Ha ha! Business! The New Yorker reports (via Danwei) that Pabst Blue Ribbon, the reliable can o’ swill, is selling a new upmarket beer in China — way upmarket. The ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844 feature stylized lighting you’d expect from a luxury car commercial, and the bottle looks like it holds perfume, or cognac, or perfume-scented cognac. Translated, the text reads:
It’s not just Scotch that’s put into wooden casks. There’s also Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer 1844
Many world-famous spirits
Are matured in precious wooden casks
Scotch whisky, French brandy, Bordeaux wine…
They all spend long days inside wooden casks
A 750 ml bottle of the beer costs 300 RMB (about $44), which is just hilarious. It appears to be a genuinely new product — the sole rating on Ratebeer indicates that it’s a barrel-aged English pale ale, “amber-orange…light oak flavor, with some vanilla, lots of caramel and toffee.” I wish I had the faculties to imagine the blissful level of flavor that could coax me to drop that kind of cash on a beer. The head of Blue Ribbon Beer, which produces Pabst in China, said this of their business strategy: “The high-end market is occupied by baijiu and wine. Chinese people can afford to drink baijiu that costs tens of thousands, and I believe that a 300-yuan beer won’t be a problem either.”
With all this — from the gilded ads to the comically cynical strategy — I can’t help but feel a mix of condescending nationalism and pride in America’s craft beer movement. The pull of good beer, certainly a Western phenomenon, is so strong that businesses believe they can redefine its price point based purely on status and demand in a country ignorant of craft beer. And the real purveyors of quality, the thousands of craft breweries in the U.S., are prompting moves by the aging giants that are their competition. Excuse the teary sentiments, but isn’t that kind of the American dream?