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Fraternity of beer

Nov 3, 2004 - It's no coincidence that the initials of a new and suddenly hip fraternity at Oregon State University are PBR. Pi Beta Rho is sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon.

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Since the campus newspaper in Corvallis, Ore., ran a story on the brewery-supported fraternity, its six members have been flooded with questions about how they convinced Pabst to adopt PBR.

"I'm overwhelmed," said junior Joel Van Dyke, a fish and wildlife major. "I didn't think it would catch on this big."

He and his five cohorts have received e-mails from students at Washington State, MIT, Purdue, North Carolina State and the University of Michigan's rugby team, among others, asking how they can start their own PBR chapter. "They think it's really cool we did this," said junior Paul Koehnke, an agricultural business major.

Pabst has given the unaffiliated fraternity a variety of goodies, including signs, T-shirts and a dartboard. They're on display in the PBR House, a six-bedroom, faded blue clapboard home where the roommates live.

What Pabst isn't supplying is beer. That's not part of the deal, Van Dyke said. "We just wanted to decorate the house," he said. The buddies, all at least 21, contacted Pabst about their idea via telephone and e-mail after finals last spring. Pabst marketers say they think this is the first beer brand-backing of a student group.

"It's the only one we're aware of," said Neal Stewart, senior brand manager at Pabst Brewing Co.'s San Antonio headquarters. "These are a group of guys who have adopted the brand. Like any subculture - bike messengers, a New York underground film festival - we support their lifestyles."

Larry Roper, OSU's vice provost for student affairs who spearheads the school's alcohol education efforts, had only good things to say about the new fraternity. It's entrepreneurial, he said.

"Our responsibility is not to mold (students) into a single lifestyle; it's to equip them with the tools to live a life of integrity," he said.


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