This post at Foreign Policy Magazine pointed me to a note about PBR’s premium status in China. It’s not your standard hipster PBR (which has a reputation I absolutely can’t understand), but a high-gravity ale called 1844.
The above advertisement appears on the inside front cover of the current issue of Window of the South (南风窗), a respected biweekly business magazine. At first glance it looks like an ad for a wine or a brandy, but closer inspection reveals the actual brand: Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer 1844.
1844 was the year that the Pabst Brewing Company was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the US, the beer’s lack of pretension led to a recent upswing in popularity among hipsters.
He links to an excerpt from an interview with Alan Kornhauser, Pabst Brewmaster-Asia, given to All About Beer magazine:
I still like formulating specialty beers. In fact, with Pabst, I just made the first specialty beer in Mainland China. There’s almost no ale in China: I had to smuggle the yeast into the country. I formulated a special high-gravity ale called “1844.” It’s all malt, and we use caramel malts from Germany. The initial aging is dry-hopped rather heavily. Then we do a secondary aging in new uncharred American oak whiskey barrels. We bought 750 brand new barrels to the tune of $100,000. This is a very special beer; it’s retailing for about over $40 U.S. for a 720 ml bottle.
Fascinating stuff. I haven’t seen, nor have I even heard of, 1844 in the U.S., but if I could find a bottle, I’d absolutely buy it. It reminds me a little of what Michelob has been trying to do — take a long-time cheap beer, and spin it off into a new direction.