Pabst Blue Ribbon Day

pbr
Here’s a little tidbit I found somewhere along the line, but don’t know the exact source, although it seems to mostly check out. On January 2, 1898, Pabst “officially” named their beer previously known as “Best Select” to “Pabst Blue Ribbon.” I say “officially,” because it had been known colloquially by that name before then, at least since 1893, when they supposedly won the blue ribbon (despite there being some controversy surround that event) that led to its name. According to Pabst’s own company history:

  • 1876: The First Gold Medal. Pabst’s Best Select lager wins a gold medal at the Centennial Celebration, marking the first of many awards the beer will win throughout its 150+ year lifespan.
  • 1882: A Blue Ribbon on Every Bottle. Having earned awards at US and international competitions, Pabst begins hand-tying a blue silk ribbon around the neck of each Best Select beer to identify it as a first-place winner. You know, because it was.
  • 1889: Another New Name. Pabst follows in his father-in-law’s footsteps, changing the brewery’s name to honor himself. The Pabst Brewing Company is born.
  • 1892: One Million Feet of Silk. As production rises, so does the demand for blue silk ribbon. The company purchases nearly 1 million feet of silk ribbon per year, which workers tie by hand around each bottle of Best Select.
  • 1893: America’s Best Beer. Pabst is awarded the blue ribbon at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, beating out many other popular American brewers. And not surprisingly, some unpopular ones.
  • 1895: What’ll You Have? Patrons keep asking bartenders for the beer with the blue ribbon, and the nickname sticks. The phrase “Blue Ribbon” is added to the Best Select name on the label.
  • 1898: A New Name for the Classic Beer. The beer’s name is officially changed to Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the brewery produces one million barrels. Pabst begins exporting heavily to New York, even opening his own hotels, theatres and restaurants that, oddly enough, do not serve rival Schlitz beer.

pbr-1910
This is the earliest PBR label I could find, from 1910.

pabst-1933-banner
But even by 1933, when prohibition ended, this ad, using an earlier ad, shows that the label hadn’t changed much between 1910 and then.

The book “Brewing in Milwaukee,” by Brenda Magee, has an illustration of the first Pabst Blue Ribbon Select bottles, along with a short history.

PB-Select-lg

pb-select-story

When they filed a new trademark application with the U.S. Patent Office on December 8, 1947, apparently in order to be in compliance with the “Act of 1946,” they were granted Registration No. 521,795 on March 7, 1950. In the application, they stated that “[t]he trade-mark was first used in January 1898, and first used in commerce among the several States which may lawfully be regulated by Congress in January 1898.” Similarly, when an Historic Designation Study Report” was prepared in late 1985 for the Pabst Mansion, it stated. “The beer’s reputation was greatly enhanced by being judged the best at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The word’s “Blue Ribbon” were first added to the label in 1895 with the Blue Ribbon label first used in January 1898.”

I’ve been collecting dates now going on forty years, having starting with a small notebook that I’d hand scribble dates wherever I found them. That was recopied in its entirety … twice, because I kept outgrowing them, before finally turning to the infinite space of digital. But in those early days I was not as scrupulous in keeping a record of my sources, mostly for space reasons. But the truth is it was originally something I did for fun, just for me, and I never really saw any potential for it until it decades to late to go back and find the literal thousands of sources I used to compile the original lists. But somewhere, I found an entry giving January 2 in 1898 as the date that Pabst first used, or sold, the Pabst Blue Ribbon beers with a new label, officially calling them that for the first time. Maybe it’s because the first was a holiday and nothing was sold until the next day, who knows. But even though I can’t be absolutely sure of that, it’s still fun to take a look back at the label for one of the most well-known brands of beer through the years, and today seems as good a day as any, 119 years later. So here’s a few more labels I turned up.

pbr-1934

pbr-1936
1936.

pbr-1930s
1930s.

pbr-1937
1937.

pbr-1939
1939.

pbr-1941
1941.

pbr-1946
1946.

pbr-1946-b
Also 1946.

pbr-1947
1947.

pbr-1948
1948.

pbr-1953
1953.

pbr-1955-a
1955.

pbr-1961
1961.

pbr-1980
1980.

pbr-mod-1
1980s.

pbr-mod-2
Modern era.

pbr-2012
2012.

pbr-2015
2015.

PBR_logos_001
Current label logo.

Anchor Spruce Beer

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After posting a different Anchor Christmas Ale label every day for the last 42 days, I guess I’m not quite ready to let go just yet. Old-timers like me may also remember that Anchor made a Spruce Beer in 1991 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Great American Beer Festival.

I recall it being available on draft at GABF that year, but the remaining beer was then bottled in six-packs and sold until it was gone. I picked up several six-packs during that time, and apparently I am one of the few people to have really enjoyed the beer. It had a very fragrant nose, almost like Pine-Sol or a spruce cleanser, but it was much more muted in the flavor.

Unfortunately, Anchor rarely ever mentions it anymore. Even Fritz Maytag apparently thought it was too strong on the spruce character. There’s nothing about it on their website, and the only mention I could find was in a Modern Brewery Age article from 1991:

The Anchor Brewing Co. is presenting a draft of brewing history with a “spruce beer” that will be sold only in the city of San Francisco and in Colorado. The production of the brew will commemorate the 10th Great American Beer Festival to be held in Denver in early October.

Spruce beer is a revival of an old brewing tradition that was originated centuries ago in Northern Europe. Spruce beer was also a part of United States colonial history, as it was required by the Continental Congress to be part of every American soldier’s rations in 1775.

According to Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing Co.’s president and brewmaster, spruce beer is one example of many beers popular in pre-industrial Europe and America, which were brewed at home with locally available flavors and spices.

“This tradition includes everything from root beer to wassail,” Maytag noted. “Making this historic beer is a gesture of exploration and celebration. It’s an essay, an attempt to reach back into brewing history to honor the 10th anniversary of The Great American Beer Festival, and to celebrate our modern brewing Renaissance.”

Personally, I wish they’d brew it again, but I’m almost certain that will never happen. Anyway, here’s what the label looked like. It’s a shame I don’t have any to open for Unbottling Day.

Anchor-Spruce

Anchor-Spruce-neck

Anchor-Spruce-Beer-Label-and-Packagin-Design

Anchor Christmas Ale 2016

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day forty-two, and the last one, of my Christmas canter to today featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2016 was the forty-second year that Anchor has made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This forty-second label is a “1,000 Mile Tree,” or “Pinus Solitarius.” This is what I was drinking yesterday, and also what I’ll be drinking today, as well. I’d like especially thank Anchor Brewery historian Dave Burkhart for his kind assistance in this project and for answering my questions about the progression of the beer. Have a Malty Christmas and a Hoppy New Beer.

Anchor-Xmas-2016

Anchor Christmas Ale 2015

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day forty-one of my jolly jog to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2015 was the forty-first year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This forty-first label was was a “California Christmas Tree,” or “Cedrus Deodara.”

Anchor-Xmas-2015

Anchor Christmas Ale 2014

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day forty of my fast festive flurry to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2014 was the fortieth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This fortieth label was was a “Giant Sequoia,” or “Sequoiadendron giganteum.”

Anchor-Xmas-2014

Anchor Christmas Ale 2013

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day thirty-nine of my Rudolph’s run to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2013 was the thirty-ninth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-ninth label was was a “California White Fir,” or “Abies concolor var. Lowiana.”

Anchor-Xmas-2013

Anchor Christmas Ale 2012

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day thirty-eight of my holiday hotfoot to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2012 was the thirty-eighth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-eighth label was was a “Norfolk Island Pine,” or “Araucaria heterophylla.”

Anchor-Xmas-2012

Anchor Christmas Ale 2011

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day thirty-seven of my seasonal scurry to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2011 was the thirty-seventh year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-seventh label was was a “Great Basin Bristlecone Pine,” or “Pinus longaeva.”

Anchor-Xmas-2011

Anchor Christmas Ale 2010

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day thirty-six of my seasonal scoot to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2010 was the thirty-sixth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-sixth label was was a “Maidenhair Tree,” or “Ginkgo biloba.”

Anchor-Xmas-2010

Anchor Christmas Ale 2009

xmas-christmas-ale
It’s day thirty-five of my flash forward to Christmas featuring all 42 labels from Anchor’s Christmas Ale — a.k.a. Our Special Ale — all different beers (well, mostly different) and all different labels, each one designed by local artist Jim Stitt, up to and including this year’s label.

2009 was the thirty-fifth year that Anchor made their Christmas Ale, and from 1987 through the present day, each year Anchor’s Our Special Ale has included spices, a different combination of them every time. Generally the base beer has been a spiced brown ale, although it has been varied from time to time, as well. This thirty-fifth label was was a “Monterey Cypress,” or “Cupressus macrocarpa.”

Anchor-Xmas-2009