When Pabst announced it would release its own PBR-brand whiskey, we were intrigued, if, admittedly, a little skeptical.
How would the Blue Ribbon beer folks do when it comes to America’s spirit, we wondered. After all, Pabst hasn’t distilled whiskey since the 1840s (though it did release this in 2017).
But we were hoping for the best (pun intended, sorry), because, after all, Pabst is still (doh, sorry again) associated with Brew City and we’re nothing if not Milwaukee proud.
Recently, I got a taste of the white dog – aka unaged whiskey, ‘cuz let’s be honest, 5 seconds isn’t really a thing, either in the sack or in a barrel – and while it doesn’t have the flavor profile or character of something I’d personally sip neat, it works perfectly well in a cocktail.
And that’s exactly as it should be, according to Pabst’s Narelle Bruhn, who adds that some folks do enjoy clear moonshine on its own (which is, of course, true).
"Any un-aged spirit is not made to sip or drink straight so we made it with this in mind and made it to mix," says Bruhn. "It is a cocktail whiskey and when mixed tastes great, but still some people want to drink it straight."
I’d suggest using it for a great Old Fashioned but talk of a whiskey Old Fashioned might get me run out of Wisconsin, so I’ll offer a nice whiskey sour instead, or a PBR boilermaker – shot of PBR whiskey dropped into a PBR lager.
I asked Bruhn about the mash bill, which seemed to be unclear around the time of the release.
In an interview, Pabst’s Matt Bruhn said, "The mash bill is made of ingredients Best would have had access to in 1844. He would have been picking up the crop that comes from the field, so it's not going to be a perfect corn and wheat blend, it's going to be a bunch of other stuff that would have basically fallen into the mash. That's why ours has got oats in it, because that's the crops he would have got."
But the label did not list those oats.
"No rolled oats," confirms Narelle Bruhn. "Our mash bill is 52 percent corn, 27 percent malted barley, 17 percent wheat, 4 percent rye."
The whiskey is distilled by Michigan’s New Holland Brewing.
So why whiskey and why un-aged whiskey?
"There are historical records that suggest that (Jacob Best) made spirits before beer back in 1844," says Bruhn. "It’s in our blood. We wanted to be consistent with our founder Jacob Best’s vision. There are historical records that suggest that Best was making a spirit before beer so we wanted to stay true to his vision. In America un-aged spirts is a very large category which we wanted to get involved in."
And how has the response been?
"We’ve had very positive feedback from consumers and our distribution partners," says Bruhn. "PBR Whiskey is selling well and getting great reviews. We are excited to connect with new consumers in the market and do something new."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.