Is Pabst Blue Ribbon About to Become Bumble Bee Beer?

The NPR website reports that counter-culture favorite Pabst Blue Ribbon beer may be on the verge of being sold to C. Dean Metropoulos, the man responsible for developing such food brands as Vlasic Pickles and Bumble Bee Tuna.

The sale, brokered by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, will reportedly net $250 million, though the asking price was $300 million. Pabst has no manufacturing facilities of its own, but pays other brewers to make its products, which also include Schlitz, Colt 45, and Old Milwaukee.

The company had been owned by Polish immigrant Paul Kalmanovitz, who left the company to a charitable foundation on his deathbed. Since charities are not supposed to own for-profit corporations, the IRS ordered that the company be sold in 2005, and that sale is finally happening.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is one of the success stories of the brewing industry, growing by 30 percent in the last fiscal year alone. One of the engines behind that growth is the hipster cachet it has developed, causing it to be sold as the default cheap beer in many newfangled bars. It's reputation at least partly dates to 1973, when the country-western singer Johnny Russell had a huge hit with the anthem, "Red Necks, White Socks, and Blue Ribbon Beer," which became a staple of jukeboxes all over the country, and remains a particular favorite in alt-country bars.

Can the brand get any bigger? Undoubtedly, Mr. Metropoulos thinks so ...


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