It's no secret Pabst Blue Ribbon owes a good portion of it's profits to the trendiest of swill drinkers these days. Songstress-du-jour Lana Del Rey sings of drinking PBR on ice in her song "This Is What Makes Us Girls." Even bars with the snootiest of beer selections are compelled to carry it.
Of course there are bars in our own backyard who have paid this no mind and have been proudly pouring PBR since they opened. Johnny's Saloon in Huntington Beach is one such bar and is actually part of Pabst Blue Ribbon history. As owner Johnny Kresimir told the Weekly: "My father opened the original Johnny's in 1982 and it was a whiskey-drinking country western saloon with bikers and steaks and mullets and Pabst Blue Ribbon." They opened at a high-point in PBR's profits, but as Kresimir tells it, Pabst profits dropped near 90% nationally in subsequent years. Johnny's Saloon and their patrons paid this no mind and Kresimir said PBR reps credit the bar as one of the highest Pabst-selling bars in Orange County.
When the economy went south in 2008, they pushed Pabst as a value and American blue-collar-made product. "Its got American History written all over it being 100-plus years old, it has history with Johnny's Saloon being a big seller for 30 years now."
Pour Your Own Pabst
Johnny's and Pabst joined forces to make PBR history in February when they became the world's first Pour-Your-Own-PBR Bar. They have stations around the bar where customers can play bartender for a night and pour beer for themselves or friends.
"I believe recession equals opportunity," Kresimir said. "Opportunity to think creatively and stand out. This was just one of those crazy ideas [my brother Bruno and] I had that I thought would be original and out of the box and more importantly fun for the customer during these hard times."
Here's how it works: "Very simple," says Kresimir. "A customer wishing to pour their own PBR will approach the bartender and give them a credit card to open a tab. The bartender will give the customer a special key and a Johnny's/Pabst Blue Ribbon beer glass. The customer can now walk up to any PBR tap in the bar at anytime & insert the key. It will allow the customer to pour their PBR as the taps will not work unless a key is inserted.
"To make sure customers use the taps responsibly we have set limits to the keys and when they reach that limit they simply check with a bartender just like they would when ordering another beer. The bartender can then re-charge the key. When they are done they return the key and close out their tab paying with the credit card or cash. Our controller behind the bar will let the bartender know how much PBR was poured with that key."
Johnny's Saloon is the first and only business in the US that will allow anyone in the bar to pour their own beer. They use an expensive Nitrogen/CO2 mix refrigeration system that is typically only used in Guinness systems, so Kresimir says this will be the best-poured PBR in the world and served at a delicious 31 degrees at the tap.
They hope to eventually broaden their pour-your-own-beer selection, but Kresimir notes they hope to serve PBR of the pour-your-own variety for another 30 years.
Johnny's is continuing to carry the Pabst torch by hosting a PBR art show Wednesday. Pabst has put out an open call to fans for Blue Ribbon-inspired art of almost every medium. There have been several art shows around the country for their local sector of artist fans, making stops locally at Alex's Bar in Long Beach and now Johnny's Saloon.
The art will be on display in the bar and top three winners of the night will receive cash prizes in increments of $100, $150 and $200. Rejoice: all artists who enter will receive two free PBR pints! For all others PBR pints will be $2.50 and there will be food trucks out front. The madness runs from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.