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Did PBR give rise to the cocktail-driven dive bar?

00:00 May 31, 2012
By: Kristal Blue
[Courtesy of Anne Berry]
PBR and a shot of Fireball at Siberia

Sitting with me in Siberia are: girls wearing baby-doll rompers - and ragged face tats; a stilt-legged man in dreadlocks and denim hot pants; a roadie-looking guy, chewing on a cigarette and eating pierogies; and a pack of unleashed dogs, one of whom makes it behind the bar (otherwise fiercely defended by our bartender, Lauren Hamlin).

If this is the year of the dive bar, as David Wondrich suggests, then Siberia is St. Claude's calendar girl, with its gritty mix of nail-spitting metal bands, a talented young chef (Matt Ribachonek) spinning satisfying Slavic food, and a suitably sketchy neighborhood (a stranger taps on our car window, trying to bum a light, as we pull up).

Siberia also has Lauren, who gives us a thoughtful take on the hoppy nuances of beer, and fellow bartender Sarah Smith, who blends fresh fruit into mango and piña coladas, and hand-squeezes juice for a boozy Orange Julius.

Most days, Siberia's $4 cocktail specials include 9-ounce pours of Sailor Jerry/ginger ale, or the 007 (orange Stoli, juice and 7-Up).

My money (all $5 of it) was on the shot of Fireball whiskey and a pint-sized PBR chaser. Sazerac Company makes Fireball, a punchy liqueur with a heady cinnamon nose and bracing, whiskey bite. Only one thing can put out the fire: a frosty, American-style lager.

PBR has become the hipster brew of choice, thanks to its grandpa street cred, cheap price, and Pabst's stealth marketing campaign that shuns big sporting events, instead sponsoring live music in neighborhood dive bars, giving its macrobrew a more local flavor. Hipsters began ordering the blue-ribboned cans as a badge of retro chic.

Pairing PBR with Fireball isn't new to New Orleans, but you might say it's a novelty on St. Claude Avenue: "We're trying to get those Decatur Street customers to come here," says Lauren.

Maybe it's a sign that hipsters are finally dominating the outer reaches of the Marigny (see also: vegan Korean food, art galleries, the Healing Center).

Or maybe PBR's gone mainstream. In Siberia, I don't see a single pair of skinny jeans, or a Mr. Rogers sweater, or even a beanie. And, in the ultimate ironic twist, my PBR comes as a draft, and I get no hipster cred for drinking it.

What do you think? Let's talk on Facebook, or on Twitter @AnneBerryWrites.

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