Pour one out for weird milky alcoholic beverages with shoehorned-in coffee ties. Pabst Blue Ribbon—PBR, the quintessential dive beer, the perfectly imperfect unstuffy cold one—swerved out of their lane a little bit when they decided to create their Hard Coffee line of beverages three years ago, which they have now course-corrected by putting the kibosh on the whole operation.
We first reported on PBR’s Hard Coffee back in 2019 when it was first released. (I still maintain that PBRry is a much better name for this star-crossed endeavor.) These were the boom times for coffee-infused alcohol drinks. Jameson and Jäegermeister had both just released a cold brew variant of their preferred tipple, Bailey’s released a weirdly non-alcoholic coffee drink, and just about every brewery had no less than 18 barrel-aged coffee stouts with liqueur-level ABVs on their taproom menu. It was the golden era for the hangover aficionado looking to get drunk and caffeinated all at once. But after the boom comes the bust, sunrise sunset, and now is that time for the Hard Coffee.
As Beverage Digest reports, though, the discontinuation of the canned alcoholic coffee drink that many described as tasting like Yoo-hoo or “like a Starbucks frappuccino bullshit” (meant as a compliment) was not necessarily due to poor performance, at least relative to other drinks in the same category. Per the article, “Pabst Hard Coffee is by far the market leader at US retail with a 55.0 dollar share of the hard coffee segment within the ‘beer, flavored malt beverages, and cider’ category.” But turns out the entire hard coffee category might be trash. Even as the segment leader, sales of PBR’s Hard Coffee dropped by 40% in 2022, and the whole category took a 33% dip over the same timeframe.
So why are consumers giving up on PBR and every other hard coffee for that matter? Apparently because it doesn’t get you blotto fast enough. People are moving past the 5% ABV creamy coffee jammers onto “spirit-based canned cocktails.” We’re not talking about, like, a canned Aperol spritz here or a zippy G&T. No, folks are thirsting for vodka- and cream liqueur-based canned White Russians, like Anheuser-Busch’s Cutwater brand.
People still want their creamy coffee alcohol goop, but they want it at something closer to 14% ABV. Which I guess makes sense. If you are looking to get thrashed on caffeinated milk hooch, you’re probably going to want to have to consume as little of it as possible, so why not juice the ABV a bit?
Either way, Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Coffee is no longer being made, and once it is gone for the shelves it is gone for good. So if you, for whatever reason, actually enjoyed the drink, you should probably run out right now and buy up as many of them as you can, because otherwise you’ll just have to go back to spiking your Yoo-hoo with grain alcohol and caffeine pills to get your kicks.
Editors note: Please don’t spike Yoo-hoo or any other drink with grain alcohol and caffeine pills.