Pabst Blue Ribbon

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Give Pabst Another Blue Ribbon for Hard Coffee

May 20, 2020

By Jerard Fagerberg, May 20, 2020

What if you could catch a buzz off Yoo-hoo? 

It’s this kind of whimsical thinking that led Pabst Blue Ribbon, a brand revered for its timeless simplicity, to introduce a spiked coffee in its 176th year of business. There are logical portfolio extensions, and then there’s Hard Coffee—an unanticipated flight of fancy with almost no precedents.

RateBeer naively categorizes Hard Coffee as a stout, while the Pabst website clearly states it's "not beer." This is the product of childlike spontaneity. Pabst bucked the rules entirely to make its next great beverage, and their defiance is a delight.

If you’ve ever had one of those canned Starbucks mochas—the ones meant to shotgun you into the workday—the flavor and texture of Hard Coffee will be immediately familiar. But this is engineered for the exact opposite result. Slurp this decadent sludge to kick off a day of scumbaggery. Or recline with one after dinner on Friday night, easing yourself into a contented, half-cocked slumber.

Hard Coffee is made with “a dash of milk,” but it tastes milkier than that. The gratuitous addition of vanilla makes it taste like melted ice cream—the dessertishness overtaking much of the arabica flavor that’s supposed to prevail. Lean into that. Dump your can into a tumbler and mix with coffee liqueur or Disaronno. It works just as well as the base for a digestif. You’re not working within the boundaries of beer, here. Nothing is off limits.

It’s impossible to judge the quality of Pabst’s Hard Coffee against a great stout, even the more decadent ones. There is simply no competition that exists, no peers to run against. But give Hard Coffee a blue ribbon for imagination.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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