Stella Artois brings in new 5% strength lager after drinkers hit out when main brand lowered to 4.6%


Stella Artois introduces new five per cent strength lager after drinkers hit out at brewer’s decision to lower main brand to 4.6

  • The Belgian brewer has rolled out Stella Artois Unfiltered, which is 5% strength
  • The firm says the new pilsner-style drink ‘honours’ historical brewing methods
  • It comes after it angered drinkers by reducing its Original brand to 4.6% in 2020 

Stella Artois has introduced a new five per cent lager after drinkers hit out at it for lowering the alcohol strength of its main brand.

The Belgian brewer has rolled out its new Stella Artois Unfiltered as its strongest available drink, less than two years after it dropped the strength of its original brand.

The pilsner-style beer is being marketed as an ‘unfiltered premium lager’ and reverses a trend of lowering alcohol levels.

It comes after drinkers were left furious when the brewer reduced the strength of its main brand from 4.8 per cent to 4.6 per cent in 2020.

The firm said the change had come due to ‘health and wellness trends’, and while customers hit out at the move, the brewer insisted it hadn’t changed the taste.

Stella Artois says its new unfiltered beer (pictured) is five per cent alcohol strength, making it the strongest it has available

Stella Artois says its new unfiltered beer (pictured) is five per cent alcohol strength, making it the strongest it has available

The firm was lambasted by drinkers after it lowered the strength of its main brand (pictured) to 4.6 per cent in 2020

The firm was lambasted by drinkers after it lowered the strength of its main brand (pictured) to 4.6 per cent in 2020

Stella Artois: A timeline

1366: Brewing beer becomes an entrenched tradition in Leuven, Belgium.

1466: First valid reference of the Den Hoorn brewery. 

1708: Sebastian Artois becomes an apprentice to head brewer Jacob de Bruyn at Den Hoorn.

1717: Sebastian Artois buys the brewery.

1726: Sebastian dies aged 45 and his wife, Barbara Hermans, runs the brewery. Sebastian’s son, Adrian, then takes over for 50 years from 1733.

1840: Adrian’s child, Jeanne Marie, leaves the Artois family’s inheritance to their friend and brewery manager Albert Marnef.

1901: The business NV Brouwerijen Artois is created. 

1923: The new ‘Den Hoorn’ brewery is opened, after the original one was destroyed around a decade earlier during the First World War.

1925: The drink is first brewed under the moniker ‘X’ and Stella Artois’ name is registered for trademark one year later.

1960s: Beverage starts being exported to other European countries.

1993: The brewery in Leuven is opened. 

Source: Stella Artois 

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On it’s website, the brewer said the new unfiltered ‘premium’ lager has a ‘naturally crisp and vibrant taste’.

It said: ‘Our Belgian brewmasters honour the brewing methods of the past by creating this unfiltered premium lager. The absence of filtration allows the fresh flavours of malt and Saaz hops to burst through for a naturally flavourful taste.

‘A naturally crisp and vibrant taste profile is encapsulated within this hazy, golden lager. It delivers malty notes and smooth refreshing finish. Perfectly complimented by a pleasant round, fruity hop aroma, with hints of ripe pineapple in background.’

The new beverage has become popular with drinkers wanting something a bit stronger, The Sun reports.

One  fan writing on the Asda website, said: ‘This tastes wonderful, and such an enjoyable flavour with no aftertaste and is the old Stella’s five per cent alcohol volume.’

Another said: ‘This is fantastic. Finally Stella is back to what it should be — at full strength. It’s a fantastic comeback.’

It comes after drinkers blasted the brewer for watering down its main brand lager in September 2020.

Dorien Nijs, brew-master at the brand’s brewery in Leuven, Belgium, said at the time: ‘Stella Artois still has the same full flavour and clean crisp taste, confirmed through rigorous testing by consumers, as well as internal and external beer experts across the world, including in Leuven, Belgium, the home of Stella Artois.

‘Stella Artois in the UK will still be brewed using the original Stella Artois yeast and celebrated Saaz hops, in Magor, Wales and Samlesbury, Lancashire using British barley.

‘We know that taste and quality remain the number one priority for Stella Artois drinkers, and we also recognise an ongoing health and wellness trend through moderation.

‘We are proud that we can now deliver the same Stella Artois taste people know and love, with an ABV of 4.6%.’

The firm, which started rolling out the change in September 2020, noted that sales of lagers with a 4.6 per cent alcohol content have been the fastest growing in premium and super premium beer in the UK – more than doubling over two years.

Sales of low and no-alcohol beers and wine have also seen enormous growth.

Alongside Budweiser and Becks, Stella’s alcohol volume was also cut in 2012 from five per cent to 4.8 per cent as part of a shake-up that saved millions of pounds by offsetting duty hikes and cost increases.

The new unfiltered lager (pictured) is available in 660ml bottles, 12x330ml bottles and 6x330ml cans

The new unfiltered lager (pictured) is available in 660ml bottles, 12x330ml bottles and 6x330ml cans

Historically, the beer’s alcohol content saw it linked to aggression and binge drinking, even gaining the unflattering ‘wife beater’ nickname.

The description proved so damaging that the brewer hired a PR firm to try improve its online reputation, which included attempts to change its Wikipedia page to remove the phrase. 

Stella explained the change was in line with its commitment to responsible drinking. 

It wanted to give people greater choice in how they can moderate alcohol intake without having to sacrifice on the taste.

However, the move was criticised by fans of the lager, who hit out at its ‘bland and insipid’ taste, while one said they initially thought they might have Covid due to the change.

One person wrote: ‘A once great beer of the geezers. Now watered down to 4.6 per cent.

‘Won’t be buying this anymore, off to find another beer that is at least 5 per cent, or are the English not trusted with that anymore.

‘First Becks, now Stella. Scandalous.’

Another said: ‘Today I cracked open a can of Stella 4.6 per cent and thought I had Covid, since I could not taste anything.

‘I then had a bottle of Budweiser Budvar which was spot on. Stella is now bland, insipid and already described as dishwater.’

The move has left some drinkers furious over its 'bland and insipid' taste, with one Briton even declaring they 'thought they had Covid' in a spate of one-star reviews on Tesco's website

The move has left some drinkers furious over its ‘bland and insipid’ taste, with one Briton even declaring they ‘thought they had Covid’ in a spate of one-star reviews on Tesco’s website

A third raged: ‘Shocked they have lowered Stella to 4.6pc now. Tastes rubbish.

‘Such a shame, used to be a premium lager, now the only thing premium is the price.’

A fourth beer lover wrote: ‘Can’t believe it is down to 4.6 per cent which is a real joke for a ‘premium’ lager.

‘If you are in store then check the packs as I know some are 4.8 per cent which is slightly better, but still not great.’

Leaving a one-star review, a drinker wrote: ‘It was disappointing when they reduced it from 5.2% to 5%, then down to 4.8%. Was truly surprised to find they’ve now reduced it down to 4.6%.

‘Tasteless, even compared to some supermarket brands. Would never have ordered these if I knew they were so watered down.’ 

The brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, commonly known as AB InBev, an American-Belgian brewing company that also owns brands such as Budweiser, Corona, Beck’s and Boddingtons.

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