Stella Artois has been around since 1926 and is arguably one of the most well-recognized beers in the world. However, many people who have never tasted the beer wonder what it tastes like, and if it’s a beer they would consider drinking. I know I did since I only drank my first glass of Stella Artois very recently. Here’s what I experienced:
Stella Artois is considered a decent European lager with a slightly higher bitterness than most American lagers. Furthermore, it has a herbal/floral taste with low-medium carbonation levels. The aftertaste is quite bitter, which you can feel in the back of the throat, but it’s smooth at the same time.
However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question entirely. Below, we’ll walk you through the complete experience of drinking a Stella Artois (I’m drinking one while I’m typing this). We’ll talk about the flavor, mouthfeel, smell, and appearance of the drink. Also, we’ll tell you why Stella Artois tastes the way it does. Read on!
Let’s first talk about the flavor. Like most European pale lagers, Stella Artois is made with water, malted barley, Czech Saaz hops, and maize (also known as corn).
As a result, a lager of this kind will always have a herbal, grain-like taste which is precisely the case with Stella Artois. In a way, I would say the beer tastes similar to Heineken (which is not that strange considering they almost use the same ingredients, and it’s the same type of beer). However, I think the taste of Stella Artois is slightly more subtle and, therefore, better.
As a European lager should have, it has a recognizable bitterness. However, I also noticed that it’s not an annoying bitterness. Sometimes the bitterness of a beer, combined with high carbonization, makes the drinking experience a bit too ‘sharp’ for me, but this is not the case with Stella Artois, even though it has an IBU of 20 – 24.
In general, I would describe the beer as quite dry as well. After you first sip, it has a certain dryness that expands throughout the mouth. I like it, and I would say most beer drinkers probably would.
The aftertaste is, for me, the point where the bitterness of the beer kicks in for a moment. However, it also disappears relatively quickly. There’s a slight lingering sensation of the bitterness that stays in the back of the throat but not one that I consider unpleasant. Overall, the flavor of the beer is enjoyable.
To me, Stella Artois has a pleasant mouthfeel that’s not offensive. One of the reasons for this is the light-medium amount of carbonation. Sometimes a high amount of carbonation is combined with a high bitterness which makes some lagers too sharp.
However, the present bitterness combined with the low-medium carbonation feels like Stella Artois has struck an outstanding balance. It feels like this is a beer that most occasional beer drinkers would enjoy, while it’s still accessible to those that don’t drink beer that often.
Furthermore, the carbonation mainly kicks in at the beginning of the sip, calms down a bit in the middle, and reaches its peak when it’s swallowed. After that, it disappears pretty quickly, leaving only the light bitterness behind.
Like most beers of this kind, Stella Artois smells like a typical European lager. It has a herbal smell that you’ll probably only recognize when you pay attention to the beer. It’s subtle yet recognizable at the same time.
Is it an offputting smell? Not in my opinion. For example, I’ve also taste-tested alcohol-free beer like Heineken Zero, and it’s evident that they smell quite different. To me, Stella Artois smells like what a beer should smell like.
Then there’s the appearance of the beer. When it comes to regular lagers, I do feel that Stella Artois arguably has one of the most recognizable bottles. In my opinion, a green bottle always looks better than a regular brown bottle. Furthermore, I also think that the recognizability of Stella Artois is not in the green bottle but the white/red labeling and the white packaging on the top.
Combined with the green bottle, there’s a particular contrast that’s very pleasant to the eye. Also, I believe this gives the beer a more ‘premium’ feel, which Stella Artois has tried to create over the decades.
Also, let us not forget that Stella Artois is usually poured into specific glasses. In the early 2000s (starting in the UK), Stella Artois changed to these glasses because they were supposed to look more sophisticated and feminine, which meant heavy-drinkers (mostly young men) were less likely to pick them.
They did this because the beer had gotten the nickname ‘wife beater’ because of its supposed link with alcohol abuse.
Why Does Stella Artois Taste Like This?
Finally, we want to explain a little more about the taste of Stella Artois and why the beer taste like it does. One of the first things many American drinkers will notice about this beer is that it tastes more bitter than an American lager would ever taste. This is correct. European pale lagers generally have an IBU (the way we measure the bitterness) of 20 – 26, whereas American lagers end up in the 16 – 22 category.
Furthermore, Stella Artois is made with four ingredients: water, malted barley, Czech Saaz hops, and maize (also known as corn). Most beer drinkers pretty well accept the first three on that list. However, having corn added into the beer sounds very ‘cheap’ to many people.
However, we don’t know if this has always been part of the beer or if Ab InBev (the current owners of Stella Artois) had started incorporating this into the beer when they acquired the brand to cut costs. However, we conclude that the beer does not taste watered down and that the addition of possible corn hasn’t negatively affected the taste.
Has Stella Artois Always Tasted Like This?
Finally, I want to clarify that we’ve tasted the 5% Stella Artois. This is the Stella Artois sold in the United States and parts of Europe. In Belgium, Stella Artois still uses the original recipe with 5.2%, whereas the UK has 4.6% alcohol. Having different alcohol percentages will affect the taste in one way or the other.
Another interesting point worth mentioning is that the bitterness of the beer has also changed drastically throughout the years. The original Belgian recipe created Stella Artois with a bitterness of 33 IBU (this bitterness was last recorded in 1976). That’s very bitter for today’s standard. Throughout the years, people have started to prefer less and less bitter tastes, which means Stella Artois has been adjusted accordingly to the bitterness of 20 – 24 IBU