Update, March 20, 2019: We discovered answers to outstanding questions we had about the PBR-branded whiskey in this Esquire Q&A with Matt Bruhn, the general manager of Pabst. We find a few of his comments strange—his assertion that people don’t value aged rum, and some of his explanations of government labeling—but overall, Bruhn does give some more information about that 5-second-aging process. Give it a read if you want further details.
Original story, March 7, 2019: On face, you’re right to be slightly skeptical of a Pabst Blue Ribbon whiskey. What does a beer brand like PBR know about distilling? But the news that PBR will release its own whiskey actually has some promise: The whiskey will be a collaboration with New Holland, Michigan-based New Holland Artisan Spirits, an offshoot of New Holland Brewing. We at The Takeout are big fans of New Holland’s spirits, with resident whiskey expert Allison Shoemaker giving a big thumbs up to the Beer Barrel Bourbon, and resident beer expert me doing the same for Zeppelin Bend Reserve, a sherry-cask finished single-malt whiskey.
MiBiz tried to get more details about the partnership between PBR and New Holland, though information is scarce at this point. The collaboration only came to light when the Alcohol And Tobacco Tax And Trade Bureau—the federal agency responsible for approving alcohol labels—processed the PBR whiskey label, making it public record. Both Pabst and New Holland confirmed the PBR whiskey project, but declined to elaborate further: “We are just not quite ready yet as several details [are] still up in the air,” a Pabst spokesperson told MiBiz.
The two breweries have a years-long relationship, as New Holland contracted with Pabst in 2106 to distribute and market New Holland beer through Pabst. That Pabst would choose New Holland for a launch into spirits makes sense, and gave us some hope that the final whiskey could actually be, you know, tasty. But one aspect of the whiskey label gives us pause: the phrase “aged 5 seconds.” Does that mean we should expect a white whiskey? Or a whiskey that briefly runs over some barrel staves lightning-fast? Food & Wine heard a spokesperson refer to the product as a white whiskey, so all signs point in that direction.
White whiskey, for the uninitiated, is unaged whiskey, sometimes referred to as moonshine. It’s the raw, distilled whiskey product that’s sold without aging, though it’s usually diluted with water to lower its alcohol content. There’s also precedent for quite minimally aged whiskey, including whiskies aged from “one minute” to “mere seconds.”
Regardless of the particular aging details of PBR whiskey, one thing is for sure: PBR cans now have the ultimate boilermaker partner.