How Did Pabst Win Its Blue Ribbon?

Before it was called PBR, the official beer of hipsters, old blue collar Wisconsinites, and Frank Booth was brewed under the name Best Select. It was named for the founder of the brewery, Jacob Best, who had since retired and left the running of the company to his sons. Best’s son-in-law, a former steamship captain named Johann Gottlieb Friedrich Pabst, also owned a share of the business, and he eventually became its president and changed the name to the Pabst Brewing Company.

According to the company’s own history, Best Select had won numerous awards at beer competitions at home and abroad. A shrewd marketer, Pabst had blue silk ribbon tied around the neck of each bottle, to identify it as the winner it was, starting in 1882. Within a decade, the brewery was going through one million feet of ribbon a year. 

For all the awards, Best Select had never won a literal blue ribbon up to that point. The first, according to the company, came at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The attention and sales that followed inspired the company to change Best Select to Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Other accounts of the Columbian Exposition contradict Pabst’s claim, though. Like other fairs of the day, the 1893 exposition lured exhibitors with promises of awards. But according to a few modern and historical sources, its organizers went about the prizes a little differently. Instead of competing directly against each other, the exhibitors in different categories were judged against a list of criteria that represented a standard of excellence for that category. “Every entrant who met the standard would leave Chicago with a commemorative bronze medal and a parchment certificate,” Maureen Ogle says in Ambitious Brew. “The White City’s purity would thus remain unsullied by undignified brawls for prizes and grubby scrimmages over medals and ribbons.”

For the beer exhibitions, the judges were told to score each brew on purity, color, and flavor and assign a score between 0 and 100. Any beer that scored 80 or higher would then get a medal and certificate. Things didn’t exactly work out that way once the exposition got rolling, and the beer judges decided to come up with their own scoring system, with ranked prizes awarded based on numerical scores in categories of their own creation. The brewers were left to assume that whoever ended the fair with the highest score “won,” never mind that there was, officially, no grand prize and that each medal looked the same as all the others. 

King of Brewers

Leading Pabst by two points near the end of judging, Anheuser-Busch began celebrating early, ordering an award placard for their exhibit and taking out ads in the local papers announcing they had won the nonexistent grand prize and were the “King of Brewers.” After the final category had been scored, the judges’ table devolved into deadlock and in-fighting, and a special supervisory committee had to be formed to sort things out. In the end, Pabst ended up ahead of Busch by just a fraction of a point.

Pabst quickly announced himself as the “grand prize winner,” even though his medal and certificate were exactly the same as those won by other brewers. To celebrate, he had the entire brewery in Milwaukee draped in blue ribbon and gave all his workers a day off. Despite what seems to be a gross misunderstanding of the prize system by both the judges and the contestants, Pabst continues to boast that their beer was picked as “America’s Best in 1893” on each and every can of PBR. 

James Duong, AFP/Getty Images
The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan

Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]


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