Wendy’s paper coverings. You’re astonished and curious, but also very hungry, so you eat your lunch, all the while wondering what is going on. Finally, you decide to ask the manager for an explanation. “It’s simple,” he replies. “We’ve decided it’s cheaper for us to buy our burgers elsewhere than to make our own.”
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Sound like madness? It’s happening in the beer world. A few weeks ago, Pabst Brewing Company, the nation’s fourth largest brewer behind Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors announced it was closing its last brewery and would be transferring all of its production to Miller Brewing on a contract basis. Pabst explains that the move will reduce operating costs for the company, a notion that is puzzling to some. Can we expect in the near future to see Coke bottling cola for Pepsi, Kellogg packaging cereal for General Mills, or perhaps Chrysler having all its cars made for it by Ford? It’s hard to imagine a manufacturer of any product shifting his production to a competitor, but in the strange business of beer, so it goes.
Contract Brewing, or the practice of renting another brewery’s excess capacity is of course nothing new. However, this usually happens when a company desires to operate a brewery but either has insufficient capital to do so or wishes to establish a market for its product before committing to the major investment that operating a brewery entails. Witness the Boston Beer Company, which for years operated only a small test brewery in Boston and a brewpub in Philadelphia, contracting out production of its beer to regional brewers across America. Eventually, however, the company purchased the Hudepohl-Schoenling brewery in Cincinnati where it had previously contract-brewed beer. Curiously, Pabst has gone the opposite route from brewer to contract brewer.
Making great beer is tradition here at Pabst Brewing, and we hope you enjoy your visit, as well as the fine beer from the Pabst family of brands.
The above is taken from the Pabst website. Sadly, the tradition of making beer at all seems to have ended for Pabst. The company has a long and prestigious history of brewing that includes being the number one brewer in the country at the dawn of the twentieth century. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The company’s roots date back to 1844 when German Immigrant Jacob Best established a brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company takes its name, however, from Captain Frederick Pabst, who married Jacob’s daughter in 1862 and became an equal partner in 1864 of the company that would bear his name from 1889 on. Best retired in 1866, and from that point forward Pabst directed the company towards ever increasing sales.
Such are the beginnings of Pabst Brewing Company. The brewing world today is a far cry from what it was in the days of the mid to late nineteenth century, however, and Pabst has of late been a major player in the mess that American business has made of a once proud vocation. Back in 1996, the major news in the brewing world was the acquisition of the G. Heileman Brewing Company, then one of America’s largest brewers behind Anheuser Busch, Miller, Coors, Pabst, and Stroh, by the Stroh Brewing Company of Detroit, Michigan. No sooner had Stroh digested Heileman and it’s popular local brands Old Style (which was a huge brand in Chicago and parts of the Midwest), Mickey’s, Black Label, Blatz, Henry Weinhard’s and many others than it was in turn gobbled up by Pabst in 1999. Sadly, all of these once-proud brands have been reduced to just another label by the corporate mentality of today’s large brewers.
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer got the name from the numerous awards it had received back in the nineteenth century. The beer pours to a light yellow color with a very fizzy head that fades away almost as quickly as it forms. The nose is very light and watery. The palate is very light as well, with just a touch of malt and some corn adjunct character. There’s just not much going on here to set the beer apart from water right on into the slightly sweet finish. I can’t recommend this beer on any basis, and with the closing of the last Pabst brewery I’m not sure if its low price (the beer’s main selling point) will be enough to save it in the future. I can’t see how Pabst will be able to brew a beer at Miller, pay Miller enough for them to make a profit on it, mark it up themselves and still sell it for less than beer Miller can make.
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