10:30 p.m. Strathmore Mansion in North Bethesda
A PBR banner hangs near the bar at a “Friday Night Eclectic” event. The band Stripmall Ballads wraps up Americana opera involving 10-foot-tall puppets and a four-person chorus. VanHoozer chats up Strathmore staffers. Later gets lost in a painting in one of building’s galleries. It’s the first time he’s been by himself all evening.
In May, after 10 years of ownership by the charitable trust of its late owner, Pabst Brewing sold for $250 million to C. Dean Metropoulos—who is known for buying decaying supermarket brands, fixing them, and then unloading them—and his sons, Evan and Daren. The brothers talked to Bloomberg Businessweek last month, and shared their ambitions for Pabst’s 42 mostly inactive beer brands, which include National Bohemian, Lone Star, Schlitz, and Colt 45.
“The brothers went on to lay out the Metropoulos strategy—a series of grassroots campaigns targeting regional markets. Celebrities, musicians, and local festivals would figure prominently. Lone Star, their Texas label, might sponsor rodeo riders. Primo, a Hawaiian beer, might build relationships with big-wave surfers,” wrote the magazine’s Matt Schwartz. They hope to attach Snoop Dogg to the launch of flavored Colt 45 drinks; this summer a TMZ camera captured Evan and Daren in the company of New Orleans Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey, wearing a PBR T-shirt.
“They have a lot of energy for the brands—you want your owners to share your passion for the brand,” Clarke says. He’s seen changes, mostly organizational and budgetary. “What Dan does is still the biggest thing,” he says, which is why the company will be hiring marketing managers in more cities. He says the Metropouloses understand PBR’s marketing philosophy. “Because it’s handled differently than a lot of brands, there’s obviously a learning that takes place, but I think they appreciate what makes the brand successful.”
VanHoozer say he hasn’t detected huge changes yet. “They want us to be more mindful of accounts,” he says. The emphasis on the places selling PBR doesn’t seem to have diminished VanHoozer’s focus on who’s drinking it. Whether the new ownership will square with the eccentric, ground-level efforts of VanHoozer and his counterparts—parachute art, ping pong tournaments, can sculptures—is less clear.
“They’re aggressive,” VanHoozer says.
But so is he, in his way. “I don’t mind slinging beer,” he says, “if I get to help out art in this city.”
11:20 p.m. Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club in Trinidad
The DJ spins some jacked-up salsa. Many customers sip Tecate. VanHoozer pulls aside the bartender (who has a PBR tattoo) and asks if it’s a good idea to send cans to the two guys at the bar drinking Pabst. Answer: No. They weren’t tipping, the bartender says. “They’re douchebags.”