There was a time, barely one Animal Collective album ago, when a person could reach for a PBR with confidence, knowing that it fully displayed an ironic grasp of working-class tastes in America. But now, the beer — once synonymous with skinny jeans everywhere — is experiencing lagging sales, leading experts to question whether its fans have abandoned the brew. In this uncertain age of pumpkin-peach ales, no one knows which beer to grab from their corner store’s beverage aisle anymore — but it doesn’t have to be so difficult.
The fickle-hipster beer must meet a few basic qualities: It can’t be too well-known, and it has to taste like Budweiser — which is to say, like not that much at all — but lack that macro brew’s name recognition. As an American lager from Milwaukee that, like a Rust Belt factory town, had faced a steep decline and fallen into hop-less obscurity, PBR was an absolute home run. It became the lager of the moment — a beer for when you didn’t want to drink barrel-aged double IPAs, and which showed you can kick back.
So, how do we explain PBR’s fall from grace? The bland American larger became too successful for its own good, making it unable to represent the hipster’s working class solidarity and causing fickle beer drinkers to fight back and look for new suds. At the same time, Shiner started shipping to Brooklyn and Narraganset, and swooped in for the kill. The revitalized brand made a major push and started capturing the hearts and minds of hipsters from Brooklyn to Portland. Which beer is next in line is still unclear, though Grub believes there’s a good chance it’ll be Schlee or Schlitz. Perhaps the future of beer in America is not hyper-hoppy ales, but an endless parade of American lagers brought back from the dead.