You may or may not know that the ABIB/InBud-brewed Stella Artois is colloquially known as "Wife Beater" in the UK. Or at least, it was for a while...and now will be again, thanks to the publicity for that embarrassing monicker generated by a hired PR company's clumsy attempts to expunge it. Sure, it's true: read about the original story here in The Independent, and then read the just-drinks.com story here on how InBud defends their actions in hiring Portland Communications to scrub the term "Wife Beater" from the Stella Artois entry on Wikipedia.
(Why "Wife Beater?" Depends on who you ask. There's the "Stella!" line from A Streetcar Named Desire, bellowed by the abusive Stanley Kowalski, but others will tell you that it's because the beer appeals to the kind of yob that would beat his wife, or that the beer's drinkers would be the kind to walk about in the strapped undershirts colloquially called "wife beaters." (Note that Brando's wearing a regular t-shirt in the clip.) I favor the first; fits too well, and the others just sound like snobbery to me.)
I don't care that some intellectually-aware beer drinkers tagged Stella with the name "Wife Beater." Well, I do, a bit; it does wink and giggle at domestic abuse to some extent, and that's bullshit. But as a writer, and a reader, and an independent thinker, I care a lot about this kind of paid clean-up activity on the Internet. It's the greatest strength and weakness of Wikipedia; anyone can edit it, and that leaves it open to abuse...except it's not happening here. The editors caught the changes, and reinstated the references.
Why did Portland think they could do this, and why did InBud believe them? Well, sit down, because someone's got to tell you: it's because they still think you're a bunch of chumps. It's because some marketers still look at us as cattle, as blind sheep, and they don't try to influence you, they set out to manipulate you. There is a difference, and there are ethical, good-minded marketers who look to influence your decisions without insulting you. Portland Communications are not such marketers, and apparently, InBud doesn't hire that kind, either.
Friends from Europe have been telling me for years -- years! -- that InterBrew, then InBev, and now ABIB is a company that's bad for the industry, that they indulged in bad business practices, that they killed breweries, that everything they touched turned to crap. I resisted. Stella, for what it's worth, still tastes decent when it's a fresh draft, and that's my touchstone: what's in the glass? I just repeated that to folks at Bocktown Monaca who had come out to see me last Tuesday: I don't care who's making it -- as long as they're not using child or convict labor -- I care about how it tastes.
But this...leaves a bad taste in my mouth.