Pabst Blue Ribbon is an American lager beer sold by Pabst Brewing Company, established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1844 and currently based in Los Angeles.
Originally called Best Select, and then Pabst Select, the current name comes from the blue ribbons tied around the bottle neck between 1882 and 1916.
Gottlieb and Frederika Pabst and their twelve-year-old son Frederick arrived in the United States in 1848 and settled in Chicago where Frederick eventually found work on the ships of Lake Michigan. In 1862, Frederick married Maria Best, daughter of the founder and owner of the Best Brewing Company, and in 1863 became a brewer at his father-in-law’s brewery.
When Philip Best retired to Germany in 1867, Pabst and Emil Schandein—his sister-in-law’s husband and the vice-president of Best Brewery—worked to transform the company into one of the nation’s largest brewers, capitalizing on, among other things, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that destroyed nineteen Chicago breweries and helped position Milwaukee as the leading beer-producing city in the United States. In 1889, Schandein died, leaving Pabst as president and his widow, Lisette Schandein, as vice-president. In 1890, Pabst changed the “Best” letterhead to “Pabst” and the Pabst Brewing Company officially began.
The company has historically claimed that its flagship beer was renamed Pabst Blue Ribbon following its win as “America’s Best” at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Whether the brand actually won an award in 1893 is unclear. Some contemporaneous accounts indicate that many vendors were frustrated by the fair’s refusal to award such prizes. One account says that the only prizes awarded by the executive committee were bronze medals, in recognition of “some independent and essential excellence in the article displayed”, rather than “merely to indicate the relative merits of competing exhibits”. However, the beer had won many other awards at many other fairs – so many, in fact, that Captain Pabst had already started tying silk ribbons around every bottle. It was a time when beer bottles were more likely to be embossed than labeled and the ribbons were likely added at great cost to Pabst. But Pabst’s display of pride was also a display of marketing savvy, as Patrons started asking their bartenders for the blue ribbon beer
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