During my college days back in the Midwest I would down a few Pabst Blue Ribbons with my friends. The Pabst brand was considered the working man’s beer and the favorite of college kids on short budgets.
Over the years Pabst largely disappeared as a brand replaced by micro brewery faire and the big names in the beer industry. But in recent years Pabst, or as it is now commonly called PBR, has made a remarkable recovery again among college students and an ever larger following of young people, because you guessed it, the beer is cheap.
But in a strange twist PBR is the favorite beer in China, yes China where it is called by the more formal name Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844. This story of PBR in China gets even stranger as a bottle of the cheap beer goes for the equivalent of $ 46, yes $ 46.
Moreover, Pabst is considered by the beer drinking Chinese as the equivalent of fine French brandy and aged Scotch. The Chinese so value Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 that they drink it out of champagne glasses, not out of cold mugs as we do in barrooms across America.
We all know that the Chinese basically own the United States and in a few years will surpass this country as the world’s strongest economy, but when it comes to beer it appears that we have cornered the market on beer.
The success of PBR in China is part of what some experts call our soft power: those aspects of our society that are attractive overseas and add to our influence. Now selling PBR to the Chinese is not going to lower our debt obligations, but it does show that as the Chinese expand their middle class they are looking elsewhere for the so-called “finer” things in life, in this case it is Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844.
Who would have thought that a cheap beer that college kids drink today would become part of our soft power influence over our economic competitor. So when you raise your glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon remember that you are celebrating a resurgence of American soft power in China.