Stella Artois is one of the most popular beers in the world and can be found almost everywhere beer is sold. The crisp taste of Stella makes it a favorite beer of many lager drinkers with the refreshing flavor particularly suited to hot summer days.
As more of an ale drinker and lover of craft beers, I tend to only go for the mass-produced lagers when the weather dictates it. Stella Artois is nearly always my preferred pilsner lager but sometimes even your favorite beer gets boring.
What is it about Stella that gives it that distinctive flavor loved by so many, and what beers are similar to Stella Artois?
All Things Stella
The brewing tradition of Stella Artois dates back to 1366 and a small brewery in the town of Leuven in Belgium known as the Den Hoorn brewery. A small tavern that brewed its own beer for sale to hunters, they operated under the sign of a hunting horn. To this day, all Stella Artois packaging features the original horn of the tavern and proudly boasts “Anno 1366” (born in 1366).
It wasn’t until 1717 when the head brewer Sébastien Artois purchased the brewery it became known as the Brouwerij Artois.
Stella Artois as the international lager we know and love today was first brewed in 1926 as a Christmas gift to the villagers of Leuven. Paying homage to the Christmas Star, it was named Stella (Latin for star) and Artois, of course, after the former head brewer and the name of the brewery.
All bottles of Stella still feature a star on the label. First sold as a seasonal beer only in the winter, it was eventually available all year round with exports to the broader European market starting in 1930.
Through a series of mergers of major brewing conglomerates, first InterBrew, then InBev, and finally Anheuser-Busch InBev, Stella Artois is now brewed in the US and other foreign markets such as the UK, Australia, Hungary, and Canada as well as still being produced for export in Belgium.
What Type of Beer Is Stella Artois?
Often referred to as an international lager it falls into the same group of other prestigious beer brands such as Becks, Peroni, Heineken, Carlsberg, or Kronenbourg to name but a few. Just because we class all these as international lagers however doesn’t mean they all have the same taste.
Stella Artois is best described as a Belgian pilsner-style lager. Using just four ingredients of malted barley, water, hops, and yeast, it features the Saaz hops favored by Czech lagers known as pilsners.
A purist may argue to be a pilsner, the beer has to come from the Czech Republic or the region known as Bavaria in the past. These beer snobs labeled Stella as an international lager, with a few adjunct flavors similar to American adjunct lagers such as Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, or Coors Light.
Tasting Notes and the Distinct Flavor Profile of Stella Artois
Stella Artois is an easy-to-drink international lager with a light, crisp, and slightly floral taste. A bottom fermented beer, it’s brewed as a pilsner using high-quality ingredients with just malted barley and maize, water, yeast, and noble hops. It’s a clear golden straw color with a foamy white head, which retains a decent amount of lacing when it is poured.
The use of Saaz hops gives it a subtle hop bitterness with an IBU of 25 (it was originally 30). A dry crisp pilsner it combines the sweetness of malted barley with a floral aroma and herbaceous bitterness from those noble Saaz hops.
The alcohol content of 5% ABV places it firmly in the premium lager category, but it’s still weaker than many craft beers. In England, Stella was 5.2% ABV and commonly known as “wife beater” due to the many altercations with the significant other after consuming too much Stella but over the last decade has launched lower ABV versions of Stella, so maybe now it’s just “wife shouter”!
An award-winning beer over the years, Stella Artois is revered as one of the best imported European beers by American beer consumers and remains Belgium’s best-sold beer.
9 Beers Similar to Stella Artois
We’re not here as an advert for Stella Artois, although it is a classic beer and definitely one of my favorite pale lagers. The natural ingredients and clean flavor lacking in many other mass-produced types of beer make it ideal for hot summer days with friends on a picnic or as a beer at festivals held throughout the summer.
However, sometimes there’s too much of a good thing and maybe you want to try a different pilsner or lager but one which retains the same distinct taste of Stella Artois. Here are 10 beers that should quench that Stella-seeking thirst.
Famous for its claim to be the first-ever pale ale, Pilsner Urquell has a crisp taste that’s pretty close to that of Stella Artois but is a little hoppier and features hints of caramel.
Originating from the Czech Republic, this is a true pilsner and regularly features on the list of best-selling Czech beer brands although it can be quite hard to find here in the US. You may need to search online or check your local beer specialty stores.
Often described as “the thinking man’s Stella”, Jupiler is a Belgian lager that was first brewed in 1966 at the Piedboeuf Brewery in Jupille-sur-Meuse in the region of Liège, Belgium. Like Stella Artois, it’s now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev but far outsells Stella Artois in Belgium with nearly a 40% share of the market.
Belgian beer enthusiasts often joke about how we Americans consider Stella Artois as a classy beer while in Belgium Stella is considered a very ordinary average beer at best. Make your own mind up when you sample Jupiler yourself!
The taste is like a more complex Stella Artois with the flavors of key ingredients such as hops, malt, and grain with even a slight hint of fruit. With an ABV of 5.5%, it’s slightly stronger than Stella so can give you more of a buzz if that’s the kind of thing you are looking for.
Another great thing about Juniper is the alcohol-free version which is widely available, even here in the US. If you have a friend who doesn’t drink there’s no need for them to miss out on the taste of this crisp lager at your next gathering.
Without a doubt, Heineken lager is the most well-known of the beers we consider similar to Stella Artois. Everywhere beer is sold you will find Heineken in its distinctive green bottles and it is now produced in over 70 countries worldwide including breweries in Africa and the Middle East, Asia Pacific the USA, and of course Europe.
(Warning! Although Al Ahram Beverages in Egypt is owned by Heineken and produce a beer called Stella, don’t be fooled into thinking this beer is similar to Stella Artois. Modern-day Egyptian beers are not known for their flavors, and Stella (Egypt) lacks the hoppy flavor and balanced taste of European style Stella Artois!)
A European pale lager, Heineken shares many of the same pilsner flavors as Stella Artois. Although not quite as hoppy, Heineken does a sweet, biscuity malt flavor and is made with just barley, hops, water and yeast.
With an IBU of 19 it’s slightly less bitter than Stella Artois but still enjoys that same skunky aftertaste found in many European-style pilsners. A 5%ABV beer as standard it also offers a similar strength to Stella Artois.
Heineken’s other major international lager brand, Amstel Light offers a much lighter alternative to Stella with less of a hoppy flavor making it easier to drink in warmer temperatures like a hot summer day down the beach.
Peroni Nastro Azzuro
Another of Europe’s best-selling beers is Peroni which hails from Italy this time and has a pale body similar to Stella Artois. With an ABV of 5.1% and an IBU the same as Stella at 24, Peroni features a sweet malt taste with a balance of bitterness. It’s almost like the Italian clone of Stella Artois but without too much of the hoppiness that comes from the Saaz hops in Stella.
Just like Stella Artois, Birra Peroni is widely available here in the States, not just in Italian restaurants but in bars, liquor stores, and from specialist distributors. Available in both cans and bottles it can also be found in many bars where they have beer on tap.
Brewed at the St James Gate brewery in Dublin, better known in the beer industry for its Guinness production, Harp is a European lager that features a bready malt flavor alongside a floral hoppy bitterness.
With an alcohol by content volume of 4.5% and an IBU rating of 21, Harp is a smooth-tasting beer that is a great, lighter alternative to Stella Artois.
One of the world’s best-selling craft beer brands, Blue Moon is a Belgian-style witbier that originally hails from Colorado, US.
The “Belgian White” moniker on the label refers to the beer’s light almost white color. With a similar balanced flavor profile to Stella, Blue Moon is more of a wheat-tasting beer rather than hoppy. With a citrusy flavor, many beer bars serve Blue Moon accompanied by an orange slice.
Found in most bars across the US and now even making inroads internationally, if you are looking for a fruitier alternative to Stella Artois, this pale ale fits the bill.
If Blue Moon sounded attractive to you, then why not try a traditional Belgian brewed wheat beer, Hoegaarden? Easy to spot by the distinctive glasses (like big glass planting pots), Hoegaarden is spiced with orange peel and coriander to give a bitter and spicy bite to every drink. It still features that same skunk aroma though and the light taste enjoyed by fans of Stella Artois.
Unfiltered, Hoegaarden has a more cloudy appearance than the other alternatives to Stella Artois we have looked at but many believe this brewing style with murky sediment remains enhances the complex flavors of the beer.
Also a white beer like Blue Moon, Hoegaarden is probably the spiciest of the alternatives to Stella on our list.
If looking further afield for a Stella Artois alternative, Crown is an Australian beer recognized as the best premium lager in Australia. Initially, it was brewed as “Fosters Crown Lager” and only available as a beer offering to visiting VIPs to Australia.
It wasn’t until the 1954 Royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II that Carlton & United Breweries, the major Australia-Owned beer brand, celebrated the occasion by releasing what we know today as Crown Lager.
A European-style lager, with a beautiful gold color it proudly boasts it uses 100% Australian malt yet still has the cleaner taste found in pilsner-style lagers such as Stella.
At 4.9% alcohol by volume, it’s a similar strength to Stella Artois and comes in a distinctive bottle that just screams “classy” premium lager. Definitely one worth searching out!
Stella Artois Midnight Lager
Not typically a beer similar to the pale international lager we know and love as Stella Artois, this limited edition black lager beer is a seasonal gift in much the same way Stella Artois was born.
Unlike the traditional counterpart pale ale, Midnight Lager is brewed exclusively here in the US by the Anheuser-Busch brewery at Baldwinsville in New York.
A black lager, the distinctive jet black color with a brown frothy head comes from the use of roasted dark malts which gives this seasonal beer a flavor with hints of dark chocolate and espresso coffee.
The use of the traditional Saaz hops with the addition of American Herkules balances with the roasty flavor of the malts. Overall a decent winter beer with warm notes, a perfect compliment to the crisp colder weather yet still retaining that slight bitterness of a pilsner.
With an ABV of 5.4% its a similar strength to traditional Stella Artois and is available in distinctive black glass 12 oz bottle 6-packs from Halloween onwards, just in time for the festive holiday season.
Beers Similar to Stella: Final Thoughts
Even the most hardened Stella Artois drinkers may occasionally feel like mixing it up a little and venturing into new lager territories. Fortunately, as a Belgian pilsner beer, there are many beers that are similar to Stella Artois available here in the US and abroad.
In general, most European pilsners will fit the bill especially those from Belgium or the Czech Republic. The use of those characteristic noble hops like Saaz is what gives Stella Artois that skunky aroma and a moderate level of bitterness.
With a bitterness rating of around 24 IBUs, you’re not quite looking at IPA levels of bitterness yet, but certainly a little more bite than many standard mass-produced lagers.
With their “reassuringly expensive” advertising campaign and the heritage that stretches back over 600 years, the folks at Stella have done a good job of persuading us that Stella Artois is a classy lager.
However, ask any Belgian beer enthusiast and they will describe Stella Artois as an average beer at best, there are plenty more European pilsner beers that use natural ingredients and smaller brews for a smooth balanced malty yet hop-infused taste.
Next time you fancy reaching out for a Stella Artois, why not try one of the Stella Alternatives we listed above or go even further out of your comfort zone and try one of the many fine European lagers we didn’t yet cover? You may be pleasantly surprised! Let us know if you find any beer which you find matches that Stella’s taste or even betters it.