Beer Of The Week: Stella Artois, Belgium's Allegedly French Beer

Apparently Stella Artois used to be advertised in the U.K. under the slogan "reassuringly expensive." Without knowing the relative merits of price and quality across the pond, I can only rejoice that such a snotty tagline has gone the way of doctors prescribing cigarettes. There is nothing reassuring about steep price in itself, in any facet of life, only points off for bottom-feeder prices that betray obvious crappiness. First time I went to New York City, I asked a guy in Times Square selling "I (heart) NY" shirts how he could afford to do so at $2 a pop. His single-word reply: "Volume." It still doesn't make any sense. I bought five.

Reassuringly expensive or just "more expensive than the cheap shit," Stella is still a fine beer. It's the best-selling brew out of Belgium, at least according to this unsourced source I found, though the "-twah" at its hind end will confuse the inattentive into believing it French. The otherwise pleasant Irishish pub in the Florida town where I lived in 2003, during the jingoistic run-up to invading Iraq, yanked Stella from its menu when red-meat Americans were boycotting all things French. "But—it's Belgian!" I stammered at the waiter when he told me. He apologized but held firm. Because Belgium is France just as sure as Ukraine is Russia, Mexico stretches to Colombia, Africa is a monolith and everyone between Kamchatka and Singapore is obviously Chinese or something.

So, to be clear, Stella is reassuringly Belgian. It's hardly a revelation, some beery wormhole to the center of the known beeriverse. Rather, it's a quite steady pale lager, a couple of steps above the desalinated sweat that is Heineken, but reminiscent. Any hints of flavor are vague at best. Somewhere back there you get grain, a note of fruit and damp leaves, a hint of old laundry, an aftertaste of entitlement. It's a beer to knock back after work with your tie loosened, when you don't really care what a beer costs, so long as it's not the cheapest on the menu, and you don't really care how it tastes, so long as it's crisp and unchallenging and possibly French, though who's to say what's from where in this crazy mixed-up world of ours.

Beer-game pairings
Chargers at Broncos, skip the "frost-brewed" malarkey. The Pacers are at Madison Square Garden, so why not. And on Monday, the Bears at the 49ers, because defense wins championships, as the French would surely tell you.