Stella “Official Beer” of Kentucky Derby

04 May

A bottle of Stella Artois

A bottle of Stella Artois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For horse racing fans, this weekend is the beginning of a three-part tradition that dates back to 1930 when the term was first used in print to describe the three races that comprise the United States’ top achievement in horse racing. A horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness is given the title of Triple Crown winner. The last horse to accomplish this feat was Affirmed in 1978. This weekend the first race of the Triple Crown is being run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.

The Derby is marked by well-dressed gentlemen in straw fedoras and bowties and beautifully-dressed ladies in their finest frocks and wide-brimmed hats. The drink most associated with the event is the Mint Julep made with Kentucky bourbon, spearmint leaves, sugar, and water.  This year, however, Derby denizens may find that a different libation is quite ubiquitous as well; Stella Artois Belgian lager.

Stella, the world’s best-selling Belgian beer, has been named, “The Official Beer Sponsor of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Kentucky Derby.” The brand, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev, will enjoy logo rights for advertising and promotion, co-branded promotional materials, and exclusive signage placement throughout the facility.

As a partner to the perennial spring event, Stella is uniquely qualified. The rich traditions of the brand mesh nicely with the traditions of the Downs through fastidious attention to detail and sophisticated presentation. Stella is part of a Belgian brewing tradition that dates back more than 600 years to the first tax record evidence in 1366 for Leuven’s Den Horen Brewery. Several hundred years later in 1708, Sebastianus Artois became the master brewer at Den Horen, in 1717 he gave his name to the brewery. It was not until 1926 that Stella Artois began production as a seasonal Christmas beer (the name Stella is a reference to the Christmas star) and was sold only in Canada. It became such a great success that production was shifted to year-round and the brew was marketed throughout the European market. The brew found particular favor in the United Kingdom where it has enjoyed a relationship with the country’s film industry since 1994.

Even serving Stella is a production worthy in scope of the fine traditions of the Derby. The ritual is spread out over 9 steps and is said to produce the perfect serving of the golden brew.  For those who are curious, the steps according to the brewer are:

1.       The Purification – Clean and properly rinse a Stella-branded chalice.

2.       The Sacrifice – Open the tap in one quick action and let the first few drops of the beer flow away to prevent any beer still into the tap and possibly  off-flavored from getting into your chalice.

3.       The Liquid Alchemy – Hold the chalice just under the tap without touching it at a 45 degree angle.

4.       The Head – Lower the chalice to allow the natural formation of the foam head.

5.       The Removal – Close the tap quickly and move the chalice away so beer does not drip into the chalice.

6.       The Beheading – While the head foams up and overflows the side of the chalice, smooth it with a head cutter.

7.       The Judgment – Inspect the chalice for the right amount of foam, two fingers is appropriate.

8.       The Cleansing – Clean the bottom and sides of the chalice.

9.       The Bestowal – Present the beer on a clean beer coaster with the chalice logo facing the customer.

Stella as a beer is a bottom filtered, blonde pilsner with a malty middle and crisp finish that delivers full flavors and a hint of hoppy bitterness. It is best served around 40 degrees in, as the pouring ritual indicates, a Stella Artois chalice.

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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Beer, Beer News, Belgian


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