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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tap Handle #310: Pabst - Pink Elephants Come Home

I love this tap, which was a gift from Kelly's mom and dad, Diane and Barney. It's not exactly rare, but it is highly sought after and as a result is very expensive. This is the first Pabst tap in my was inspired by a contest winner on the website for art called "Pink Elephants Come Home" (as seen to the right).

Pabst was first introduced in 1844 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin under the name Best Select. It was named for the founder of the brewery, Jacob Best, who had since retired and left the running of the company to his sons. Best’s son-in-law, a former steamship captain named Johann Gottlieb Friedrich Pabst, also owned a share of the business, and he eventually became its president and changed the name to the Pabst Brewing Company. Best Select had won numerous awards at beer competitions at home and abroad. A shrewd marketer, Pabst had blue silk ribbon tied around the neck of each bottle, to identify it as the winner it was, starting in 1882. Within a decade, the brewery was going through one million feet of ribbon a year.

For all the awards, Best Select had never won a literal blue ribbon up to that point. The first, according to the company, came at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Instead of competing directly against each other, the exhibitors in different categories were judged against a list of criteria that represented a standard of excellence for that category. Every entrant who met the standard would leave Chicago with a commemorative bronze medal and a parchment certificate. Leading Pabst by two points near the end of judging, Anheuser-Busch began celebrating early, ordering an award placard for their exhibit and taking out ads in the local papers announcing they had won the nonexistent grand prize and were the “King of Brewers.” After the final category had been scored, the judges’ table devolved into deadlock and in-fighting, and a special supervisory committee had to be formed to sort things out. In the end, Pabst ended up ahead of Busch by just a fraction of a point. Pabst quickly announced himself as the “grand prize winner,” even though his medal and certificate were exactly the same as those won by other brewers. To celebrate, he had the entire brewery in Milwaukee draped in blue ribbon and gave all his workers a day off. The attention and sales that followed inspired the company to change Best Select to Pabst Blue Ribbon. Despite what seems to be a gross misunderstanding of the prize system by both the judges and the contestants, Pabst continues to boast that their beer was picked as “America’s Best in 1893” on each and every can of PBR.

In 1904, Frederick Pabst passed away, leaving his brewing company in the hands of his sons, Frederick Jr. and Gustav. During World War I, a silk shortage put an end to the practice of hand-tying blue silk ribbon around each bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not long after that, the implementation of Prohibition forced the brewery into making cheese, soda, and malt extract. After Prohibition, Pabst resumed brewing beer and sold their successful cheese business to Kraft. After World War II, Pabst purchased Hoffman Beverage to expand into the northeast, and propelling them into the top five brewers. They continued to grow during the 1960s and 1970s, acquiring more breweries like Blitz-Weinhard.

Like Heileman, Pabst became the target of a corporate raider, and spent millions fighting a hostile takeover. Needing to raise new capital, Pabst acquired Olympia in 1983, but was itself sold to a new owner, who was buying up low market share breweries. He closed the flagship brewery in Milwaukee, moving its headquarters to San Antonio, and cut all advertising. Sales slumped, and Pabst, desperate for a boost, acquired several brands during the Stroh breakup in 1999, such as Heileman and Schlitz. In 2002, on its last legs with faltering production, Pabst experienced a resurgence thanks to hipsters that saw acquiring the scarce beer as a challenge. Portland, Oregon, seemed to be the epicenter of the rediscovery of PBR, though it soon spread to other cities, with trendy bars adding it to their menu. Instead of mass marketing, Pabst quietly sponsors indy music and hosts user art on their website. The beer is no longer brewed by Pabst, however; instead, it is contract brewed through Miller. The long-time owner sold it in 2010 and headquarters were moved once again, this time to Chicago. A year later, PBR was spoofed on South Park, leading to another surge in popularity.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a pale lager crafted with a hefty infusion of 6-row barley, a carefully balanced carbohydrate profile from corn syrup, and a unique combination of Pacific domestic hops blended with an imported Yugoslavian variety. Fermented with a pure culture of yeast and aged at high gravity, PBR is cellared and finished to the smooth, robust likeness of a fine Pilsner. It has won several gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and another at the World Beer Cup. Weighted average on is 1.79 out of 5.

Pabst Official Website

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