21 May 2015 - Best Beer HQ
Top 5 facts about Stella Artois
Stella Artois – you know it’s a classic Belgian lager, but what else do you know about this world-famous beer?
From its humble origins, to its creative advertising campaigns and its unsavoury reputation as “wife beater” beer, these 5 facts about Stella Artois will give you something to ponder next time you order a bottle of the stuff.
1. Stella’s festive origins
Way back in 1708 a man named Sebastian Artois became the head brewer at the Den Horen brewery (the horn symbol on the modern bottle still harkens back to this) in Leuven, Belgium. Later, in 1926, Brouwerij Artois, his descendant, launched a festive beer in time for Christmas.
What was that beer? Just a pilsner lager by the name of Stella Artois. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.
Stella Artois eventually became available all year round and, apart from during the Second World War when Belgium was invaded by Germany, the beer has been brewed ever since.
2. The proper way to serve Stella Artois
There is a nine-step ritual (called the Belgian Pouring Ritual) for pouring a glass of Stella Artois.
It starts with chilling the beer to between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit (2-3°C), before rinsing your glass and opening the bottle. From there, you have to pour the beer at the correct angle to get just the right amount of head, which you then cut off the top of the glass. After cleaning your glass once more, you’re finally ready to drink.
But who can be bothered going through that long and drawn-out process every time you want a beer?
3. A stronger lager
At 5.2% alcohol by volume, Stella Artois was typically stronger than most mainstream lagers (these days, in some markets, the alcohol has been reduced to 5%). As a result, when the beer was launched in the United Kingdom for the first time its advertising campaign was themed around “strength”.
“Stella’s for the fellas who take their lager strong,” said one advertisement. Meanwhile, another ad for Stella Artois showed a telephone book that had been torn in half.
4. It’s “reassuringly expensive”
Stella Artois has been associated with some pretty radical and interesting advertising campaigns in its time. Arguably the most distinctive of them was its “reassuringly expensive” advertising campaign that ran in the United Kingdom from 1982 t0 2007.
Stella Artois was more expensive than other beer brands due to there being a higher duty tax on high-alcohol content beverages in the UK. The reassuringly expensive campaign aimed at turning that negative into a positive, convincing people that their premium lager was better than the cheaper brands.
What followed was a series of high-quality and award-winning television adverts that were very cinematic for the time, and showed the beer in a sophisticated light.
5. Stella = wife beater beer?
It’s ironic, then, that Stella Artois is also a very popular beer with the opposite demographic that the reassuringly expensive advertising campaign was targeting. That’s right. You may have heard that Stella is sometimes called “wife beater”.
In the United Kingdom in particular, Stella is a popular choice of beer for “lager louts” and “chavs” (sometimes known as white trash in America) – those stereotypical binge-drinking and pub brawling scoundrels who you normally associate with football hooliganism and drinking at train stations.
Why Stella Artois seems to be the beer of choice for these people could be down to the fact that it’s one of the cheaper beers in the UK, offering good value for money in terms of alcohol content.
Meanwhile, because Stella has a higher alcohol percentage than other mainstream lagers, it gets people drunker quicker – and we all know that sometimes people can get aggressive when they’re drunk.
Surprisingly, some people insist that Stella makes its drinkers far more aggressive than any other beer does. But we at Best Beer HQ are sceptical about that.
**Edit: A reader proposes an alternative reason for why Stella Artois is known as wife beater beer: “It’s all about the play ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ which has a character in it named Stella that suffered from domestic violence. You can thank me with a beer if I’m ever back in Auckland.” Cheers William.