The NPR program PRI’s The World had an interesting piece yesterday by a Clark Boyd entitled In Belgium, It’s Not Just Beer. It’s ‘Liquid Communication.’ I like that turn of phrase, “Liquid Communication,” though the gist of the article is that the author, understandably, worries that ABI might start capitalizing on the romance of Belgian beer as they attempt to launch their “Belgian Beer Cafe” chain in the U.S. There are already 55 of them worldwide, but now they’re seeking to franchise them in the states, too. The concept appears to be making the Belgian beer cafe as famous as the Irish bar or the English pub that can be found in every big city in the world, and probably just as authentic.
ABI, of course, has several Belgian beers in its portfolio, including Hoegaarden, Leffe, Belle-Vue and the ubiquitous Stella Artois. According to the pitch, the cafes would also carry non-ABI Belgian beers, but you know which ones would get the most attention and focus. They would no doubt appeal to consumers who are not hardcore beer geeks but have heard the news that Belgium makes some world class beers. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s hard not to share the author’s concerns that ABI would fuck it up for everybody. Stella Artois is not exactly the best or most representative Belgian beer, yet it’s now the one most people are aware of. But it’s as far away from what makes Belgian beer great as Bud is from Trumer Pilsner or Radeberger. But I would certainly like to communicate liquidly.