Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Speaking of madly posting...

Pete Brown's been on a tear recently. After months at sea -- literally -- he's back posting, and suddenly making up for lost time. I've been enjoying hell out of the last week at his blog, called... Pete Brown's Blog. (At this point, if you don't know who I'm talking about, it would be best if you hit that link and read his entire blog, then headed over to Amazon, bought his books (Man Walks Into a Pub and Three Sheets to the Wind, two of the most original books on beer I've read recently, and certainly far and away the funniest), read those, and then come back. I'll wait. If you do know who Pete is, just...go get a beer.)

Done? Well, in the past week or so, Pete's blogged on how binge drinking is down in the UK (and surprise! that decline is getting no press coverage), how boneheads at InBev have driven Stella Artois into the ground (see, Pete, like me, enjoys drinking the occasional Stella and doesn't mind saying so), a great post on taking beer and ourselves too seriously (titled "For Christ's sake, cheer up!"), the upbeat news that Scottish & Newcastle has been bought to be broken up ("It does mean that the likes of Greene King, Fuller's, Wells & Youngs and Marston's are now the largest British brewers. I quite like that."), and the latest, a warning that bloggers are being solicited to write advertorial (thoughtfully tagged with the label "Corporate whoredom").

All in a week. No tasting notes. No ga-ga hand-waving over some new beer from an over-hyped brewery. No bar visits. No pictures of his dog. No re-hashing of other people's postings.

If you're not reading Pete Brown's blog, what the hell's the matter with you?

14 comments:

bill mc said...

Not surprising that a beer has been beaten down by a corporation.

Places I've been tend to have "the usual suspects" (to shamelessly steal a phrase I saw on some blog...;)) and if Stella is there - you damn skippy I'm asking for that instead of AB, Lite, etc..

But, now, I like Stella, so what is it that makes you a pariah for drinking it and liking it if there are not better choices??

Seriously, I'm confused here...

Lew Bryson said...

Stella is cervisiae non grata among most of the geekerie, Bill. It's got three strikes against it.

One: It's made by InBev, the world's biggest brewery, and they've bought up a bunch of smaller breweries and occasionally made some dumb moves with them. They are hated by much of the geekerie.

Two: Stella's a lager, which as anyone can see by checking the ratings on BeerAdvocate or ratebeer, makes it a second-class beer...in some folks' eyes.

Three: Stella is Belgian, but it isn't a complex multi-layered ale, an assertive lambic, or a gland-squeezing sour. It's a lager. This really pisses some folks off, because it apparently causes confusion about geeks loving "Belgian beer."

I don't mind a draft Stella at all, myself.

bill mc said...

So, because I like lagers I am therefore a non-geek?? What is so wrong with lagers, apart from the obvious (!?) lack of complexity? Next thing I hear, pilsners will also be un-geeklike.

Phooey. :)

Lew Bryson said...

Bill,

"Phooey" pretty much says it all.

Stephen Beaumont said...

To counter, or perhaps enhance your points, Lew:

One: It's not the size of InBev that vexes, it's what they're doing to the Belgian beer market within Belgium. You'll see all that next month...

Two: Lagers are great. I drink 'em all the time, and when I'm really, really thirsty, like you were when you hit the CBC cocktail party on Wednesday evening, I'll enjoy a single glass of Stella or similarly simple, refreshing lager. My problem with the brand, though, is that it's a simple, ordinary continental lager that is elevated to the premium beer stratosphere the minute it passes its home country's borders, much like Heineken, Beck's, Moretti, etc.

Three: It's not so much Stella's lackluster "Belgian" character that vexes, as its marketing as being the prototypical Belgian beer.

In summation, my view is that Stella is not so much a bad beer as an ordinary one, and the people who make and market it are doing some things that are detrimental to the overall beer market in Belgium and beyond.

Lew Bryson said...

You will never let me forget that cooling, quenching first glass of Stella, will you?

Well-put, as always, especially the part about Stella not being bad, but ordinary. It's certainly not a world classic, but neither is it as truly wretched as some would present it. Marketing has tried to make it more than it is.

As I sometimes say to geeks: big breweries have enough to answer for, there's no need to make stuff up.

bill mc said...

Perhaps the point here is not so much the beer but rather its point of origin? Or better still, a lack of knowledge in American beer drinkers that there are many excellent American craft beers on a par with or exceeding the Stellas, Morettis, Beckss, Heinekens, etc...

Until I learned of the great variety and deliciousness of American craft beers, I only liked imports beacuse they tatsed better than the ABs and Lites. Unfortunately, not everyone "saw the light".

Now here, a point to ponder or perhaps launch more discussion on...Do Europeans think of American beers in the same way? That is to say, is there an "American version" of Stella?
Never having been across the pond, I have no knowledge of this.

sam k said...

Wait a minute, this thread was supposed to be about Pete Brown's blog, which I went to and have bookmarked. Lew, you're right; it's a keeper. Another I like is the industry-related Brookston Beer Bulletin:
http://www.brookstonbeerbulletin.com/
which focuses on worldwide happenings.

Now, about the callousness and cluelessness of InBev (and I may be crucified by the geekerie here) look what the hell they did to Rolling Rock!?! I'm originally lived within spitting distance of Latrobe, where we could never have imagined the stuff being brewed in NEWARK, NEW JERSEY! Yeah, they're FAMOUS for their mountain spring water!

I rest my case. At least it's comforting to know that InBev didn't limit their wanton destruction to (relatively) regional brands.

Lew Bryson said...

Sam,

You're surprised that a thread went wandering on this blog? Where you been, man?!

Two things. First, why blame InBev for selling Rock? Why not blame A-B for buying it?

And...the water there at Newark actually does come down from the Skylands of New Jersey, near Pompton Lakes. It's a pretty area, not that built up at all, and home to a large black bear population. Kinda like the area around Latrobe.

What's the important part, where the beer's made, or how it tastes? Do you drink Rock? Have you had any since the switch? Does it taste noticeably different?

bill mc said...

Well most craft beers anyway, ewg..Rolling Rock...my least favorite of all time..that corn will tear you up after a long night of imbibing.

Gawd, next thing ya know someone will extol the virtues of Schmidts. ;)

sam k said...

I don't really blame anybody; I guess stuff like this is inevitable in today's world. It's just so deflating when stuff like this happens (e.g. Newcastle Brown). As it turns out, the successors at Latrobe seem to have more potential that ever existed previously (but I'll take a wait and see on that one).

No, I haven't had an A-B R&R, but I understand they were having fits trying to intentionally make a beer with some diacetyl character. Guess I should buy one, but it's just so counterintuitive. Can't...control...fist...of...death!

Lew Bryson said...

Sam, bill...

Oh, hell, I don't have anything to add, your posts left me rolling with laughter. Fist of death, forsooth!

Pete said...

Lew, thanks for being so kind about my blog. Hope I can get to Belgium with you guys next month, but after four months at sea I'm in severe deficit as far as beer passes go at home. (What would you guys say over there - pink slip? green slip? Free pass?)

To shed some light on Stella, it's a clasic case of jhow marketers take something that's technically real, and flog the bejasus out of it until it's technically a lie.

When Stella first launched in the UK, it WAS superior, better tasting, better crafted, than its competitors. That's because it was a genuine 5% continental lager when everything else in Britain was a bastardised, watered down 'cooking lager' at around 3.4%. If Heineken or Carlsberg had decided to launch their real beers onstead of dumbing down their lagers to the ABV level that Brits were used to (3.4% is fine if you're drinking ten pints of fruity, quenching cask ale) thewy could have had that positioning two. When Stella launched, it was telling the truth when it claimed to be more expensive cos it had better ingredients, was brewed longer etc.

The thing is, that became less true as the UK caught up with the rest of the lager world. And then they decided to take the UK strategy and apply it to markets that had never had the same context as the UK. Therefore, it suddenly became untrue. But by this time Inbev was being tun by a bunch of guys who had no affinity whatsoever with Belgian beer culture, so that didn't matter.

I may overlook the amber nectar in favour of a beefy North American IPA these days, but it still breaks my heart...

Lew Bryson said...

Pete, you're welcome, and it really has been my pleasure the past two weeks: fun stuff, and enlightening, too. Thanks for the explanation on Stella: so, Brits have stopped doing/drinking crap-strength lagers entirely? Gawd, I hope so.