Archive for June 26th, 2008

Beer Review: Imported Stella Artois

26 June, 2008

MY abstinence from lager isn’t going well. In the last few days, I’ve had a few, if not by accident, then through curiosity. And it’s curiosity that brought me to this one. I had decided to put off the notorious, and big-name Stella Artois for as long as possible. But a variety caught my eye. Here is a little bottle of imported Stella Artois.

Imported Stella Artois bottle

First impressions are, that it’s easy to confuse with the non-imported bottle. They’re both green. They both have almost identical labels. But this one has a big thing around the neck and the words “Imported” to set it apart. So you need to be observant not to end up with the faux Belgian Stella Artois premium lager.

Imported Stella Artois neck

As neck labels go, it’s unusual. More of a wrapper than a label. There’s perforated part around the cap, so you can get into it. The all important word “Imported” is suitably prominent. The words “From Belgium” are also good to see. I for one like to know where my beer has come from. Then there’s all the Stella Artois insignia. The logo seems to be a horn, with some barley and hops behind it. There’s also what look like stamps or medals, but they are much too small to see.

The front label looks almost identical to that of the non-imported bottle. But there are some differences. Sadly, I don’t have the other version to hand for a side-by-side comparison. And that would be nerdily unnecessary anyway.

Imported Stella Artois front label

The front label is unmistakable. Clear and well designed, this gold, white and red label sums up continental quality.

The writing in the border of the roundel tells you what you need to know. That this is a “Premium Lager Beer” and that is it “Belgium’s Original Beer”. That Belgian origin is a big reason why I decided to pick up this bottle. So many of the best beers I’ve tried during my arduous research for this blog, have come from Belgium. The country might not have contributed much else to the world, Tin Tin excepted, but they certainly do make terrific beer. Let’s hope this is one of them.

The middle of the label, above and below the label also tell us some important facts. The date for example. This has an “anno” or 1366. One of the earliest years I’ve ever seen on a bottle of beer. It must have been hard work harvesting the raw ingredients for beer, when the wheel had yet to be invented. And there’s the location. According to this Belgian tourist board website, “Leuven” is on the Flemish side of Belgium.

Some brewers put the vital statistics on the back label. Some put them prominently on the front. Others, like Stella, put them on the front, but in a microscopic size. The volume of this bottle is 33 centilitres. Which is unremarkable. And the alcoholic volume is 5.2%. Which is slightly remarkable, because I feared this would be another uninspired 5%.

Because this is an export version, the back label is a multilingual mess.

Imported Stella Artois back label

It’s hard to know where to start. Most prominent at the top is the description “The Classic European Beer”. Funny, as I half expected it to say “Lager Louts Choice” or “The Classic Wife Beater”. Maybe Stella Artois doesn’t have the same reputation abroad as it does here in the UK.

There’s little else to report from the back label. It gives the contents are being malted barley. The size and volume of the beer bottle is repeated in case you missed it on the front. And there’s a web address which is www.StellaArtois.com. You can choose your location and language from their flashy homepage.

With the labels out of the way surprisingly quickly, it’s time to answer those all-important questions. What is this imported Stella like? And will I feel the urge to punch strangers and family members after drinking it?

Imported Stella Artois poured into a glass

This is a premium lager, so be careful with the head. Pour gently though, and you get a good, controllable layer of froth sitting atop your drink. The colour is as you’d expect from a lager; pale yellow and full of bubbles.

The smell is good, for a lager. It smells richer and maltier than other lagers. Probably because of it’s Belgian origins.

And that quality carries over to the taste. The taste is light. No big, offensive, sudden or surprising flavours in here. Instead, you have a gentle malty bitterness.

What do I like about imported Stella Artois? It’s smooth. Impressively for a lager, it doesn’t taste horrible. It’s not too gassy. The quality is evident, unlike some so-called ‘premium’ lagers. And it’s slightly more potent than other mainstream premium lagers. All in all, it’s surprisingly drinkable. For a lager.

Inevitably, there are things I don’t like about Stella Artois. The taste for one. It may be good for a lager. But it’s still a lager. And as such, it still has that unpleasant ‘sharp’ bitterness. It’s missing any flavours beyond the small subset you find in a lager. Even though it’s a quality, premium lager, if you had to drink more than a bottle or two in a night, you’d soon get bored and start to feel as though you’re drinking dish water.

Compared to other premium lagers, Stella Artois is not at all bad. And it’s the first that isn’t a pilsner that I’ve said that about. It is still a lager, and therefore will never get far above average. But if lager is all that was on offer, I’d happily tolerate Stella Artois.

Have you tried Stella Artois? Of course you have. Here’s your chance to let the world know what you thought of it.
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and recommendations here please.


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