What Does Pabst Blue Ribbon Taste Like? (Flavors and Tasting Notes)

The classic choice for hipsters and country boys alike, PBR has come a long way since the original 1882 prize ribbon that gave this lager its name. But what is it about this beer that keeps customers coming back for more after so long?

Light and refreshing with a crisp finish, Pabst Blue Ribbon is an American adjunct lager with very low levels of malt and bitterness. The beer’s light citrus characteristics, intense carbonation, and sweet aftertaste pair perfectly with salty bar snacks and fried foods, while its light body makes it very drinkable and almost universally popular.

Read on for more about this ever-popular beer’s flavor profile, serving specifications, and a classic American adjunct lager recipe for your very own PBR clone!

Tasting notes and flavors for Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon is considered an American adjunct lager, a style of lager brewed with rice or corn in addition to barley. It shares a crisp, clean flavor profile with other styles of lager but carries a bit more of corn-like sweetness and body from the adjunct grain. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon has a crisp, delicate flavor with a faint citrus acidity from heavy carbonation. Though a bit heavier than traditional lagers due to the added corn, this crystal clear, pale gold beer remains incredibly drinkable thanks to its high carbonation and cold serving temperature. 

For a more in-depth picture of PBR’s profile, let’s take a look at the Brewers Association’s style guidelines for American adjunct lagers along the following categories:

  • Taste
  • Aroma
  • Appearance
  • Mouthfeel

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Taste

American adjunct lagers, like most lagers, are known for their clean flavors and drinkability, so don’t expect much in the way of bold malty or hoppy flavors.

Some features of this style of beer include:

  • Very low maltiness
  • Very low bitterness
  • Extremely faint citrusy hops 
  • Present yeast character
  • High carbonation levels
  • Sweet aftertaste from adjunct grain

Pabst’s recipe features corn, which produces the same starchy sweetness you find in corn syrup and popcorn. You can also expect a faint acidity from the lager’s high levels of carbonation.

Aroma

The aroma found in PBR matches up pretty closely with the flavor profile described above. 

Though extremely faint, an American adjunct lager typically has a low to medium-low maltiness enhanced by its sweet corn-like aroma. You can also expect a light citrusy scent on the nose.

Appearance

American lagers are known for their outstanding clarity, thanks to the slow and gentle lagering process. The bright but short-lived white head stands out against this pale gold beer. 

You can expect the following visual characteristics from a glass of PBR:

  • Color – Very pale straw to pale gold (2-4 SRM).
  • Opacity – Crystal clear, with no chill haze.
  • Head – Frothy, sparkly white head with low retention.
  • Lacing – Low lacing due to low alcohol content and poor head retention.

Mouthfeel

PBR is famous for its drinkability, a feature of its mouthfeel as much as its flavor.

Like most lagers, Pabst Blue Ribbon will have a light, clean, and crisp mouthfeel. Though this American adjunct lager will have slightly more body thanks to the corn used during brewing the very high levels of carbonation balance out the added sweetness with added acidity and effervescence.

Pabst Blue Ribbon recipe and ingredients

If you’re looking for a way to practice your homebrewing by making a PBR clone, try out this great recipe from brewersfriend.com!

Just like the official PBR formula, this American lager recipe calls for adjunct flaked corn on top of the usual malt, hops, and yeast.

Ingredients

  • 5.5 lb American Pilsner Malt
  • 1.85 lb Flaked Corn
  • 0.5 oz Northern Brewer Hops
  • Saflager Yeast
  • Lactic Acid 

Method

  1. Heat up about 2.76 gallons of water to 150°F.
  2. Add grains and hops and mash.
  3. Heat up water for sparging to 168°F.
  4. Sparge with water and reach about 5.18 gallons of wort.
  5. Boil wort for 90 minutes.
  6. Transfer wort to primary fermenter.
  7. Pitch and add yeast.
  8. Ferment for 2 weeks at 52°F.
  9. Let rise to 65°F for 1 week.
  10. Crash cool at 38°F for several days.
  11. Rack to secondary.
  12. Let rise to 65°F for 1 week.
  13. Crash cool at 38°F for 3 weeks.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Style

Pabst Blue Ribbon is an American adjunct lager. Like other lagers, this style gets its crystal clear appearance and mellow flavors from its long, slow fermentation and conditioning process known as lagering.

Adjunct lagers feature additional grain in addition to barley, usually rice or corn.

Pabst Blue Ribbon ABV

Pabst Blue Ribbon has 4.8% alcohol by volume (ABV).

This is right in line with other adjunct American lagers, which usually range between 4% and 6% ABV.

Pabst Blue Ribbon calories and nutritional information

One serving of PBR is considered to be 12 fl oz (one bottle).

Here’s a rundown on the nutritional value of one serving of Pabst Blue Ribbon:

  • Calories – 153
  • Fat – 0 g
  • Sodium – 14 mg
  • Potassium – 96 mg
  • Total Carbohydrates – 13 g 
  • Protein – 1.6 g

How to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon for the best flavor

Just like any other beer, there are best practices when serving any American lager for the best drinking experience. Factors like temperature and style of glass can have a big impact on the flavor of your beer.

For the best experience, enjoy your Pabst Blue Ribbon cold, in a pilsner or pint glass on draft or from a can. 

Let’s break down how each of these factors improves the quality of your PBR:

  • Temperature
  • Bottle/can/draft
  • Serving glass

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Temperature

The ideal temperature to serve American lagers is about 38-40°F. While some flavorful beers are enhanced at warmer temperatures, lagers excel as cold, thirst-quenching beverages.

Because lagers have very low bitterness and high carbonation (both qualities that become more pronounced at colder temperatures), a cold serving temperature can highlight this beer’s crisp effervescence without the unpleasant bitterness that could show up in hoppier chilled beers.

Bottle, can, or draft?

As with most beers, the best serving container will usually be a can or keg. Both of these serving containers are hermetically sealed and let in no air or light that might damage the beer. 

If you’re deciding between a can or a draft, your choice will have to come down to how fast the PBR is being served; kegs tend to be the best choice, but only if served quickly. Meanwhile, a can’s small serving size allows for a more relaxed drinking experience.

Type of glass

When deciding which glass to serve your PBR in, you’ll want to highlight the beer’s best qualities.

As a crisp and refreshing beverage, any large, wide-mouthed glass would be a great choice.

The best glasses for serving Pabst Blue Ribbon will include pilsner glasses, pint glasses, or glass mugs.

What kind of foods pair best with Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a great beer to pair with classic bar fare; the neutral, slightly sweet taste and crisp, effervescent finish is the perfect choice when eating anything salty, fried, or spicy.

Though you’ll want to keep your food on the lighter side (avoid chocolate cake, for instance), the beer’s carbonation will help cleanse your palate when eating fatty or greasy foods.

Is Pabst Blue Ribbon a good beer to drink?

While some people turn up their noses at lighter beers as inferior to heavier flavored IPAs or stouts, nothing beats an ice-cold American lager on a hot day with a side of salty, spicy, or fatty foods. 

Like all beers, there is always a time and place for a cold glass of PBR as long as you enjoy beers in the style of American adjunct lagers.

Whether it be a specific food pairing, warm weather, or a simple desire to enjoy an easy-sipping experience, there are countless reasons why heavier flavor might be out of place. In those circumstances, a Pabst Blue Ribbon is a perfect choice!

Never feel bad for drinking a style of beer you enjoy as long as you enjoy it responsibly. But do be sure to store and serve your American lager in the best conditions:

  • Use a cold glass (38-40°F).
  • Drink your beer fresh, preferably from a keg or can, or a properly stored bottle
  • Serve in a large, widemouth beer glass like a pilsner glass or a bar mug.
  • Optionally enjoy salty, fatty, or spicy snacks.

Follow these recommendations and you’ll have a great experience drinking your PBR!

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