Stella Artois is an imported pale lager that has made a name for itself as an easy-drinking and relatively refreshing option. A light-medium body and a crisp finish achieve the bare minimum in refreshment, but the beer suffers from a lack of complexity that would otherwise make it a bottle worth seeking out.
Style European pale lager
Company AB InBev
Brewery Location Leuven, Belgium (and satellite breweries around the world)
MSRP $10 per 6-pack
Awards World's Best International Lager, 2019 World Beer Awards
A straightforward representation of an international lager
Easy-drinking and unfussy
Affordably priced and easy to find around the world
Carbonation blows off fast, making the beer taste noticeably sweeter by the end.
Perceptibly high levels of dimethyl sulfate, an off-flavor found in pilsners
Relatively simple and not complex on the palate
Some may consider it too derivative or boring.
Color: This beer pours a pale golden straw into the glass with an inch of bubbly head that dissipates within a minute.
Nose: A familiar aroma of light malts and slightly sweet cereal comes across as unimposing, and you’ll sense a barely present vegetal hoppiness. Hints of creamed corn and canned tomatoes, which can be typical for the style, are also noticeable.
Palate: As the nose suggests, this beer washes across the palate with a light-medium body and fine carbonation that provides a pleasing mouthfeel. Grassy flavors meet with sweet grain to create a straightforward, non-complex flavor profile overall.
Finish: Sweetness clings to the back of the palate between sips, with a crisp bite punctuating the overall flavor. Herbaceous and vegetal hops linger long after swallowing.
Whether you’re a beer fan or not, you’ll recognize Stella Artois as one of the most well-known brews around the globe. It can trace its history all the way back to 1366, when a brewery in Leuven, Belgium started selling beer to hunters (hence the iconic hunting horn logo that remains to this day). The beer’s namesake, Sébastien Artois, became the head brewer in 1708 before purchasing the brewery outright nine years later. It wasn’t until 1926, though, that the company trademarked Stella Artois, named for the Christmas star Stella and brewed specifically for winter. Four years later, the lager became a year-round offering exported widely around Europe.
Despite its storied history, Stella Artois cemented its position as a globally recognized beer in only recent history. After joining brewing conglomerate Interbrew as a founding member in 1988, the brewery once again merged with InBev in 2004. Volume was already reported at over one billion liters per year by the time InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch in 2008 to create AB InBev, which remains far and away the world’s largest brewery today.
The sheer size and power of AB InBev have all but guaranteed Stella’s status as one of the more ubiquitous beers on draft lines and in retail coolers around the world. The beer’s formulation has undergone many changes since its original iteration—perhaps most controversially when the brewery lowered the ABV of the product sold in Britain—and now firmly represents the kind of middle-of-the-road lager that is willing to fall a little short on complexity rather than offend anyone. It’s a great approach if you’re looking to move beer en masse, but clearly less so if you’re looking to turn heads.
That said, Stella Artois is by every measure a generic tasting international lager that many could comfortably swap in for their favorite import in a pinch. Its flavor profile could just as easily be viewed as “boring” as it could “unfussy” or “approachable.” Its status as an import wins it some esteem in the American market, where it easily surpasses popular light lagers that can only be described as watery by comparison. The beer is perfect for serving at a football party or dinner gathering and will appeal to practically any guest, especially thanks to its relatively sessionable ABV.
Of course, the same traits that make Stella an easy-drinking beer also set it up for plenty of criticism. Devoted fans of imported beers might see it as a “lowest common denominator” product with a flavor profile that’s overly simple compared to other traditional lagers from abroad. And while it might be futile to try and win over more discerning beer drinkers, its broad availability has watered down the brand’s image even in the eyes of novice drinkers.
Ultimately, this beer has earned its place in sports bars, restaurants, and grocery stores globally for its reputation as a reliably drinkable beer, but it offers little excitement for the palate. This quality is the beer’s greatest strength and weakness: Whether you see it as one-dimensional or the perfect beer for unwinding at the end of a long day will depend on context—and whatever else you have available in your fridge or on the beer menu at the time.
While Stella Artois itself may be considered an everyday beer in its home market of Belgium, there’s technically a nine-step pouring “ritual” that should take place when serving it. The process covers everything from selecting the right kind of glassware to creating the perfect amount of foamy head—considered to be two fingers worth—and removing any excess with a blade before serving it to a customer.