Since 1844, Pabst has manufactured classic American beers like PBR, Schlitz and Old Style. Though now headquartered in Los Angeles, Pabst was founded in Milwaukee and has a strong audience base in the midwestern US.
For the first time in its history, the PBR brand has branched out to products beyond beer. This spring it announced an 80-proof, white whiskey. Then July brought its Hard Coffee, and in August came the Stronger Seltzer.
John Newhouse, brand manager at Pabst Blue Ribbon, told BeverageDaily that the launches are not limited edition and plan to be permanent.
But for right now, the Hard Coffee is testing in New Jersey, Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia, and the Stronger Seltzer is testing in California, Montana, Arizona and Texas.
The 5% ABV coffee comes flavored with vanilla in 11oz cans, while the seltzer is stronger with an 8% ABV, flavored with lime in 16oz cans.
The popularity of similar flavored malt beverages (FMBs) this summer has manifested in hard seltzers, ciders and more.
“We’ve noticed for a while now that most consumers, PBR’s included, don’t get their buzz from just one drink type," Newhouse said.
"The typical consumer crosses between categories all the time, so we have to put innovations out there that meet them where they are."
A new twist on the competition
Hard Coffee contains a malt base, a coffee concentrate from real beans, vanilla flavor and a milk blend, and the Stronger Seltzer contains a sucrose base, natural lime flavor, stevia extract and citric acid.
The coffee is considered an FMB as the base liquid is made from fermented malted barley, but the PBR seltzer is more difficult to define.
“It’s not a beer from a manufacturing standpoint. It’s closer to an [FMB], but it’s not exactly that because it doesn’t contain any malted barley. It’s a fermented beverage made with a sucrose base,” Newhouse said.
When PBR decided to get into the burning-hot seltzer market, it decided it didn’t want to make one that was exactly the same as the category leaders. By raising the ABV and keeping the sugar low at 1g per can, it gave “a different twist to it.”
PBR’s new launches may have come as a surprise to fans, but Newhouse said that Hard Coffee’s reception far exceeded the brand’s expectations and it is having trouble keeping it in stock.
The Stronger Seltzer has been on the market for just two weeks, though it already has consumers talking on social media.
The new products join the brand’s portfolio, which includes the classic lager from PBR, the low-calorie PBR Easy, the 6.5% ABV ‘full-bodied lager’ PBR Extra and the zero-proof PBR Non-Alc.
“We definitely have more product innovations coming soon but we’re not far enough along to share any of them right now. Just know that we aren’t sitting still,” Newhouse said.