PBR on NPR? What the hell?



PBR on NPR? What the hell?
Beer News
PBR on NPR? What the hell?
Pabst Blue Ribbon’s unexpected resurgence has
been fueled by the thrifty, kitsch-loving habits of urban hipsters. So what’s the brand doing by courting
its drinkers’ parents?
Since January, PBR has been an NPR sponsor,
beginning with its live concert series and now being
credited on All Things Considered, Car Talk and Wait,
Wait ... Don’t Tell Me. It’s a bit jarring to hear cheap
beer hold court next to traditionally heady sponsors such as the MacArthur Foundation, but some in
the marketing and beer industries see sense in the
“It could be that they’re looking to generate
word-of-mouth among people because it’s so
unusual to hear Pabst Blue Ribbon on NPR,” says
Ami Bowen, director of marketing for Copernicus
Marketing Consulting. “Because it’s so unusual, it
might break through the clutter.”
The move fits small-budgeted Pabst’s modus
operandi. It shuns traditional in-your-face beer
marketing, and instead sponsors small events such
as women’s roller derby and a fraternity at Oregon
State University. And NPR, for what it’s worth, is the
king of un-hype.
But how understated can a company’s marketing get? Pabst executives did not return messages
seeking comment.
to spread
holiday beer
Gather the family ’round
for the holidays, serve that
juicy turkey and crack open
a cold one for grandma. As
a new Brewers Association
campaign insists, there’s no
better time.
The organization—a trade
group representing small and
medium-sized brewers—is
trying to get people to pair
food with beer the way
they’ve traditionally done
with wine. To help people
make the connection, it has
launched beerandturkey.org
and distributed suggested
food and beer pairings to
hundreds of breweries. Its
first targets are the big, yearend holiday feasts, which
it claims are full of flavors
complementary to beer.
“You start looking at
ingredients of Thanksgiving
dinner, it’s a list populated
with wine and food pairings
that are difficult,” association spokesman Ray Daniels
says. (The wine industry
begs to differ, of course:
“Turkey, mashed potatoes,
green beans, whatever the
standard—those things are
all really easy to pair with
wines,” counters Tania Dautlick, executive director of the
American Wine Society.)
Traditional roast turkey?
Try strong Golden Ale or a
Vienna-style Amber Lager.
Ham? The fruity clove notes
in a Weizen or Weizenbock
match its preparation. The
Association’s list is long and
thoughtful, and covers most
holiday meats.
But what about vegetarians and their Tofurky? Must
they stay sober?
“Well, I guess we didn’t
talk about that very much,”
Daniels admits. “I suppose
that’s something we’ll have to
add in next year.”
Steel City
worried about
its Iron City
Pittsburgh Brewing—the local
institution behind Iron City
Beer and IC Light—has been
through this before: It entered
Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1997
and emerged in 2001. But
this time, after spending a full
year in its second bankruptcy,
observers are starting to
wonder if the brewer’s last
call is coming.
“I think Iron City has a lot
of equity. I think it’s a brand
you could do something
with,” says Peter V.K. Reid,
editor of the trade magazine
Modern Brewery Age. “But
you need money, you need
resources, and the current
operation is fighting so
desperately just to keep the
doors open.”
In the past month, the
145-year-old brewer’s court
troubles have become daily
news in Pittsburgh. A federal
bankruptcy judge has said
Pittsburgh Brewing needs
about $12 million in new
investment to come out of
Chapter 11; the brewer says it
only needs $7 million, according to the Pittsburgh TribuneReview. Either way, investors
aren’t lining up.
Pittsburgh Brewing is
“part of the identity of the
city,” says Dave Groll, an
organizer of the annual
Pittsburgh Brewfest. He’d
hate to see it go, and he’s
not alone. Still, the company
hasn’t exactly endeared itself
to the city’s new generation
of beer drinkers. Unlike some
mid-sized brewers, such
as nearby Yuengling, which
staved off trouble with a
fresh new image, Pittsburgh
Brewing sticks to basics.
“They’re playing against Bud,
Bud Light,” Reid says. “It’s a
deadly place to be.”
Drinking on
the job is
Instead of the ol’ standard
of hotel bars—Budweiser on
tap and karaoke Thursdays—Four Points by
Sheraton is classing up its
watering holes with imports
and locally brewed beer. Now
it’s looking for someone to tie
it all together—and it could
be you.
The chain is searching
for a Chief Beer Officer, a
brew-knowledgeable person
to attend promotional events
and help choose beer selections for individual hotel bars.
It’s a largely ceremonial position—the lucky drinker will
be paid in free beer and hotel
perks—but it’s attracted a
flood of interest.
The search was announced
on November 15; by the
17th, six hundred people had
Craft beer’s popularity
is rising—growth was up at
least 11 percent this year, and
nine percent last year—and
Four Points wants to be
along for the ride. Senior Vice
President Hoyt Harper said
the small-name beers make
his bars unique and more
comforting, and give visitors
a local flavor.
Beer officer hopefuls can
apply at fourpoints.com/cbo.
The selection process starts
in January. So far, the hotel
has been thrilled with the
response, although there was
one glitch: It initially forgot
to tell employees they are
“Once we told them they
couldn’t qualify,” Harper
says, “everybody had a friend
that would be perfect for
the job.”
Enter site,
take out ID
When Harvard University
announced it would end its
early admission program, it
received the most surefire
confirmation that an idea
is a good one: Its peers,
including Princeton, quickly
followed suit. But when
Anheuser-Busch recently
announced it will hire a company to weed out underage
website visitors, its peers
had a very different reaction:
some quiet shrugs and a lot
of pooh-poohing.
Does that mean it’s
unrealistic, or that nobody
else wants to go through the
It may be a little of both.
“It is going to be a marketing nightmare for them,
but it is definitely do-able,”
says Teri Schroeder, CEO of
the nonprofit internet safety
group i-SAFE America.
That’s because, to properly
check for age, sites must
demand the kind of personal
data that could turn people
off, she says. That’s hardly
what happens now. Typical
brewery websites only ask
visitors for a date of birth,
but it’s not verified and easy
to lie about.
The Budweiser folks have
yet to hire their e-bouncer
company, and said they
can’t discuss the mechanics
of their system until that
happens. But it appears to
be a closed case, as far as its
competitors are concerned.
Miller and Heineken did not
return calls seeking comment, and Molson Coors
outright said the effort’s
worthless. “Of the options
we have reviewed, people
who choose to fill in false
information can still do so,”
it said in a statement.
Photos (left to right): Rose
City Women’s Roller Derby
by Lenny Gotter. Holiday
feast, by Martin Thiel.
Pittsburgh Brewing courtesy
of Pittsburgh Brewing.
But what
and their
Must they
stay sober?

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