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!