A picture of Stella Artois beer with the question 'What type of beer is it?"

All over the world, Stella Artois, which was invented in 1926, is a reasonably well-known beer. Especially in the United States, this beer has created quite a presence for itself as a Belgian imported beer. However, many people are also confused about what type of beer Stella Artois is. Let’s start with a quick answer:

Stella Artois is best classified as an international pale lager because of its high bitterness (IBU of 20-24), high carbonization, light gold color (SRM of 3-4), the alcohol content of 5%, and the fact that Stella Artois is bottom-fermented instead of top-fermented.

However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question entirely. Below, we’ll discuss why Stella Artois is classified as a lager and not as an ale. Furthermore, we’ll discuss five main criteria that will explain to you exactly why there’s one category that fits best for Stella Artois. We’ll also look at Stella Artois Solstice and Stella Artois Cidre and see how these are best classified. Read on!

Is Stella Artois A Lager Or Ale?

First of all, it’s essential to know that there are two general categories of beers: lager or ale. These types of beers have different sub-categories. However, all beers fall into either one of the two categories.

The difference between these two beers is how the beer is made and what ingredients are used. The main difference is the brewing process. Beers are either made with a top-fermenting or bottom-fermenting process.

In a nutshell, this means that beer is either fermented at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F), in which case it’s top-fermenting, which classifies it as an ale. The other option is bottom-fermenting the yeast at colder temperatures (35˚–50˚F) which ranks it as a lager.

Stella Artois is made with a bottom-fermenting process which means it’s classified as a lager. In my opinion, it has a characteristic European lager taste.

What Kind Of Lager Is Stella Artois?

However, that certainly isn’t the end of the story because there are many sub-categories of lager. Each has its unique features in terms of alcohol content, bitterness, color, region of brewing, and much more. To classify Stella Artois correctly, we’ll use the scale of the Beer Judge Certification Program, which categorizes beers based on many factors.

The reason for using the scale of the BJCP is because this is one of the few organizations that have made an effort to categorize different styles of beer completely and has clear descriptions and guidelines for this process.

According to the scale of this organization, Stella Artois is best classified as an international pale lager.

In some cases, Stella Artois is also referred to as a European pale lager, which is technically correct because Stella is originally from Belgium. Many people also refer to it as a pilsner, which is widely accepted as a different term for an international pale lager.

If you find you enjoy Stella Artois and are looking for beers that are similar, here’s a list with 7 suggestions.

Why Is Stella Artois An International Pale Lager?

International pale lagers have particular characteristics that make them different from other types of beers. First, Stella Artois has an IBU of 20 – 24, and international pale lagers have an IBU between 18 – 25, which means Stella Artois fits this criterion perfectly. IBU refers to the bitterness of the beer.

Furthermore, there’s the SRM of a beer. In a nutshell, the SRM is the Standard Reference Method for measuring the color intensity of a beer. Stella Artois has an SRM of 3-4, whereas international pale lagers fall into the 2 – 6 range.

Another aspect of classifying beer is the Original Gravity of the beer, also referred to as OG. OG measures the solids’ content that’s initially in the wort. This is before alcoholic fermentation has started to produce the beer. Stella Artois has an OG of 1.044 – 1.048. International pale lagers have an OG between 1.042 and 1.050, which means Stella Artois fits this criterion.

The fourth factor is the Final Gravity, referred to as FG, which measures the amount of sugar left after fermentation. International pale lagers have an FG of 1.008 – 1.012.

Using an online calculator, you can calculate the FG of Stella Artois based on the ABV of 5% and the earlier mentioned OG. In doing so, we learned that Stella Artois has an FG of 1.0059 – 1.0099. This means Stella Artois falls slightly inside and outside the classic range.

Finally, international pale lagers have an ABV (alcohol content) of 4.6% – 6%. Stella Artois has an ABV of 5% in the United States (4.6% in the United Kingdom and 5.2% in Europe), which means it fits this criterion perfectly.

Are All Kinds Of Stella Artois Pale Lagers?

Stella Artois Solstice (4.5%)

Stella Artois Solstice is best classified as an international pale lager, although it doesn’t fit all the criteria perfectly. First of all, Solstice has an IBU of 4, which means it has very low bitterness. Furthermore, it has an alcohol percentage of 4.5%. Both these criteria don’t fit perfectly in this category. However, the beer does have an SRM of 5. The original/final gravity of the beer is unknown.

Stella Artois Cidre (4.5%)

Stella Artois Cidre is best classified as a French-style cider because it has an alcohol level between 3 – 6%, its made with apple concentrate, and the flavor tends to lean more towards the sweeter end of the spectrum instead of the bitter one (which would classify it as an English-style cider).

Has Stella Artois Always Been A Lager?

Stella Artois was first launched in 1926 as a Christmas beer in Belgium (the ‘Stella’ part of the name refers to the star on the Christmas tree). However, the beer quickly became popular and started exporting to the rest of the European Union in 1930.

Stella Artois has always been an international pale lager, although the recipe has changed slightly over the years and depends on the region. In Belgium, Stella Artois started as a beer with 5.2% alcohol. Furthermore, until 1973, the beer had a bitterness of 33 IBU, which is far outside the range of a regular international pale lager. Eventually, that IBU was gradually decreased to 20 in the year 2014.

The beer has an ABV of 5% in the USA, which is close to the original recipe of 5.2% that the Belgium market still has. The beer initially had an ABV of 5,2% in the UK, but this decreased to 4.8% until 2020. These days it has an ABV of 4.6% in the UK. Because of it’s high alcohol percentage, the beer was also known as ‘wife beater’ in the UK.

Even though the recipe isn’t the same globally, and it has changed a few times slightly, Stella Artois is still best classified as an international pale lager.