Since 1844, Pabst Blue Ribbon has experienced a rollercoaster of peaks and declines but the company’s current court battle could mean the end of the Milwaukee staple for good.
Pabst Brewing Company, which produces the hipster-friendly beer, is currently battling another beer giant, MillerCoors, because the company believes the competitor is trying to force them out of business. So, what exactly is going on here? Well, MillerCoors, a conglomerate of Molson Coors, is looking to break a long-standing contract between the two sides to produce most of the Pabst family of beer, which also includes Old Milwaukee and Lone Star, stemming back to a 1999 agreement forged between the two beer-makers where MillerCoors would take responsibility for producing, packaging and distributing the mass-produced suds. Of course, the agreement is coming to an end in 2020 and MillerCoors believes it’s not obliged to continue the production of the beer when it does.
“We are deeply disappointed that MillerCoors, the US subsidiary of multinational brewing conglomerate Molson Coors, has willfully breached our 19-year agreement in an effort to stomp out the competition,” a Pabst spokesperson said in a statement to The Guardian. “Even though MillerCoors’ market power is much larger than Pabst’s, we will not allow this industry bully to push us around.”
Pabst, which was probably one of your grandfather’s favorite beers, was founded by Frederick Pabst after he married the daughter of the founder of Best Brewing Company. When the founder stepped down, Pabst and his wife took over with the hopes of growing exponentially. Because of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, which destroyed 19 breweries in the city, Milwaukee was immediately thrust into the spotlight as the capital of beer production in the United States. Some years went by and the Best moniker was replaced with Frederick Pabst’s last name and in 1893 the beer was given its current title of Pabst Blue Ribbon, after winning the “America’s Best” award at the Chicago World’s Fair. Pabst also added blue ribbons to the bottles of beer as a way of showing off this achievement.
The beer manufacturer has certainly had some lean years, however the last decade and a half have been good to Pabst, thanks to a ironic boom from those looking to be different and drink out of a stlyish-looking can. Today, Pabst produces somewhere just above four million barrels of beer and can’t do it without MillerCoors’ facilities, since the company doesn’t otherwise have enough space and equipment but MillerCoors states it told Pabst back in 2015 that it might not be able to produce the beer once the contract expires.
The case, in which Pabst is seeking $400 million in damages, is set to end on Nov. 30 and if it doesn’t go the way Pabst hopes, it could mark the end of the iconic American lager.