A can of Pabst Blue Ribbon found in Yingde, Guangdong Province, China, with Chinese characters on it
Locally produced PBR: A dubious sign of progress
(photo by CIT)

Why is it that it’s mostly the dregs of America’s popular culture that get exported and embraced abroad? Why can you find bootleg DVDs of crap like Steven Seagal’s latest direct-to-video masterpiece Born to Raise Hell all over the place in China, but no one’s ever heard of The Wire or Breaking Bad? Why is Justin Bieber famous in China’s major cities, yet Wilco is completely unknown there? And why is it that Pabst Blue Ribbon can be purchased at a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, but a good bottled ale might as well be the Holy Grail?*

Here in the Bay Area it’s trendy (or was—let me check my watch cell phone) to drink PBR in cans, since all the hipsters who drank it ironically started a cultural shockwave that led to otherwise sensible people drinking it in earnest, but come on. Let’s not pretend that Pabst Blue Ribbon is even in the same league as, say, Prohibition Ale.

Now that I’ve finished my crotchety-old-man rant, the story behind the can in this photo is that I came across it in a convenience store in a remote mountain area of Guangdong Province in 2009. I was minding my own business, looking for a tasty beverage amongst all of the local products, when the sight of a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon smacked me upside the head. Laughing at the randomness of it, I bought this can to document the unexpected thrill of coming across something so familiar in such a foreign place. I’m sure I ended up drinking it too, but in fact the local bottled brew was better than PBR.

As it turns out, Pabst has a partnership with a brewery in China to produce the beer locally. Anyway, I just think a PBR can—such an iconic piece of Americana—with Chinese characters on it is funny. And random.

If you’re interested in visiting Guangdong to see what random discoveries you can make there, take a look at our Pearl River Gourmet Cuisine Discount Tour or contact us for custom tour arrangements.

* Happily, real progress is being made on this front—I have found good beers in China, both local and imported. Most of them are relatively wimpy lagers, though.

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