Hipsters are synonymous with a lot of things: dust bowl chic clothing, beards, thick-rimmed glasses, listening to indie music, and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (PBR). Hipsters essentially saved the beer company PBR in the new millennium when they took a tanking beer company and brought it back to life.
As recently as the late 1990s and early 2000s, PBR saw meager sales and was typically thought of as cheap beer, low on quality, for older retired men. The go-against-the-grain attitude of hipsters picked up on the ironic choice of drinking a PBR.
How to Pick a Hipster Beer
Initially, Portland (perhaps the original home of the hipster) saw increasing sales in the early 2000s, and PBR clung to the demographic. PBR was affordable, retro, and not what everyone was drinking.
The irony in PBR’s mass-appeal among hipsters is that hipsters like irony—once something becomes mainstream, many hipsters will drop the trend.
Drinking PBR beer is no exception to this rule, as several current-day hipsters no longer ask for Pabst. The counter-culture demographic instead tends to opt for lesser-known beer companies and, in more recent years, loves craft breweries as the new go-to.
The New Era of Hipster Beer
So, how do you pick a hipster beer when the old fallback of ordering PBR is no longer the gold standard? Most hipster brews will follow these general guidelines.
Look for Ironic
Hipsters still seem to love all things ironic, and again, this is part of what made Pabst a choice beer among the demographic. If it appears to have a cheap or negative association, many hipsters will choose it for that exact reason
Some more up and coming hipster beer choice that could overtake the PBR standard is that of Red Dog, Labatt Blue, Fat Tire, and Yuengling.
Red Dog is known for being less than quality. That didn’t stop hipsters back in the day when ordering Pabst, though.
Likewise, it’s also more affordable than a lot of brews.
Furthermore, Red Dog is just unlikeable enough to the mainstream, non-hipster public that it could contend for a top spot as the next big thing in this counter-culture following.
Grandma and Grandpa’s clothes from the thrift shop used to look bad, too, but that never stopped hipsters. Ordering a beer typically considered negative is positive here.
Labatt Blue headquartered in Toronto, is a potential contender with hipsters, as many plaid-wearing people of this demographic like Canada, and some even threaten to move there when election days swing in a particular direction.
Labatt Blue stuck around as an affordable, less popular beer often chosen by Gen-Xers and some Baby Boomers. Hopefully for Labatt’s sake, holding one of their beers will not result in younger hipsters muttering, “Okay, Boomer.”
We don’t think it will. Even so, if a 25-year-old orders a Boomer drink, it’s ironic, and isn’t that the point?
Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewing Company
Fat Tire is a craft brew from the New Belgium Brewing Company out of Colorado that managed to become somewhat mainstream.
So, maybe it shouldn’t be on the list. Yet, it’s still non-corporate enough that many hipsters seem to love it.
Check out Fat Tire’s Instagram page, and you’ll see that they are aiming for an outdoorsy demographic of younger people who like bikes, beards, boating, and lots of other things you should never attempt while drinking.
Most of the irony exists in this contrast.
Maybe some hipsters are better at boozing up and braving angry rapids or snowboarding at X-Games levels of skill. We’re not, but we appreciate the vision they have of their consumers.
Yuengling Lager is what we consider a perfect contender for the next big hipster beer for a couple of reasons. It’s a lesser-known brewery by most people unless you live in or around Pennsylvania.
Being able to ask for something a bar might not have is an activity enjoyed by many hipsters—come on, we can admit it’s fun to do, you can, too.
Better yet, Yuengling is not super mainstream, yet it’s the oldest brewery in America, originating in 1829. Talk about vintage. We know anyone can do that math, but let’s point out that this brewery started 190 years ago! In America, you know that’s a long time.
However, what if you want to go even lesser-known that these brands? Part of the hipster drinking habits of late, outside of brunch cocktails, revolves around craft brews.
Become a Hops Connoisseur
Beers with a lot of hops, like India Pale Ales (IPAs), have become big among the younger half of the drinking population in the last ten years.
With the unremarkable flavor of Pabst slowing down among hipster consumers, more locally-sourced beers will make up part of the ordering and buying habits of this crowd.
The fact is, IPAs have been a massive part of what smaller breweries sell. Hipsters also like to be in-the-know about things and educated on random information when possible.
So, when you have to order an IPA from a smaller brewery, it seems suitable to pair that with some knowledge of what you’re drinking.
Although this might backfire in the long run when everyone keeps overdoing the hops talk like we’ve overdone avocado toast.
Look for Local
Brewpubs and microbreweries also saw enormous growth in recent years, taking up a significant portion of the market. Local breweries became bigger among hipsters alongside the idea of being more socially and environmentally conscious.
Local breweries mean more off-brand beers, less fuel used to ship the product, as well as supporting small businesses. Even if you are a hipster who loves a drink that others consider cheap garbage water, it’s hard to go wrong with supporting a local brewery, ever.
In Downtown Detroit, an area of recent hipster gentrification, there is the Eastern Market Brewing Co. All around the country, you can find impressive local brews suitable for a hipster.
Check for an Interesting Theme or Quirky Label
Another significant change to counter-culture beers is the changing in beer names. For the last decade, there has been an increase in the off-beat, sometimes even strange, names or labels by brewers.
The 21st Amendment Brewery boasts an eye-catching label with their Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer. So does 3 Floyds Brewing Company’s Lazer Snake (if you want something that looks ironic cool, we’re not sure you can beat that one).
It’s not challenging to find off-brand beers with eccentric and even bizarre labels these days. Most decent liquor stores or wine shops will have plenty of beers with labels so intriguing you’ll be tempted to peel them off and frame them on a wall next to your needlepoint artwork and shelf of potted succulents.
Pay Attention to the Vibe
This rule applies to in-person visits to actual breweries. If you step into a brewhouse and you spot beanies, tattoos paired with thick-rimmed glasses, an open mic session, you might be in the presence of a brewery that will house the next big hipster beer.
There’s nothing like doing the market research yourself and seeing (or trying) brews other hipsters are spotted drinking.
There is no guarantee it will taste fantastic, but if you opt for a smaller, local establishment, you’ll probably find some decent options that appear counter-culture while remaining palatable.
At least more so than the rumored rise of cheap Popov vodka among hipsters (that might be an example of sticking with beer being a smart choice).
We hope hipsters, like us, continue to enjoy supporting more local efforts when it comes to the next wave of popular drink choices.
As counter-culture as hipsters like to be, the group as a whole has a massive impact on sales across a variety of industries, and beer is no exception. Look for ironic, craft brews, and off-beat labels, and you are on your way to finding the next hipster beer.
Or even better, one that others won’t even know about as they sneak envious glances at the label to try and see what you’re sipping.