Tuesday, 16 August 2016

“Nobody asks for a chalice here”

Picture from the Facebook group “Wij willen dat de Stella-ribbeltjesglazen blijven”

Like many large, lumbering brewing corporations, ABInBev appears to care little for its own heritage, save for those parts of it currently deemed useful for marketing purposes.

The latest wheeze from InBev’s marketing department is to abolish the classic Belgian Stella Artois glass – a simple branded tumbler with fluting at the base. The Belgian media reports that the brewery will now only supply a plain boerkje tumbler and the notorious “chalice” as used for Stella in other countries.

Not that I drink much Stella, but this makes me a bit sad. The ribbeltje glass reminds me of a time when Belgian cafés were perhaps more down-to-earth than they are now. When I first visited Belgium a typical café would have only one draught beer, Stella (or Jupiler, Primus or Maes), with all the more interesting specialities in bottles.

It was also usually the cheapest. As is widely known, despite the brewer’s attempt to punt it in other countries as a “reassuringly expensive” premium beer, in Belgium Stella is the bog standard café beer, with a basic, proletarian glass to match. This, of course, is precisely why the marketers hate the glass so much. It’s not chic enough for their pretensions.

InBev has been trying to introduce the ridiculous blingy chalice in Belgium for a good few years, in the interest of a globally identical brand, but has met with resistance from consumers, who think it’s a load of bloody nonsense, and say so. A barman in Leuven is quoted as saying “Nobody asks for a chalice here. Maybe that is different abroad, but here Stella is an ordinary people’s drink and they like it in a ribbeltje or a boerkje.”

Now, in a massive two fingers to Stella’s own home town, the chalice is going to be forced on them whether they want it or not.

Other marketers have mocked Stella’s pretension in the past

Friday, 5 August 2016

Keep the faith

Busy bar at Jason’s memorial night

We said goodbye to Jason Lyons last Thursday.

Jason, of the State Bar in Glasgow, passed away on Saturday 11 June after a sudden brain haemorrhage the day before. After the initial shock, the staff organised a memorial night last week. Rightfully, the pub was absolutely packed with regulars and friends raising a glass in Jason’s memory. It was not a sombre occasion, either: there was a live band, and punters could even get an imitation of Jason’s trademark mutton-chop sideburns painted on their faces.

Drinkers queue to get into the State
Jason was a natural publican. Even when the pub was busy – and it often was – Jason could find time to say hello. It was largely due to him that the State rose to be one of the top real ale pubs in the city, winning the local CAMRA branch’s Glasgow Pub of the Year award in three out of the past four years.

Jason got to know the regulars, found out the kind of beer they liked to drink, and heavily pushed the cask business, adding more handpumps and introducing new microbreweries to the pub. The State is now particularly renowned for selling the Oakham Ales favourite Green Devil, which has its own dedicated Glasgow legion of fans.

Oakham had sent staff up to Thursday’s charity night in Jason’s memory, and more local breweries were well represented too.

Next to real ale, Jason loved cycling and Northern Soul, and thus “keep the faith” became the pub’s unofficial motto, appearing on adverts and promotional items – like the pint glasses for this year’s Glasgow Real Ale Festival. Sadly, Jason never got to drink from one.

The Brewer & the Barman: The Making of Fyne State from Urbancroft Films on Vimeo.
Ever wondered how real ale is brewed? We take an in-depth look into the brewing process of Fyne State; a Fyne Ales and State Bar collaboration beer.

Just over a year ago Jason went up to Fyne Ales to help brew a special beer, and local videographer Urbancroft made a film about it. I am so glad this video was made, because it captures Jason at his best. I cannot begin to explain how much I and others will miss him.