Pabst Blue Ribbon is an American lager that has been sold since the mid-nineteenth century. It is best known for its light, barely-there flavor and mellow drinking experience and enjoyed a resurgence among urban hipsters in the early 21st century. Pabst Blue Ribbon, or PBR, has enjoyed prominence among Midwestern beer drinkers for over a century.

PBR has a very light flavor and drinking experience. It might well be the lightest of all full-strength American lagers. It has little to no bitterness, and its easy drinkability has earned it a steadfast place in American drinking culture.

Although PBR is a famous beer across the United States, many drinkers may not have had the chance to appreciate its finer qualities. This article will take you on a tour of the PBR drinking experience, from the beer’s history, taste, appearance, aroma, and brewing process. By the end of this article, you’ll have a blue ribbon experience of your own.


Pabst Blue Ribbon’s flavor profile is very mild. American adjunct lagers are typically very faintly flavored, to begin with, and PBR might well be the mildest of them all. It has all the classic faint malty sweetness you’d expect from an American lager.

If you’re looking for more information on why Pabst Blue Ribbon is considered an American lager, read this article.

There are vague hints of corn at the front end, followed by a touch of the yeasty body through the middle. Its finish is classic dry lager, with next to no bitterness or hops at the end. PBR does have a distinctively sweet aftertaste, however. This isn’t a taste that will interfere with your meal and isn’t very strong, but it is a quintessential piece of the PBR drinking experience. Pabst Blue Ribbon enthusiasts will tell you that the aftertaste is part of the appeal of this beer.

PBR is a little hop-forward for an American lager, but the presence of hops in its flavor palate is not particularly bold compared to the broader malt notes. 

Like many American adjunct lagers, Pabst Blue Ribbon is designed to be a clean, crisp, easy drinking experience. It has a loyal following, particularly in its hometown of Milwaukee, and among the hipsters who drove the beer’s resurgence in recent years. It’s a straightforward beer to drink while mowing the lawn, tending to a barbecue, or watching your favorite indie band at the local record store.


PBR’s mouthfeel is remarkably clean and uncomplicated. There’s a little bite from the carbonization, but this beer has very little body overall. There’s enough effervescence on the tongue to give a nice amount of fizz, but overall, PBR’s mouthfeel lacks much personality and quickly dissipates. As with its flavor, Pabst Blue Ribbon’s mouthfeel reliably indicates that this beer is designed for drinking without thinking. Each sip leaves you ready for the next one, with minimal lingering feel in the mouth following each mouth.

Overall, PBR has a very crisp, clean mouthfeel without much boldness or breadth. It’s highly drinkable.


Pabst Blue Ribbon’s smell is neatly indicative of its taste in that it has little to no scent. Raising the beer glass (or blue-ribbon-adorned can) to your nose reveals a particularly faint wheat aroma.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has just a touch of corn on the nose, like a freshly opened package of tortillas. Its nose is not particularly powerful and makes an honest promise about the clean, crisp drinking experience of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

The best description of Pabst Blue Ribbon’s aroma is that it smells like someone is boiling pasta in the apartment next door. It’s not authoritative enough to make you stand up and take notice, but it definitively lets you know that you’re about to enjoy an American lager.


Pabst Blue Ribbon, poured out of a can into a glass, presents an outstandingly clear, pale golden color with a bright white head on top. The beer’s head quickly dissipates, leaving minimal lacing behind. The golden beer sparkles with enthusiasm in the glass and looks great in direct sunlight. 

Overall, Pabst Blue Ribbon looks like a standard clear, pale American lager in a glass.

Discussing PBR’s appearance without mentioning the beer’s iconic can would be remiss. Like many other American lagers, Pabst Blue Ribbon lean heavily into a red, white, and blue color palate for their packaging, emphasizing the beer’s proud American heritage.

The blue ribbon that gives this beer its name is prominently featured on the tall white can. As the ribbon implies, PBR earned its name when it won the “America’s Best” title at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Curiously, contemporary accounts dispute this award, as many vendors reported frustration at judges’ refusal to award prizes.

Whether Pabst’s flagship beer took first place in 1893 or not, it was undoubtedly a well-awarded beer. Before the widespread use of aluminum cans for American beer, Pabst sold their beer bottles with a blue silk ribbon tied around the neck. This set Pabst apart from its competition, forging a steadfast place in the beer market thanks to this ingenious marketing tactic.

Pabst Blue Ribbon still leans heavily on this heritage, although the beer has been sold in cans for most of its history. That’s why Pabst Blue Ribbon prominently features a blue ribbon image on its packaging. 

Everything about Pabst Blue Ribbon’s appearance, from the can’s design to the color of the beer, is classic American lager. 

Why Does Pabst Blue Ribbon Taste Like This?

Pabst has not changed their Blue Ribbon recipe since the 1800s.

The beer is brewed using classic beer ingredients such as water, barley malt, corn syrup, carbon dioxide, hops extract, and artificial flavor. 

Pabst claims that its syrup is made from a mixture of carbohydrates and some simple sugars like dextrose and maltose, fermented into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbohydrates from the corn syrup and the malt remain in the beer, giving it its distinctive flavor, color, and feel.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is designed to appeal to American drinkers who prefer light, easy-to-drink beers over the stronger, bolder flavors that are more popular in Europe. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon History

Blue Ribbon is Pabst Brewing Company’s flagship beer. The company was founded in 1844 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as Best Brewing Company, by Philip Best. Best’s daughter married Frederick Pabst, a German-American who moved to the US as a child in 1862.

Pabst joined the company as a brewer in 1863, and Philip Best retired four years later. Upon succeeding his father-in-law as the head of the company, Frederick Pabst and his vice-president, Emil Schandein, built the company into one of the nation’s largest brewers.

This was helped in no small part by The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which obliterated Chicago’s brewing industry. This allowed Pabst and co to position Milwaukee as the capital of American brewing. 

Schandein died in 1889, and in 1890 Pabst renamed his father-in-law’s company after himself, rebranding it as Pabst Brewing Company.

The Pabst Brewing Company claims their beer won “America’s Best” at the 1893 World’s Columbian Expedition, giving Pabst Blue Ribbon its famous moniker. 

Pabst left Milwaukee behind in 1996, moving its headquarters first to Los Angeles, then in 2020 to San Antonio, Texas. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon declined starting in the 1980s but enjoyed a revival around the early 2000s. Urban hipsters took to Pabst Blue Ribbon, reinvigorating the brand and allowing them to pivot their marketing to cater more to hip, young city-based drinkers. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon Alcohol Percentage and Calories

Pabst Blue Ribbon has a standard lager alcohol percentage of 4.74%. A 12oz can of PBR contains 145 calories. 

What Do Other People Think?

It’s always worth looking at how others view a brew. Pabst Blue Ribbon has a special place in many American beer drinkers’ hearts thanks to its affordable price. We examined various reviews, weighing and examining how others feel about Pabst Blue Ribbon.

PlatformPabst Blue Ribbon
Average Score6.5

As you can see, PBR routinely receives middling reviews. Most reviewers emphasized that Pabst Blue Ribbon is not a craft beer and should be enjoyed as intended: as a highly drinkable, anodyne American lager. 

One Beeradvocate reviewer had this to say about Pabst Blue Ribbon:

What can you really say about this American classic that hasn’t been said already? Highly drinkable with a classic flavor. Sure, there’s better beers out there, but 15 bucks for a 24 pack is hard to beat. 

Beats any Natty or Keystone, for sure. And I’ll drink this over Budweiser ANYDAY. Perfect for relaxing on the porch and watching the the hurricane blow by, or mowing the grass on a hot summer day. Smells of grain and malt with a touch of hops. Very clean, unoffensive classic taste that’s way better than most other American adjunct lagers. Grab a couple of cases and throw em’ on ice. You’ll be glad you did!”