An Ode to Stella Artois
Recently Shintern, Pyzocha, and I took a little trip to the great boot; Italy. Though there has been a recent revival of craft brewing in Italy, we saw very little of it. We spent most of our drinking time (and thus much of our time) with some of the cheapest beers you can find in Italy. I now understand why Europeans love Stella, Beck’s, Heiniken, etc.
We fell back onto two staple beers for most of our trip: Bavaria and Germania. They were prevalent, you could buy them in bulk (flats of 24), and they were cheap, at under 50 eurocents for an Imperial Pint (20 ounces, four ounces more than an American tall boy). They were also awful. I mean absolutely awful. I erroneously assumed cheap beer in Italy – which is almost universally some form of German Lager – would be like cheap beer in the US. Not all that tasty, but at worst tasteless, and relatively easy to drink. These beers made Beast Ice look like a 90-Minute. They were bitter (not in a good way), slightly sour (not in a good way), and generally tasted as though they were skunked. They were hands down some of the worst beers I’ve ever had.
However, these were not the worst beers we had in our extended weekend. That honour was reserved for Crest, Super Strength Lager, a 10% abv beer. That’s right, a 10% lager. We dug these up in the “international” supermarket just outside the Milan train station. This IS the worst beer I’ve ever had. It tasted like piss in a can. In fact I’m actually not convinced that they aren’t piss in a can. It was even worse than drinking a Four Loko.
These beers’ awfulness were apparent from that first train ride. Everyone took either a Crest or a Bavaria, opened it, took a sip, and proceeded to express how god awful their beer was first through facial expressions and then through expletives (we didn’t really care about the 8 year olds sitting near us…). Everyone assumed that their brand of beer had to be worse than the guy’s next to them, so beer trading ensued. Repeat the first sip process. After everyone had a complete can of each beer, we began to look around, and Pyzocha finally said what we were all thinking, “No wonder they drink Peroni.”
This glut of crappy German beer lead Shintern to believe either Germany dumps all their cheap, crappy beer (probably just good beer that had been contaminated) on Italy, or the Italians are brewing crappy beer and selling it with German sounding names to dilute the German Beer Industry’s brand name. (Note: Bavaria is a Dutch beer, and Crest is from Germany) Sadly, after hearing about the growing craft beer industry in Italy, there was little evidence in our little beach resort town.
On our next to last day in Italy, I was getting pizza for lunch (shocking), and I sprang 4 euros for a bottle of Beck’s. It was the sweetest taste ever. It was crisp, refreshing, and didn’t make me cringe with each sip.
So next time you judge those over-priced, over-hyped, green glass bottle trashy European imports, just remember that in some places of the world, that’s a delicacy.
p.s. I in no way condone drinking trashy European imports in the States. Our forefathers (or someone’s forefathers to be accurate) gave their lives so we could have the freedom to pick and enjoy delicious beer. Don’t disrespect their memory.
Shintern’s Final Thoughts:
My last observation about the Italian beer scene helped restore my hatred in Peroni and has now solidified it’s place at the top of my pretentious beer list. Turns out, Peroni in Italy is bottled in brown glass bottles, not the crappy green bottles that it’s served in at bars across the States. Only conclusion: Peroni’s international marketing scheme is so pretentious that the producer is willing to bottle its beer in glass that has been proven to increase the chance of ruining beer all in order to make its product look ‘fancy’, ‘premium’, or ‘European’. Worse yet, it must work since they haven’t changed to brown. You hear that American Peroni drinkers: The Italians are laughing at you for falling for such a simple ploy while they’re drinking from brown bottles.
Side history lesson: Green glass was common up until a 1930s study on brown glass’s superiority; however, there was a shortage of brown glass following WWII, so European breweries bottled the beer they exported– usually their best beer — in green bottles, which lead to this idea that European premium beers should be in green bottles. Then again, Europeans used to think the Sun rotated around the Earth, believed the world was flat, and fought wars by standing in formation across from each other and taking turns firing muskets. Maybe, it’s time to accept science and try to improve your beer…