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In A Move To Remain Relevant, Pabst Brewing Company Launches Craft Beer Brand, Captain Pabst, With Flagship IPA

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Photo Courtesy of Pabst Brewing Company

It’s no secret that Pabst Blue Ribbon enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as the historic beer, once looked down upon as a cheap effort, was embraced by hipsters everywhere.  Now, the Los Angeles-based Pabst Brewing Company is launching Captain Pabst, a standalone brand outside of the PBR family, starting with it’s flagship offering Seabird IPA in Wisconsin and Illinois markets.

Captain Pabst pays homage to the company’s namesake, Frederick Pabst, who was a ship captain on Lake Michigan before marrying into the family that owned Milwaukee-based Best and Company Brewing, which was later renamed for Pabst in 1889.  Pabst Brewing is best known for PBR but the company is also responsible for a number of popular regional beers including Texas’ Lone Star Beer, Seattle’s Rainier Beer and Baltimore’s National Bohemian Beer as well as the recently trendy Not Your Father’s brand of hard sodas.  

In 2017, Pabst Brewing returned to Milwaukee with a micro-brewery and taproom in a former church on the site of the original Pabst Brewing complex, featuring smaller batches of more robust offerings as well some of the company’s historic beers.  Pabst plans to rebrand the taproom and brewery as Captain Pabst’s Pilot House and it will feature “imaginative craft beer offerings” as well as a menu of spirits that are blended and barrel-aged on site. It’s expected to open under the new name on March 28, which happens to coincide with Pabst’s 184th birthday.  If you order Seabird at the Pilot House, you’ll get a beer brewed on site, however the cans that are being distributed to stores are going to be brewed by nearby Wisconsin Brewing Company.

Brewed with Magnum, Citra, Cascade and Mosaic hops, Seabird IPA is named for the last ship Pabst captained, which he beached on the shore of Lake Michigan’s Whitefish Bay in an 1863 storm.  The beer is 4.5 percent ABV, seeming making it more sessionable, and has 45 IBUs and features a stylish, old-timey label.

“Captain Frederick Pabst was wild; his life was filled with random endeavors that all seemed to stem from his adventurous spirit and his willingness to push the boundaries,” Pabst general manager Matt Bruhn said in a press release. “Here at Pabst, we can certainly appreciate a life lived that way — it’s closely aligned to our values.”

Pabst has hit a rough patch the last couple of years, with off-premise dollar sales of products declining nearly eight percent last year while sales of PBR were down 7.6 percent.  The company’s products made up 2.1 percent of the American beer market in 2018, so despite a limited footprint at launch, the company might be hoping to recapture some of its relevance. It’ll be interesting to see what else is brewed under the Captain Pabst name.