HOLLAND — Pabst Brewing Co. appears to be jumping into the spirits product category with the help of a West Michigan brewery and distillery.
New Holland Brewing Co. received federal label approval for a Pabst-branded whiskey last month, suggesting that the Holland-based company will serve as the contract distiller for the product.
The “Pabst Blue Ribbon Whiskey” label, submitted by New Holland Brewing President Brett VanderKamp on Dec. 21, makes mention of Jacob Best, who in 1844 founded the company that went on to become Pabst Brewing Co.
VanderKamp, in response to an emailed inquiry from MiBiz, acknowledged the label, but deferred to executives at Pabst, whom he said were leading the project.
Executives from Pabst and a Pabst spokesperson acknowledged a request for more information, but declined to offer any more details.
“We are just not quite ready yet as several details [are] still up in the air,” spokesperson Alastair Duncan said in an email to MiBiz, noting the project “is quite a big thing for the brand.”
Typically, breweries and distilleries submit labels for approval to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) weeks or months ahead of product launches. The TTB was one of the federal agencies affected by the recent government shutdown.
It’s unclear when the product, packaged in the 750-milliliter format, will be available to consumers.
The front label, which features the iconic blue ribbon theme from Pabst’s beers, as well as a drawing of barley and hops, lists the mash bill for the 80-proof whiskey, which it notes was “aged 5 seconds.”
As well, a branding message reads: “This is Pabst Blue Ribbon Whiskey. Made from nature’s choicest products that, legend has it, Jacob Best used in 1844 to provide its smooth, complex flavor.”
The back label, meanwhile, contains the statement: “Distilled and bottled by Pabst Brewing Company, Holland, MI.”
By contract distilling the whiskey, New Holland would be expanding its relationship with the Los Angeles-based Pabst to include producing products.
In December 2016, the two companies signed a long-term partnership, effective in early 2017, for Pabst to sell New Holland’s beer via its nationwide sales channels, as MiBiz reported at the time.
Under the deal, which was aimed at increasing New Holland’s distribution footprint, Pabst did not take an equity stake in New Holland Brewing, but said it would take a percentage of the profits.
Since striking the deal, New Holland expanded its distribution footprint from 34 to 38 states and four countries. In the same time period, the brewery, known for its brands including Dragon’s Milk and Mad Hatter, also grew beer production by about 5,000 barrels, according to prior statements.
New Holland has been distilling under the New Holland Artisan Spirits name since 2005, according to its website.
The New Holland-made whiskey is believed to be the first under the Pabst label. However, Pabst in 2017 launched a bourbon under the “Not Your Father’s” brand, which started with alcoholic flavored malt beverages such as hard root beer and later expanded into other flavors.
Macro beer brands for years have flirted with getting into the spirits industry. Most recently, Anheuser Busch InBev on Feb. 20 announced it had purchased San Diego, Calif.-based craft distillery Cutwater Spirits, according to industry reports. The distillery spun out of Ballast Point Brewing Co. when it sold in a $1 billion deal to Constellation Brands in 2015.
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