Just in Time for National Coffee Day: a New Hard Cold Brew From Pabst Blue Ribbon

The trend of hardening virgin beverages is still going strong

Image of Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst has upped the ante on the hard coffee it introduced last year. Pabst Blue Ribbon
Headshot of Robert Klara

Brands don’t need much of an excuse to trot out a limited-time promotion, and when that excuse happens to be National Coffee Day (as today officially is), it’s a given that most every restaurant you can name has some kind of java offer underway. Members of Krispy Kreme’s rewards program can get a free coffee and donut today, for instance. Peet’s Coffee is giving 25% off its fresh beans. And Biggby Coffee’s offering a free 20-ounce brew with any purchase. The list goes on.

Given that 64% of Americans drink coffee every day of the week (2.7 cups on average) and 36% of people go to a restaurant or other retail locations to get it, this spate of promotions is hardly surprising. After all, Americans really love their coffee. How much do they love it? Well, apparently enough to head to the cooler case and buy it from the makers of another of America’s favorite beverages: beer.

The folks at Pabst Blue Ribbon have upped the ante on the Hard Coffee the brand launched last year by introducing Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Cold Brew.

“Cold brewed coffee has become a fast favorite with coffee drinkers in America in the last few years, beloved for its sweeter smoother taste,” the company said in a statement today. “Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Hard Cold Brew delivers a delicious black cold brewed coffee with a kick.”

A kick—meaning the stuff packs 4.2% alcohol and 30 mg of caffeine.

The practice of hardening otherwise alcohol-free beverages has been a proven profit center for quite a few years now, as brands such as Henry’s Hard Soda, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Twisted Tea amply prove. For its part, Pabst actually helped to start the trend when it partnered with Small Town Brewery in 2015 to distribute Not Your Father’s Root Beer, a spicy vanilla concoction that boasts a 5.9% ABV. Since then, every major brewery has horses in the race, including Boston Beer Company with Wild Leaf Craft Hard Tea and Truly Spiked & Sparkling (water) and Molson Coors with Smith & Forge Hard Cider, among several other labels.

Hard coffee is more of a newcomer to the trend of taking virgin beverages and kicking them up a notch. Pabst tested the national appetite for it in July 2019 when it rolled out Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Coffee, what it called “a fun and deliciously unique drink made using Arabica and Robusta coffee beans and rich, creamy American milk.” The cold brew product introduced today, then, rests on an experiment that’s already proven itself.

Most Americans interested in a kick to their cold brew will, however, have to be prepared to cross a few state lines to get it. For now at least, Pabst Blue Ribbon Hard Cold Brew will only be available in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

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@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.