As a means to escape vanishing sales of traditional beers, Pabst Brewing Company has now launched Pabst Hard Coffee in five test markets. Pabst Hard Coffee is a spiked coffee drink with 5 percent ABV which combines the alcohol from fermented malted barley with coffee, sugar, milk and vanilla to create something which tastes a little bit like "vanilla infused premium iced coffee” or "thicker, malt Starbucks Frappuccino".
Being a unique product, Pabst Hard Coffee is not the first of its kind in the market. New GlarusBrewing from Wisconsin was the first to brew a commercial coffee beer in 1994 but it was soon stopped by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)due to its caffeine content. When the issue was resolved and the product could be launched again with proper labeling on the bottle other breweries followed with their own products.
In the meantime more than a dozen different coffee beers have been or still are available from breweries like Stone Brewing, BrewDog, Ballast Point, Goose Island, Mikkeller, Oscar Blues, Founders and Sixpoint.
However, the way of producing a coffee beer differs from brewery to brewery. Coffee was first added to stouts to complement the roastiness of the malts, but it has now found its way into nearly every beer style.
What Pabst Hard Coffee distinguishes it from most of the others is the fact that it is not really a beer but more a coffee infused with alcohol from beer."So for a while people are going to say, 'Well this isn't a beer — I'm confused.' And that's alright," says Pabst Brand Manager John Newhouse.
The first feedbacks from the test markets in Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida are positive. “We knew we had a great tasting product, but you honestly never know with new innovations,” Newhouse said.
But it is not yet decided if the product will also hit shelves in other markets. Pabst representatives said they will continue to monitor the Hard Coffee’s sales this summer, and make a decision in the fall on whether to expand nationally.
Since 2014 Pabst Brewing Company is owned by Blue Ribbon Intermediate Holdings, a partnership of American Beer Entrepreneur Eugene Kashper and San Francisco–based private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. Los Angeles-based Pabst Brewing Company acts as a holding company for over two dozen brands of beer and malt liquor from defunct American breweries including Pabst Blue Ribbon. Since 1996, when Pabst closed its brewing site in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after 152 years, Pabst does not own its own major brewery any more. In April 2017, Pabst announced to open a new microbrewery in what was Milwaukee's first German Methodist church on the former Pabst complex just west of downtown Milwaukee (inside.beer, 11.4.2017).