A couple weeks ago, I wrote a big, trashy, sensationalist, and 100-percent accurate post titled "There Is No Excuse For Drinking Heineken," in which I argued that there are literally thousands of better-tasting ways to communicate to the world that you have a dollar more than the price of a Budweiser. I thought that would be my magnum opus in terms of cheap-shot Euro-lager hatred, but then I remembered that Stella Artois is even more offensive.
Heineken, for all its flaws, is an independently owned company that recently rebuffed SABMiller's takeover bid. If that deal had gone down, SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev would each control 21 percent of the global beer market. Now, Heineken may very well sell out to one or the other macro-crap behemoth before I'm done with today's typing drill, but for the time being, at least, they did their part to keep their (bad) beer under independent control.
Drunkspin does not dole out as much credit to the concept of local, small, independent businesses as the Craft Beer Movement™ would prefer, and Heineken doesn't fit anybody's definition of the little beer that could(n't stop sucking), anyway—Heineken International recently sold its Mexican packaging business for a bit more than a billion bucks, and who knows what that really means other than that Heineken just got 13 figures for a can-and-cap operation—but it's still better to be owned by your own conglomerate than by someone else's.
Stella Artois, on the stinkier hand, is owned by InBev, and the beer-respecters are dead right when they say this Belgian-Brazilian giant is very Bad for Beer. But that's not Stella's biggest sin. Remember, Goose Island is owned by the same monster, and they continue to make perfectly good beer. No, my biggest beef with Stella is that its poor quality besmirches the good name of a very cool nine-year-old girl whose mom I know casually on Twitter. And as if that weren't enough (and it is, but I have a word-count target to hit here), it also debases centuries of Belgian beer culture.
Belgium is home to some of the world's very most distinguished breweries, including Chimay, Duvel, Cantillon, Rochefort, and Dupont. See, Heineken is from the Netherlands: They like the reefer there, and beer's kind of an afterthought (according to the extensive research I've conducted among friends who've been there on semesters abroad and honeymoons). But Belgium punches so far above its weight when it comes to beer that it's downright insulting for them to export so much of the only terrible one they make. It's like if the United States's main culinary export was fucking Lunchables.
My actual review of Stella is very similar to the Heineken one: They insist on stuffing it into green bottles, so it's almost always skunked by the time an American consumer gets his or her stupid, stupid hands on it. I bought a bottle the other day that said it was best consumed before August of 2015; I'm going to guess this means it was produced a couple months ago and they give it a year's shelf life, but even if I'm wrong about that, they definitely claim that this beer I had, which was skunked and awful, would have been their definition of "good" for another 10 months. In addition to skunk, there was a tiny bit of banana, but not the good kind you'd expect from the yeast esters of a well-made Belgian ale; no, Stella Artois tastes like a cross between Heineken and Keystone.
Belgium's continued production of Stella Artois is an affront to human decency. All the waffles and Westvleteren in the world can not make up for this crime against beer.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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