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Can I get a chaser of Mac & Cheese with my beer, please?

Thom delves into the fascinating pivots of beer companies during Prohibition and the COVID pandemic
For Your Consideration

Beer companies love their promotions.

Back in Saskatchewan, Pilsner (Pil as it affectionately known). Always had something on the go. Roughriders-related, of course.

I managed to put together a nice little collection of Pil/Roughriders pint glasses (two of which I still use to hold my paintbrush and as a water glass for painting).

If it wasn’t pint glasses, it was beer cozies, flags, baseball caps, coolers, umbrellas, seat cushions, watermelon hats etc.

All those things make a lot of sense being both beer- and football-related given Pil is an official sponsor of our beloved Riders.

Recently, though, my son told me about a Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) promotion that left me scratching my head. From time to time, the American brewer gives out boxes of PBR Mac & Cheese.

Of course, I couldn’t just let it go as a curiosity with Google right at my fingertips.

Turns out, when the United States banned alcoholic beverages in 1920, many breweries pivoted to other products. Most started making near-beer as the Prohibition law allowed for a alcohol content less than 0.5 per cent.

But Pabst decided it was going to make cheese. An adver tisement from the 1920s promoted Pabst-ett Cheese with the tagline: “Scientists Have Perfected the Original Whole Milk Cheese Product.”

They made it in both block and spreadable forms and a variety of flavours.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, Pabst went back to brewing beer and sold the cheese line to Kraft. It’s not entirely clear what happened to the Pabst-ett recipe, but the original packaging of the block version looks suspiciously like Kraft Velveeta.

Anyway, it would appear the Mac & Cheese promotion is a little nod to the company’s history.

Interestingly, there is a slight parallel between Prohibition and COVID-19.

While mass beer manufacturers such as Pabst have flourished during the pandemic, craft brewers were hit hard. Most brew pubs do bottle or can their products for take-away or dispense growlers, but also rely heavily on on-premise drinking and selling kegs to other bars and restaurants.

With the restrictions placed on that industry, craft brewers have been forced to pivot their business models to survive including online direct sales, increasing production of take-away products, finding alternative distribution channels and other strategies.

Locally, Smithers Brewing Company pivoted to canning hand sanitizer.

I wonder what kind of promotional giveaways we might see in the future as a nod to the pandemic.

Pabst toilet paper? Pilsner face masks? Old Milwaukee social distancing sticks?v