Pros: Decent hops, nice malt body, very enjoyable beer.
Cons: Green glass. Skunk. Arrrggghhhh!
Among all the many charming and idiosyncratic countries of Europe, perhaps no other is as charming or as idiosyncratic as tiny Belgium. The Belgians have their own unique and devil-may-care attitude when it comes to life, and it may well be that geography has something to do with this. Nestled between Germany and France, Belgium has often been embroiled in the frequent conflicts between these two historical rivals.
The Belgian philosophy may well be summed up as living life to the fullest, and they certainly do this in a gastronomical sense. Good wine is appreciated here, as is gourmet food, served in heaping portions and rich and varied in flavor. If there is one food item, however, that Belgians prize above all others it must certainly be beer. There are sour beers and sweet beers, fruit beers and wheat beers, spiced beers and dry beers, strong beers and weak beers, aged beers and young beers, blended beers and straight beers, wild beers and tamed beers, clerical beers and secular beers. In short, the Belgians brew some of the most unique and delicious beers on the planet. Sadly, Stella Artois is not one of those beers.
Certainly, Stella is a Belgian brew, but it might fairly be called Belgian Budweiser. Its a mass-produced, very drinkable and inoffensive brew that has broad appeal not only in the home market but in export as well. Stella is brewed by the Belgian super-brewing conglomerate Interbrew, which also owns the familiar Belgian brands Hoegarden White, Abbey de Leffe, and Bellevue. Recently, Interbrew gobbled up that traditional icon of British beer-drinking history, Bass, when the Bass Corporation curiously decided to abandon the very industry that it was founded upon in favor of other ventures. Interbrew also owns the Labatt and Alexander Keiths brands in Canada, Rolling Rock in America, Bohemia and Dos Equis in Mexico, Tennents in Scotland, Boddingtons in England, Staropramen in the Czech Republic, and Oranjeboom in Holland, just to name a few.
Interbrew is definitely a brewing powerhouse with a large stable of famous brands, but it was Stella Artois that allowed the mouse to roar so to speak. Attractively packaged in green glass with a fancy white and red label and a white neck label that covers the cap, Stella is indeed an eye-catching product. Unfortunately, that same green glass also tends to skunk the beer very rapidly.
I hadnt tried a Stella in many years, but a local liquor store was giving away very attractive Stella Artois glasses with a six-pack purchase, so I decided to buy one. Realizing I had yet to review the beer on Epinions, of course, in no way influenced my decision. Ahem.
Stella Artois pours to a light golden color with a prodigious head formation of tightly packed bubbles. The nose is a bit skunky but also hints at crisp Belgian malt. The palate is medium bodied with some biscuity malt, a touch of skunkiness and then a grassy, slightly bitter hop finish. Skunkiness aside this is actually a pretty decent European pilsner beer. My Beloved Barbara(TM) is particularly enamored of it, and will often order one on draft when she sees it. Packaged in brown glass, it might even be a regular visitor to one of my dedicated beer refrigerators. That said, it is still one of the least interesting Belgian beers available in the United States.
Try it with a broiled porterhouse lightly seasoned with a bit of soy sauce and fresh ground pepper as Im enjoying it tonight.