Pabst Blue Ribbon Review

Think Twice
Beer drinkers on our tasting panel said this "candied," "generic" lager "tasted like college" and left them unsatisfied with barely-there taste.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is an American lager that continues to surprise us. The first time Cheapism conducted a taste test that included 19 inexpensive beers, PBR took top billing against eight other inexpensive lagers. It corralled drinkers' admiration with a "mild," "drinkable" flavor and "good balance." That group of 13 called PBR "a little hoppy" and took exception to the somewhat "flat aftertaste." One panelist announced it was the "first drinkable" beer she had tasted that evening.

In 2016, the results were startlingly different. A seven-member panel scored PBR the lowest out of all the brews they sampled, dubbing it "cheap," "light," and "bad college beer." True, this second round of tasting featured four craft beers along with a select number of American-style lagers. Still, how to explain that this label, with a 5 percent ABV, foundered against Miller High Life, Budweiser, and Rolling Rock -- brews it previously trounced?

We turned to online Pabst Blue Ribbon reviews by experts and beer enthusiasts to make sense of this unexpected disparity. Consumers posting on BeerAdvocate assign it an "average" rating, although the two website owners give it a slightly higher "good." These connoisseurs cite its crispness and bubbly carbonation; one calls it a "great" premium lager that easily beat out the big-time competition. This review also notes that tap pours are slightly more satisfying than drinking from a can.

More than 2,400 consumers give PBR a weighted average rating of 1.82 out of 5 at RateBeer, based on assessments of taste, aroma, appearance, and palate. This places PBR into the second-lowest percentile of all beers ranked on the site. Although these low scores mirror the opinions of our second group of beer fans, it's worth noting that RateBeer still ranks PBR higher than Miller High Life or Budweiser, which both outperformed Pabst in our taste-off.

What we now know as Pabst Blue Ribbon won its first gold medal at the Centennial Celebration in 1876, one of many awards it would go on to claim. Proud of this accomplishment, Pabst in 1882 began tying blue silk ribbons around the neck of each bottle, a practice that lasted until a silk shortage in World War I forced the company to give it up.

Results of our most recent taste test make it impossible to recommend Pabst, but that doesn't mean others won't disagree. Luckily for beer drinkers who want to try this mainstream lager for themselves, it's an inexpensive choice. We picked up a six-pack of 16-ounce cans for $5.99 on sale at the local market, although the regular price was $7.49.

Gina Briles

Gina K. Briles writes family, household, and shopping-related product reviews. She is a displaced Jayhawk and a coffee addict living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two small children, and Vizsla dog.

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