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Good or Bad?: Miller Buys Some Monks, Distributes a Belgian Beer

News out of the Europe is that SABMiller is launching an authentic line of Belgian craft beers after inking a distribution agreement with the Van Steenberge brewery in Ertvelde, Belgium, and the Saint Stefanus monastery.

The beers will be offered in select markets (no word on US distribution yet) under the St. Stefanus label, the namesake of the order of Augustine monks associated with the brewery.

TheGrocer.co.uk breaks down how the St. Stefanus beers are made: 

St Stefanus is brewed using three different yeasts including the Jermanus yeast strain entrusted to the Van Steenberge family brewery by the monks of Sint Stefanus.

After brewing, the beer is stored for at least three months before cellar release to allow the flavours to develop. It then continues to mature in the bottle until it is opened.

St Stefanus is available in two varieties – a 7% abv Blonde cellar-matured for three months and the 9% abv Grand Cru, matured for nine months.

Sounds like a couple of pretty authentic craft/Belgian brews from a very large corporation.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

On the one hand, the big brewers are supposed to be the bad guys, throwing their weight around to quash the craft brewer rebellion.  They are the Empire, and Sam Calagione is Han Solo.  Everybody roots against the Empire, and everybody loves Han!

On the other hand, Han Solo (you know, Sam) always says that all beer is good, and in this case, it’s the big guys doing it the right way.  Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t our goal as craft beer advocates to have great beers to choose from?

I think the answer is yes, that’s the goal, and that’s why this isn’t such great news. SABMiller is an 800 pound gorilla which is very adept at freezing out small breweries, either through marketing power or by using their distribution power to brush the little guys back into the shadows.  If they have an honest-to-goodness craft offering, chances are it will limit the opportunities for some actual micro brewers.

The bright spot is that these beers will probably be offered in places where other craft offerings aren’t.  These brews would probably do in a pinch, and would be a welcome sight to anyone with a severely limited selection where they live (like our reader James in Korea).  These might also be decent gateway beers.  My epiphany happened with a bottle of Chimay Red, and these might produce similar results.

So that’s what I think – what about you?  Is this a good thing or bad thing?  Would you buy these beers?  As always, let us know below!

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Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Beer, News

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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8 Comments on “Good or Bad?: Miller Buys Some Monks, Distributes a Belgian Beer”

  1. October 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I’m dubious. Look at what the big boys have done in the past/present with their forrays into “craft beer”…not only does it take a chunk out of what the small boys are doing because it can come in at a lower price point, but inevitably the quality will take a downturn in order to save/make money, the quality of the ingredients and brewing will suffer for it, and the product will go downhill. Not to mention that if it sucks to begin with, beginner drinkers may think that Belgian beers suck and they’ll miss out on an amazing crop of brews.

    • October 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

      They’ll probably replace the monks with Scientologists…

      • October 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

        LMFAO. Or Branch Davidians…they’re still out there 🙂

    • November 1, 2011 at 9:10 am #

      I’d say give it a shot. If you like it–drink it. When you stop liking it–stop drinking it.

      All that having been said, I think Katie hit it right on the money. Somewhere along the line some bean-counter looking for a quick quarterly return and a fat bonus is gonna put bottom-line before quality and it’ll turn into dreck. After all, it was Millers that bought out all the old family breweries in WI and turned them into clones.

      There’s also the environmental factor to be considered, i.e., how far the beer is being shipped. But then you could say the same for any European beer shipped to the US or vice versa.

      • November 1, 2011 at 10:35 am #

        Yeah, I think with so many true macro options, I’ll skip this stuff…

  2. October 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    While I hate big beer as much as most craft beer drinkers, I must say that SAB Miller is the least intrusive in their buy-outs. They pretty much leave the breweries alone to do what they want. If this wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t have tolerable stuff coming from the various Coors enterprises like the Sandlot (where Blue Moon was invented), and their experimental AC Golden shop. I would be far more concerned if it was Inbev, who historically go out of their way to trample any sort of competition, especially the small guys.

    • October 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      So the lesser of the evils, huh?

  3. October 31, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Let’s wait and see how the beer actually tastes.

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