Pabst Blue Ribbon was first created in 1844 and is one of the oldest beers on the planet. After a few years of its launch, the beer attained the status of America’s Best. Fast forward 120 years later, and the beer is still very well among America’s best. Simply put, it is American royalty, making it all the more surprising that many don’t know what kind of beer it is. Here’s a quick answer.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is best classified as a standard American lager, with this choice informed by its moderate bitterness (IBU of 10), very high carbonization, pale straw color (SRM of 2.5), the alcohol content of 4.8%, the use of corn in the brewing process as an adjunct, and Pabst Blue Ribbon being bottom-fermented rather than top-fermented.

That’s a quick overview of the kind of beer Pabst Blue Ribbon is, but there’s more detail. In this article, we will walk you through why Pabst Blue Ribbon is a lager, not ale, the sub-classification as a standard American lager, and the factors that determined this choice. Also, we will consider if the use of corn changes how the beer is classified and the other Pabst Blue Ribbon variants and their sub-classification.

You’re in for a treat, so keep reading!

Is Pabst Blue Ribbon A Lager Or Ale?

The very first step in the journey of fully classifying beer is the classification as an ale or lager. This is the fundamental classification of beers. How then do they differ?

Interestingly, many ardent beer lovers claim they can distinguish between ales and lagers by just tasting them. While that may be true, the difference between ales and lagers is the fermentation technique employed during brewing.

The two primary fermentation techniques are bottom fermentation and top fermentation. Ales are fermented using top-fermentation by the action of top-fermenting yeast at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F), while lagers are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast at colder temperatures (35˚–50˚F).

Pabst Blue Ribbon is considered a lager because it uses the top-fermentation brewing technique at a cold temperature.

What Kind Of Lager Is Pabst Blue Ribbon?

As we mentioned, broad classification as ales or lagers is the first step to fully classifying beers, and Pabst Blue Ribbon is classified as a lager. However, there are different types of lagers, and sub-classification is necessary to describe any beer adequately.

To sub-classify Pabst Blue Ribbon, we will use the guidelines of one of the most reputable beer certifying organizations in the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). These guidelines assess different criteria in determining what sub-class a beer belongs to.

Per the BJCP guidelines, Pabst Blue Ribbon is a standard American lager, and below are the criteria that have informed this choice.

If you’re interested in reading our thoughts on this beer, read our review here.

Why Is Pabst Blue Ribbon A Standard American Lager?

The Beer Judge Certification Program analyzes five significant properties when classifying beers. They are bitterness (measured in IBU), color intensity (measured in SRM), original gravity, final gravity, and alcohol by volume of the beer. Let’s see how Pabst Blue Ribbon compares to standard American lager requirements in these categories.

To start with, the bitterness of the beer. As the name implies, this property measures how bitter a beer is. This is done using the International Bitterness Units (IBU), a scale that measures bitterness. The bitterness of a beer increases with increasing IBU.

According to standard guidelines, standard American lagers have an IBU between 8 and 15. Since Pabst Blue Ribbon has an IBU of 10, it meets the bitterness requirements for standard American lagers.

Further, the color intensity of the beer, a measure of beer darkness, is a factor in sub-classifying beer. This property is measured using the Standard Reference Method (SRM), and the higher the SRM of a beer, the darker it is.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has an SRM of 2.5. Since the SRM requirements of standard American lagers is between 2 and 4, Pabst Blue Ribbon passes the color intensity test to be classified as such.

The gravity of the beer is the third factor the BJCP considers in sub-classifying beer. Here, the two relevant gravities are the beer’s original gravity (OG) and the final gravity (FG).

The original gravity measures the fermentable and un-fermentable substances in the beer wort before alcoholic fermentation starts. Meanwhile, the final gravity measures the un-fermentable sugars in the beer at the end of alcoholic fermentation. Both of these gravities assist brewers in estimating the alcohol content of beer during and after alcoholic fermentation.

Standard American lagers have an OG of 1.040 – 1.050 and an FG of 1.004 – 1.010. The estimated OG of Pabst Blue Ribbon is 1.038, which falls within the standard range. Similarly, Pabst Blue Ribbon has an FG of 1.009, which also falls within the required standard.

Therefore, Pabst Blue Ribbon meets the gravity requirements for classification as a standard American lager.

Last but not least is the alcohol content of the beer. This is relatively straightforward to obtain, and it is a measure of the pure alcohol the beer contains. It is measured in ABV (Alcohol by Volume).

The BJCP recommends standard American lagers have an ABV between 4.2 and 5.3%. Pabst Blue Ribbon has an ABV of 4.8%, well within the desired range.

Considering Pabst Blue Ribbon meets all the standard requirements for classification as a standard American lager, it is classified as one.

Does The Use Of Corn Change How the Beer Is Classified?

Brewers often use adjuncts when manufacturing beers to elevate the final brew content by increasing the original wort sugar content. The type of adjunct used is a significant detail when classifying beers, as lagers often use corn and rice, while ales favor wheat.

Pabst Blue Ribbon uses up to 40% of corn as an adjunct, further solidifying its claim as a standard American lager.

Are All Pabst Blue Ribbon Standard American Lagers?

There are different variants of Pabst Blue Ribbon, even including non-alcoholic beers. Below, we will briefly overview them and whether they are standard American lagers.

  • Pabst Blue Ribbon Original: The original ad flagship version of the brand. It is a standard American lager.
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon Extra: This is a full-bodied lager containing more alcohol content than the regular standard American lager.
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon Easy: This is the light lager offering of Pabst Blue Ribbon, containing 3.8% ABV.