Stella up to their usual tricks

A slick CGI image from the weasely new Stella ad
A slick CGI image from the weasely new Stella ad

The geniuses behind Stella Artois really are trying to convince us of the historical worth of their brew. A new advertising campaign on the telly makes lots of intriguing references to “1366”, obviously designed to suggest that this is when the beer originated.

A bit of digging around their website makes it clear that a brewery existed in Leuven in 1366… Apparently, thanks to the “courage” of some medieval monks, Stella Artois exists today. Er… If you dig around on their website, it’s quite clear that whatever happened in Leuven in 1366 has sweet Fanny Adams to do with Stella Artois.

The funny thing is that they keep making reference to the “four ingredients”. But which four? Is this the barley, hops, maize and water proudly boasted of in their billboards? If you go into their site, they have five (not four) mini-films to illustrate different “challenges” of brewing. Hops, water and barley get a mention, as does yeast (unlike in the billboards). The fifth challenge of brewing has nothing to do with making the beer, but is to do with exporting it.

Oddly, maize isn’t mentioned in these adverts. But it would be a bit tricky to square with this historical heritage angle, given it originated in Mesoamerica and therefore would have been unknown to the good burghers of Brabant in 1366.

I’m sorry, but this kind of mock historical bollocks really, really gets on my tits. Fortunately, the campaign is way too inconsistent to fool anyone.

NB – we’ve not linked to any of the Stella pages so as not to increase their presence on the interweb. You can find it for yourself if you have nothing better to do. But you really ought to have something better to do.

UPDATE 17/08/08: image added.

New Tricks: an episode for beer geeks

Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman in New Tricks
Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman in New Tricks

Last Monday’s edition of New Tricks focused on beer and breweries. The story was ludicrous even by the usual standards of this programme (which we kind of like…). It had the team investigating the 10-year-old case of the death of a promising young brewer in a fermentation vessel at a traditional family brewery. However daft the plot, which features a secret beer recipe, arguments over the provenance of the malt, and brewing dynasticism, there’s plenty for the beer geek to enjoy:

  • trying to guess which brewery they used for filming;
  • pondering which industrial brewers would really be using open fermentation vessels in this day and age;
  • product placement for Fullers, Theakstons and possibly Special Brew (although has that become a generic term for super-strength crap lager now?);
  • wondering whether they filmed the beer festival scene at a real festival or just got CAMRA to help with posters etc;
  • lazy stereotypes about gastro pubs vs traditional boozers (Eg gastro = female friendly and crap beer); and
  • old codgers complaining that the beer doesn’t taste as good as it used to.

You can enjoy it for yourself through BBC I-player. But you’ve only got until 21:00 on Monday 11th.

Brewing in the 1960s

As happens every now and then, someone has come across an old post and left a fascinating comment which we wanted to bring everyone’s attention to.

Tony used to work for Starkey, Knight and Ford, the West Country brewers, in the 1960s, working in the keg shop and later delivering beer. He says:

As a student I worked for Starkey`s each summer betwen 1965 and 1967. The first two years at the Fore St. site in Tiverton and the last at the new site. Bridgwater had closed by then and Tiverton was the only brewery still in action but under the aegis of Whitbread. I used to start off in the keg shop before fiddling my way out onto the lorries. In my last year our route covered from Ivybridge to Rooksbridge and from Seaton to Barnstaple the lorry was DPF 473B and still had the Bridgewater address on the side. As I remember Starkey`s had depots in Barnstaple and Plymouth, a firm called Norman and Pring were involved. When I was in the keg plant we mostly dealt with Tankard with occasional runs of mild. Each artic trailer held 187 10 gallon kegs and the 6 wheel Dennis 150 (I had to load these on my own!) I also remember during their independent days Starkey`s brewed a keg beer called “Tantivy.” Some years before I delivered papers to Tom Ford the Chairman. He drove an old Ford(!) V8 which used to misfire every so often.

Fascinating stuff — thanks Tony!

We’re imagining Tony’s experiences to have played out to a soundtrack of Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs, although we might be confusing reality with an episode of Heartbeat.

Why we're not going to GBBF

Don’t worry — this isn’t a rant about CAMRA or beer festivals — more of a sheepish explanation.

We’re probably not going to make it to the Great British Beer Festival this year because we’re doing other stuff. Boak is in Wales on a wee break (more on that soon). I’m working a lot and have a few long-standing social engagements which can’t be dodged, or relocated to an aircraft hangar in West London where there’s loads of beer.

Nothing dramatic or exciting going on; no big stand being made. Just crapness on our part.

Having said that, there’s surely something significant in the fact we haven’t managed to find the time to go to the most important event in the British beer drinkers’ calendar. Maybe we don’t really like beer very much?

If you’re desperate for coverage of GBBF, we’d recommend Stonch and Pete for a more sceptical angle; Tandleman for the insider’s perspective; Maieb if you want to know what the beer’s like; and Beer Nut for… well, he’s unpredictable, isn’t he? Whatever he comes up with will be good, at any rate.

Bailey

Weird marketing from St Austell

A vicar in front of a pub

St Austell have taken to spamming us with press releases (a bit annoying, but we do like the beer, so what the hey).

The above photo is part of their latest weird attempt to generate interest in the beer. To cut a long story short, the local vicar did a service in a pub.

Frankly, Stella Artois might taste rancid, but their marketeers know how to make a silk purse from the proverbial sow’s ear. St Austell’s, on the other hand… their beer is fantastic, but now I’m thinking: “It’s what Cornish vicars drink. Great — that’s a lifestyle I aspire to!”

The really scary thing is, when the picture was taken, the vicar was on his own. Those people in the background only showed up when it was developed. He… he sees dead people!