When the subject of hipsters comes up, I often find myself rising to their defense. It’s not that I’m enamored of their skinny jeans, asymmetrical haircuts, or studied nonchalance, it’s that it’s just a style, no more deserving of vitriol than any other fashion subgroup. Bankers wear hair gel and suspenders, mooks wear Ed Hardy shirts and Bluetooth headsets, rockabillies don leather jackets and blue jeans, and hipsters wear, well, whatever hipsters are wearing this week. Sure they’re ripe for teasing, but so is everyone else. At least they’re making an attempt to look interesting. If they wore sweatpants and football jerseys every day, would they bother people any less? And yet, there is one aspect of hipsterdom that’s simply indefensible: their predilection for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. No two ways about it, PBR tastes awful. Which makes it especially sad that equally cheap brew Miller High Life has quit trying to woo the hipster market, reverting to its roots as a premium beer—an even more difficult case to make.
Like hipsters, Miller High Life can also be difficult to defend. It’s not “good” like a bottle of, say, Brooklyn Pilsner, but it does occupy a sweet spot in the market as the cheapest drinkable beer, sharing the title—and shelf space in the bodega cooler—with nearly identical-tasting brews like Budweiser and Coors. You’d have to be one of those female beer-tasting wizards to tell the difference between them, but at least they’re proper beers, and beer, like pizza, sex, and sunshine, is inherently a good thing.
PBR is not proper beer—it’s pure swill. It is undrinkable. And its popularity among hipsters proves that, in matters of flavor at least, they definitely prefer style over substance. I guess there’s something about holding an aluminum can sporting that handsome blue ribbon the brand won back in 1893 when it was selected as America’s Best. Those must have been bleak days for beer drinkers.
Despite costing the same and having the added bonus of actually being drinkable, Miller High Life never caught on among hipsters. This is incomprehensible to me. The label is ripe for ironic brand worship. The slender bottles are almost sexy, and the gold cans with the green-and-white stripe are positively handsome. And the tagline “the Champagne of Beers” is great for making jokes about. Best of all, the name: High Life. High, like with weed. Get it?
No, they don’t get it. Those darn hipsters will continue to prop up the completely undeserving PBR, forcing Miller High Life to attempt to reenter the premium beer category. It won’t succeed. But who knows, maybe its fancy new Girl-in-the-Moon logo will resonate with the next generation of hipsters. Maybe there’s something to the idea of “drinkability” after all. In the meantime, when I’m down to my last $1.75 and want a brew to wash down the two plain slices I just bought, I’ll reach for one of those 24-ounce supercans at the bodega and live my own high life, uncool as it may be.