May 28, 2010

PBR Me For 250 Mil

Pabst Brewing, the hipster drink that's been riding their only prize ribbon since 1893, is going to be sold for $250 million dollars.

Shlitz, Old Milwaukee, Strohs, and PBR are part of the deal.

Metropoulos, known for buying food brands such as Vlasic Pickles and Bumble Bee Tuna, will secure the deal, which is in its final stages.

Pabst has been ordered by the Internal Revenue Service to sell itself under a federal law that bars charities from owning for-profit businesses for more than five years.

Pabst is owned, at the moment, by the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, named for Paul Kalmanovitz, a brewing magnate who died in 1987, two years after buying Pabst. A 2005 deadline passed, so the IRS granted a five-year extension that expires this year. Strange that a charity would own a hipster beer company. I don't remember the girl scouts selling PBR at the grocery store... Maybe it really is a charity since they're only selling it for a couple bucks at the bar.

The deal would give Metropoulos a beer marketing company that owns more than 25 brands, such as Old Milwaukee, Stroh's and Old Style. Pabst doesn't operate any breweries, and contracts production of its beer to Chicago-based MillerCoors LLC, formed two years ago by merging Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co. The agreement with MillerCoors expires in 2014, according to a regulatory filing.

Pabst sells about 6 million barrels of beer annually, said Harry Schumacher, publisher of Beer Business Daily, an Internet-based trade publication which first reported the pending sale to Metropoulos. He said the sale will not affect the brewing contract, which has generated work at MillerCoors' Milwaukee brewery. Ironically, they only use one barrel of hops or barley to make the beer flavored water they call Pabst.

"Where else are they going to brew it?" Schumacher said. "It's not like a craft brewer can handle it." Or want it, he forgot to add.

Schumacher also said Metropoulos would likely have Pabst continue to operate with most of its current staff, which amounts to around 30 employees. Pabst in recent years has revived some of its brands, including Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz.

U.S. sales of Pabst Blue Ribbon jumped 33% to $173 million in the 52 weeks ended April 18, making it the 20th-largest beer brand in the country, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. Pabst Brewing has less than 2% of the U.S. market. That's a lot of doggammed hipsters.

Pabst was a Milwaukee mainstay for more than a century when it was acquired in 1985 by Kalmanovitz. He bought other declining breweries, including Pearl and Falstaff, which were losing market share to Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing.

Pabst closed its Milwaukee brewery in 1996 and shuttered its last remaining brewery in 2001 after hiring Miller to brew its brands. Pabst in 2006 moved its offices from San Antonio, Texas, to suburban Chicago.

The former Pabst brewery in Milwaukee is being redeveloped into apartments, offices and other new uses.

Bloomberg News and Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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