How to make a Stella Artois homebrew clone

Brewing beer, Featured — By on October 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

A friend of mine was planning a big celebration for her daughter’s one year birthday and she wanted me to make the beer for the party. If you’ve been to a birthday party for a one year old, you’ll understand why you need the beer. Of course I said yes because I like making beer for large groups.

“What kind of beer would you like,” I asked with thoughts of flavorful Belgian beers, rich porters, or maybe a strong IPA.

“My favorite beer is Stella Artois. Can you make Stella?” she asked. That wasn’t the Belgian beer I was expecting.

Stella Artois

Stella Artois is a lager you can find in most stores.

If you haven’t had a Stella Artois, you probably haven’t tried looking. It’s a very common plain lager ironically from Belgium. Well it’s originally from Belgium, but most of it is made in the U.K. Either way, it’s a mass produced beer from Anheuser-Busch InBev. Basically it’s Belgian Budweiser, even though Budweiser is technically Belgian and Stella is made in the U.K. I’m sure I’ll get some argument on that… but I digress. You can find it in every liquor store and many pubs.

“Sure,” I gulped wondering how I’d make it. While Budweiser, Stella Artois, Heineken, and other similar beers get a bad reputation for being bland, it really is difficult to make a beer taste that… well… bland. Bland really isn’t fair for these beers. They produce a very crisp and clean lager, which can be very difficult to reproduce at the homebrew level. While the style may not be every homebrewer’s favorite, it’s a very popular style for everyone else. I was up for the challenge.

The first thing I did was look to see what others have used for a recipe. I was shocked to see the number of recipes I came across which added wheat malt to the beer. The beer has a very clean profile, and wheat malt just seemed a bit too Hefeweisen to be a part of Stella Artois. Others added a touch of Munich malt, dextrin malt, Vienna malt, Cara Pils, corn sugar and a bazillion other variations. Nothing sounded right. I decided to do more research.

Then I stumbled upon a post from a brewer in Melbourne who claimed he worked at the Stella Artois brewery in Australia (can’t find the original post, but if you know the post I’m talking about, let me know and I’ll link it here). His recipe was exactly what I suspected. He said it was just pilsner malt and Saaz hops. That’s it! He didn’t know the yeast used, but I doubt the yeast used would be commercially available. Stella Artois uses a house yeast like most other major brewers.

Since the beer is 5% ABV, it was very easy to determine the malt bill. Using 9 lbs, 8 ounces of pilsner malt gives you an ABV of about ~5.1%. That’s close enough for me but if you want to shave an ounce or two, go for it. There are no other grains in the beer.

I used a single infusion mash at 150 F and let it go for 60 minutes. You want a very fermentable wort, since this beer is really crisp. Any warmer and you’ll get a beer which is maltier that Stella Artois.

The hop flavor and nose are very subtile, so there shouldn’t be too much hop to the beer. Most reviews I found put the beer in the low 20s for IBUs. I went with 22 IBUs. I’m adding 1.5 ounces of hops at the beginning of the boil, and then another 0.5 ounces 5 minutes before the end of the boil.

creating a starter

You'll want to make a good starter for this beer.

Yeast is the “trickiest” part of this beer. As I mentioned before, their yeast isn’t likely to commercially available. I made a guess and went with your basic German lager yeast (White Labs WPL 830 German Lager Yeast). You might try the WPL 850 Copenhagen Lager yeast if you can find it. Either way I’d ferment on the lower end of the yeast’s temperature range, about 50F – 52F. This will give you a cleaner flavor.

You will also want to make a good starter for this beer.  While the beer isn’t high in alcohol, you don’t want any off-flavors creeping into your beer.  A good healthy starter for this lager will go a long way to perfecting your Stella Artois.

The final recipe was

9 lbs 8 ounces German Pilsner
1.5 oz Saaz (@60 min)
0.5 Saaz (@5 min)
Irish Moss
WPL 830 German Lager Yeast
7.0 gal pre boil, 5 gal

Since this beer is so light in color, you’ll want to make sure you use finings to help the beer clear. I always use Irish Moss when making this beer, and I add it for the last 10 minutes of the boil. After fermentation, I also let this beer lager for a month. This helps the beer clear even more.

Ultimately I ended up with a good approximation of Stella Artois. The keg didn’t last very long, and everyone agreed it tasted like Stella Artois. Mission accomplished!

I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer!

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  • http://twitter.com/eherig Eivind Herigstad

    I would like to try to brew this beer, but I do not really understand the last line in your recipe “7.0 gal pre boil, 5 gal”. What do you mean by this?

    How much water did you use in the mash?
    How much wort did you get, and how many gallons when the beer was finished?

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    I batch sparge, so the numbers might be a bit confusing if you’re used
    to continuous sparging. I used 1.2 quarts per pound of grain in the
    mash. After the mash and before the boil, I collected 7 gallons of
    wort in the pot from 2 batch sparges. I had 5 gallons when the beer
    was finished.

  • http://twitter.com/eherig Eivind Herigstad

    Ok, then I understand.
    Thanks for your help.

  • Justggw

    This is just the recipe I have been looking for.
    I have been brewing aproximately the same recipe.
    5.5 2 row (Rahr)
    2 boxes (approx 3.5 lbs.) instant rice
    1 oz. Saaz hops at 60 min boil.

    Here is the kicker: I use Saflager yeast bu living in Texas I don’t have temperature contol.
    So I put the primary in the cooles area of the house. Basically everything has worked wll.
    QUESTION: How important is it to ferment in a 50-55 degree environment?
    As far as I am concerned I have had very good luck at 60-65 degree temperatures.

    Am I lucky or stupid?
    Question

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    Cooler temperatures are very important for yeasts that require it.
    I’ve never used the Saflager yeast, so I’m not sure about that one. I
    may have to experiment this summer with the yeast and get back to you
    on that one.

    If your beer is turning out good and you like it, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • Steff

    i just brewed this recipe and its spot on, thank you so much

  • Brewing_beers

    Fermentation times and temps ?

  • Starman
  • Dimitris

    Hey, Sounds like a good beer. I tried it and it’s sitting in the fridge with primary fermentation. Been two weeks, but I haven’t noticed any bubbling in the airlock. I had 1.043 to start with. This is my first all grain and my first lager. I like a challenge. I am wondering how I check if the fermentation is one and I can rack it to the secondary carboy for lagering, besides looking at the airlock. I am flying blind here and the secondary thermostat of my fridge has been anything but consistent. Hopefully I can save it, but if there’s no hope… I will just feed the grass in front of my house and try again. Any help would be appreciated!

    Thanks

  • slimeone

    About the wheat – it states on the bottle that the ingredients are malt, wheat, hops and water.

  • D
  • Sean Martin

    can you give step by step instruction on how to make 1 gallon of this beer. i’ve never made my own beer before. Thanks

  • Robert Anderson

    If you have never made beer before and want to get into it I would suggest starting small, simple and cheap. I just bought a Mr.Beer kit and am learning the proses. some people my look down there nose at Mr.Beer or other kits like Coopers, but I think they are a fun way to get started.

  • Robert Anderson

    You can use an ice chest to put your fermenter in and by place frozen bottles of water in with it you can bring your temp down. could also be done in a bath tub. I placed a wet towel over my fermenter and had the fan blowing on it.