Heineken vs Stella

Both Heineken and Stella Artois are immensely popular lagers that have made their mark in history. Furthermore, both of them are marketed as ‘premium’ beers which is strongly enhanced by the fact that they’re sold that way. However, if you have the option, what beer tastes better? Let’s start with a quick answer:

Heineken and Stella Artois are both European pale lagers, meaning they both have a mild herbal-like taste. However, the taste of Heineken is stronger, more bitter, and lingers longer than that of Stella Artois. On the other hand, Stella Artois is much smoother and a much more drinkable beer for people that prefer a beer that doesn’t have a strong aftertaste.

However, that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Below, we’ll discuss several aspects of each beer to identify which beer generally tastes better. We’ll discuss the flavor, mouthfeel, calories, alcohol content, and smell of the beers. Finally, we’ll also look at the appearance, the brewing process, and the history of the brands to see if there are things we do and don’t like. This way you’ll surely know everything there’s to know. Read on!


First, let’s talk about the essential part of any beer: the taste. Both Stella and Heineken are considered to be European pale lagers. This means they should have quite a similar taste. After paying close attention to both beers, I would say the flavors are pretty close together.

If you want to know more about why these beers classify as European pale lagers, you’ll find the posts here: Heineken & Stella Artois.

Both Stella and Heineken have a herbal/floral flavor to them. This is logical given that both these beers have malted barley as their main ingredient. On the other hand, we also know that Stella Artois has maize (corn) as one of its ingredients, but this is not an ingredient that seems to have an outspoken flavor in this beer.

A difference I did find is in the aftertaste of both beers. Heineken seems to have a stronger, longer lingering aftertaste than Stella Artois. If this is a good or a bad thing depends on what kind of beer drinker you are.

Occasionally, I prefer the stronger ‘kick’ Heineken gives with the aftertaste. However, my girlfriend dislikes Heineken for this exact reason and prefers Stella because it has less of a bitter kick.

Talking about bitterness, on paper, both beers have a similar one. Heineken has an IBU of 23, whereas Stella Artois has an IBU of 20 – 24, depending on the country. I would say that Stella Artois is slightly less bitter than Heineken, although this could also be because of a difference in carbonation.


Let me elaborate on the carbonation a little bit. For me, carbonation affects the way the beer feels. It also affects the complete taste pallet.

When drinking Heineken and Stella, I found that Stella seemed to have less carbonation which, in combination with the less present bitterness, made the beer feel much smoother than Heineken.

On the other hand, Heineken has much more of an outspoken taste and mouthfeel. The more present bitterness combined with the higher amount of carbonation makes it feel less smooth. This carbonation/bitterness combination is especially present during the aftertaste, where it sometimes lingers longer and stronger than Stella. Whether or not this is a good point depends.

Sometimes I like that Heineken is more outspoken and seems to have more character. However, if I plan to drink more than one, I would prefer Stella Artois.


In terms of smell, I would say both beers are pretty similar. This is logical because both beers are lagers and have roughly the same ingredients. There may be a slight difference in taste, but I couldn’t notice a difference in this category.

Furthermore, I have to say that neither beer has ever caught my attention with its smell. The smell of both Stella Artois and Heineken is quite subtle. They both smell the same, like they taste herbal/floral.


These days, a relevant question is how many calories are in a beer (and how these calories are divided across different macros). For both Heineken and Stella Artois, we’ve written articles about these already.

We found here that Heineken has slightly fewer calories than Stella Artois, slightly fewer carbohydrates, and slightly more protein. Both beers have 0 grams of fat.

Heineken (5%) has 40 Kcal per 3.38fl. Oz (100ml), whereas this is 43 calories for Stella Artois. Furthermore, Heineken contains three grams of carbohydrates in that quantity, whereas Stella Artois has 3.7 grams. Heineken has 0.6 grams of protein, whereas Artois has 0.5 grams per 3.38fl. Oz.

Alcohol Content

Both beers have different alcohol contents in other regions.

Stella Artois was originally brewed with an alcohol percentage of 5.2%. This is still the recipe that’s used in Belgium and certain parts of Europe. Initially, this was also the alcohol percentage used in the beer for the UK market. However, they’ve since lowered this to 4.8% (2008) and 4.6% (2020). In the United States and Canada, Stella Artois has always had an ABV of 5%.

For Heineken, things have been slightly different. Heineken has an ABV of 5% in Europe, The United States, and other parts of the world. However, in the UK the beer was first introduced in the seventies. Originally it had 3.5% ABV, given that the United Kingdom was used to less strong lager. However, in 2003 they finally introduced the regular 5% Heineken.


I feel both Heineken and Stella Artois have a very characteristic look. Both bottles are green, which in the States is also recognized as ‘import’ beer. However, I believe a green bottle always looks better than regular brown bottles.

Furthermore, Heineken has its characteristic red star, which beautifully contrasts with the green of the rest of the bottle. On the other hand, Stella has white packaging, which delivers great contrast and is very recognizable.

The only difference here is when you get served the beer in a bar. Stella Artois is served in their stemmed glasses, whereas Heineken is sold in more traditional pint glasses. Stella Artois created these glasses in the early 2000s to make sure heavy drinker wouldn’t order their beer consistently in the United Kingdom; more on that later. Furthermore, it was supposed to feel more sophisticated.

Do I have a preference? Not really, both glasses have their own feel, but I would say the Stella Artois glasses do feel more sophisticated compared to the regular pint glasses.

Brewing Process & Ingredients

There’s very little difference in the way these beers are brewed. Since they’re the same type of lager, they also primarily have the same brewing process. Both beers are bottom-fermented, which most lagers are in this modern time.

Furthermore, the beers have malted barley and water as two of their main ingredients.

One significant difference is that Stella Artois uses Czech Saaz hops (high-quality European hops), and Heineken uses hops concentrate (it’s unclear what kind of hops these are, but there’s a significant chance it’s also Czech hops). The difference is that hops concentrate only contains the oils and the fluids from the hops, which gives the beer a slightly different taste.

Finally, there’s the fact that Stella Artois contains maize (corn). It’s unclear when this ingredient was first added. One of the first references to these ingredients was made in 2008 by Interbrew (the owners of Stella Artois at the time).

Brand Image

In terms of brand image, I would have to say Heineken has done a much better job over the years than Stella Artois has done.

Heineken was the first beer to arrive in the United States after the prohibition, it dominated and still dominates the beer market in the Netherlands (its home country), and it has sponsored many major sports events over the years (such as F1 races and Euro 2020).

Furthermore, and arguably the most essential point, is the fact that their brand has always stood for premium beer. You’ll never find a Heineken at a significant discount, and they will never do anything to undermine this image.

On the other hand, Stella Artois has made some mistakes throughout the years. Firstly, Stella Artois is a Belgium beer but has been severely outcompeted by Jupiler throughout the decades in Belgium.

Furthermore, the brand has had major identity problems in the United Kingdom because they’ve sold their ‘premium’ beer at significant discounts at retailers like Tesco. It became so bad that the beer, to this day, carries the nickname ‘wife beater’ because of its supposed link with alcoholism. Even though they’re still the largest brand in the UK, this has made them lose quite some market share.

History & Heritage

Both Stella Artois and Heineken have a long-standing history. However, Stella Artois has been around a little longer than Heineken has been.

Stella Artois, or at least the Artois brewery, was founded in Leuven, Belgium, in 1726 when Sebastian Artois bought the ‘Den Hoorn’ brewery where he had worked for nine years. Stella Artois, the beer as we know it, was only invented in 1926. The fact that the name ‘Artois’ has been around for almost 300 years is noteworthy.

However, in 2008 the Artois brewery merged with Piedboeuf (another Belgium brewer); finally, it merged with many other brewers throughout the years. Now, the beer is part of Ab InBev which means the company ‘Artois’ has largely disappeared and is just one of the leading beers in a giant portfolio of beers.

On the other hand, Heineken was founded in 1864 when he bought the ‘The Haystack’ brewery in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Throughout the years, the brand developed primarily the same as Stella Artois. Both Stella Artois and Heineken bought breweries throughout the 1900s to increase their market share in their country.

However, Heineken never merged with another brewery. Instead, they became one of the largest beer brands in the world, and they bought many more breweries. Whereas Stella Artois is part of Ab InBev, Heineken is only part of Heineken, and they are now one of the largest competitors of Ab InBev.

For me, it, therefore, feels that Heineken won this part of the question since they’re still independent, whereas Stella Artois sold out at some point.