How PBR Cornered the Indie/Hipster/Bike-Messenger Beer Market

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In 2003, the writer Rob Walker began an article in the New York Times Magazine with a sentence that contained a sort of archetype of the Pabst Blue Ribbon-drinking crowd: "On a recent Saturday evening, about a hundred serious bicyclists, most of them young men, many tattooed and pierced and at least one wearing striped tights and a floral thrift-shop dress, arrived en masse at Alberta Park in northeast Portland, Ore." Walker's piece was among the earliest stories about the beer brand's unlikely resurgence thanks to the enthusiastic patronage of the hard-to-define demographic sometimes known as "hipsters." But just who are the people responsible for marketing the beer to its devoted fans, and how do they do it?

Enter Dan VanHoozer, one of the handful of Pabst "creatives" charged with drumming up support for PBR at indie crafts fairs, nightclubs, latte-art competitions, and the like. Jonathan L. Fischer of the Washington City Paper, D.C.'s local alt-weekly, spent a recent Friday night shadowing VanHoozer as he made his rounds of the District's bars armed with beer, swag, and small talk. The resulting narrative is an account of just how the brand ambassadors operate that is worth reading:

6:10 p.m. Rock & Roll Hotel on H Street NE
VanHoozer delivers box of plastic cups, emblazoned with PBR logos. "These are like gold," he says.

In the corporate parlance of the Pabst Brewing Co., Dan VanHoozer is a "creative."

VanHoozer, of course, hates that term. The way he sees it, he and his 20 or so analogues across the country are folks "who want to make shit happen in their cities." It's just that they happen to work for a firm that understands the marketing upside to making shit happen—a strategy that's still going strong seven years after cultural thinkers started dissecting it.

Read the full story at the Washington City Paper.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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