Hipsters rejoice: There’s now a Pabst Blue Ribbon-branded cannabis drink
The name and logo of 176-year-old heritage beer brand Pabst Blue Ribbon now can be found on frosty cold cans of lemon-flavored cannabis-infused seltzer water.
Los Angeles-based Pabst Labs, which employs a half-dozen people, including at least two former employees of Pabst Brewing Co. (which is also located in L.A.), officially announced the branding play Wednesday. However, the 12-ounce cans, each of which contain 5 milligrams of THC, 4 grams of sugar and 25 calories, have been quietly rolling out to local dispensaries since the middle of September, according to Pabst Labs brand manager Mark Faicol, one of the former Pabst Brewing Co. employees.
Faicol said the initial response to the drink at retail has been “incredibly positive.” The new buzzy nonbrew debuts with a single flavor, lemon, and the drink has an effervescent bite fans of LaCroix seltzer will appreciate. Additional flavors are in the works, Faicol said.
Pabst Blue Ribbon Cannabis-Infused Seltzer ($24 per 4-pack, $120 per 24-can case) is available only in California, and a list of stocking dispensaries can be found at pabstlabs.com. The drink also can be ordered for delivery.
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In an interview with The Times last week, Faicol was quick to underscore two important things about the beer brand’s move into the cannabis beverage space. First, while the beverage packaging may bear the beer brand’s name and instantly recognizable blue-ribbon logo, the contents are nonalcoholic. Second, Pabst Labs is an almost 2-year-old standalone company that shares nothing more than a first name with the beer brewing company that dates to 1844.
"[Pabst Brewing Co.] can’t legally hold a cannabis license because it’s not federally legal,” Faicol said. “There’s no financial stake, and they’re not going to share in any of the sales. But they did give us the rights to use the brand with no fee. While I can’t speak on their behalf, what I think it’s really affording them is an opportunity to learn about the [cannabis beverage] space with a partner that they really trust.”
Faicol likened the brand extension to Pabst’s recent moves into other nonbeer beverages, including spirits (a project he worked on while at the company), hard seltzer, hard tea and, most recently, hard cold-brew coffee.
What the brand owner’s blessing gives Pabst Labs, Faicol said, is powerful brand awareness in a relatively new — and rapidly growing cannabis beverage space that is expected to be a $4 billion business by 2024. “It’s transcended generations,” Faicol said. “It’s [a brand] your grandparents probably know about it, your parents know about it and your friends today know about it. We’re looking to appeal to new and long-term brand supporters [as well as] the canna-curious.”
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In addition to giving its nascent beverage brand a leg up on competition, Faicol said he hopes the rights to use the Pabst Blue Ribbon name and logo will go a long way in helping to destigmatize the cannabis industry.
“If someone’s carrying a can of PBR, that’s going to elicit some type of response. That’s going to elicit a lot of curiosity, and people are going to ask: ‘Hey, what is that?’” Faicol said. “With PBR and our brand coming into the space, we’re really hoping to kind of normalize the category.”
We’ll see who will drink to that.
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