Stella Artois brewmaster Paul Van de Walle demonstrates Step 3, left, and Step 6 of the beer’s Nine-Step Pouring Ritual.
Do not drink a Stella Artois before it’s beheaded.
Those are your instructions straight from Leuven, home of beautiful architecture, Paul Van de Walle and the famous beer he brews.
It’s Canada’s No. 1 imported beer, says his InBev conglomerate colleague, Kevin Healy of Labatt, adding it eclipsed Guinness two years ago.
It’s also the best-selling beer in Belgium.
But while Canadians love his beer, Van de Walle wants them to learn Stella’s Nine-Step Pouring Ritual while he’s here this week.
Oh, Paul, please! How hard can it be to serve a Stella? Grab a glass, put it back, choose another one, pour the frickin’ beer, whistle OK Blue Jays, hand it to someone. Wait, that’s six. Er, drink it?
Why nine, Paul? “It’s all about how to pour the perfect Stella Artois.”
Cue the choir of angels:
The Purification: Get a clean chalice. It should be cleaned with a non-fat-based detergent, then rinsed with cold water.
The Sacrifice: “The first drop (3-4 ml) that comes out of the mouth of the tap, we sacrifice. We don’t know exactly the quality of the foam. We have to leave it to the drain.”
The Liquid Alchemy: Hold the chalice at a 45-degree angle, “and the beer begins to circulate and it creates a liquid alchemy.”
The Crown: A foamy head begins to form, as the chalice is straightened and lowered.
The Removal: The tap is closed quickly as the glass is pulled away — so no oxidized drops fall in — in one smooth motion.
The Beheading: “The glass is full. We take the glass and foam cutter, and cut at an angle of 45 degrees away from you. If you don’t cut the foam away, it will enhance the degradation of the head. It will fall. The bigger bubbles are exploding very easily, and it will form not a very beautiful crown.”
The Judgment: “We’ll judge the pint to have two fingers, 3 centimetres, of foam, very creamy foam which protects the liquid to present the flavours.”
The Cleansing: Clean bottom and outside of glass.
The Bestowal: Serve on a coaster, accompanied by a paper drip catcher at its base, “with the brand facing the eyes of the consumer. This is the identity of the beer.”
Oh, those Belgians. More on Stella next week.
nine steps of Stella
Chicken Braised in Stella Artois(Serves 4-6)
1 roasting chicken, cut into pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
20 small café mushrooms; cleaned, trimmed & quartered
1 tsp sugar
1 clove of garlic finely minced
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in. chunks
2 cups Stella Artois
1 cup beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme, plus a few fresh sprigs for your presentation
1 bouquet garni of bay leaf and sprigs of parsley tied together
1/4 cup 35% cream
1 tbsp finely minced parsley for garnish
Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.
Heat oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan, sauté the chicken until golden brown on all sides. Pre-heat your oven to 425 F. Add sautéed chicken pieces and let them roast for a half-hour.
Prepare your vegetables. In a large non-stick frying pan, cook your onions and mushrooms.
Once they begin to brown slightly, about 5 minutes, sprinkle with sugar and then add the minced garlic, shaking the pan to mix the sautéed vegetables.
Add carrots. Sprinkle flour over sautéed vegetables and stir with a wooden spoon to coat them, mixing well. Add the beer and stock, and simmer, stirring and scraping the pan to emulsify the pan juices with the beer into a sauce.
Now add the chicken pieces, thyme and bouquet garni. Cover pan. Simmer over low heat until chicken is completely cooked and tender (about 25 minutes).
Discard the bouquet garni. Remove the chicken to a warmed serving dish. Stir the cream into the sauce. Raise the heat under the saucepan and simmer the sauce until reduced by one-third, or until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Serve the chicken with the sauce and vegetables, topped with a sprinkling of fresh thyme.
Mussels and frites
1/3 bottle (100 ml) Stella Artois
1 kg mussels (enough for one person)
1 leek (roughly chopped)
1 stick green celery (roughly chopped)
1 large finely diced onion
a sprig of thyme
a bay leaf
serve with French fries
Mussels are the oysters of the smart poor man. In Belgium, unlike oysters, live mussels are available just about everywhere. In calm conditions, live mussels will open their shells: the seawater flows through them and the gills filter out the nutritious particles. Mussels that are planted on the seabed can therefore contain quite a lot of sand. That is why they are kept in a rinsing station in fresh seawater for a few weeks before going on sale: to get rid of the sand.
If you tap on the shells they should close immediately. This static closing pressure can be as high as 12 kg per-square-cm in oysters, which explains why you have to exert so much force to wrench them open. If they are heated, however, mussels should open spontaneously, as the adductor muscle loses its strength. Dispose of mussels whose shells do not open.
Per kg of mussels, use a leek and a stick of green celery (both roughly chopped), a large, finely diced onion and some parsley. Fry the vegetables in the mussel pan with a little butter, a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. Pour in 1/3 bottle of Stella Artois (100 ml) and simmer until the vegetables are "al dente" and the alcohol has evaporated. The mussels should be washed thoroughly and scrubbed under running water to remove any grey encrustations. Take each mussel between your thumb and forefinger and exert a little sideways pressure. Suspect mussels will then open easily and must be removed because they detract from the flavour of the dish. Any mussels that stay open (dead mussels) must be picked out as well. Add the mussels to the pan. Cover with a lid and leave for two minutes, then give the pan a good shake and put it back on the heat until the mussels are all open, at which point they are done.
Mussels are in fact prepared live; only then does the fresh salty sea taste come into its own. Cooked mussels should never be reheated as this makes them go rubbery. They may, however, be quickly fried. (Note: The strained liquid in which the mussels have been cooked is an excellent source of salt for fish recipes.)
The mussels are served with French fries (a.k.a. "frites" in Belgium). The rather fatty taste of the fries is easily countered by a pilsner beer such as the very drinkable Stella Artois. If the mussels are served with brown bread instead of fries, Hoegaarden would complement the subtle flavour of the sea better.