Stella Artois is a classic Belgian pilsner that was first brewed in 1926. With its crisp, clean taste and smooth finish, it has become one of the most popular beers worldwide. For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, an important question is whether Stella Artois is safe to drink. This article will examine if all Stella Artois beer is gluten-free.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and other related grains. For most people, gluten does not cause any issues. However, for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, headaches and more. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.
For a product to be considered gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This very low threshold helps prevent issues for sensitive individuals. Anything labeled gluten-free must meet this standard.
Gluten content in beer
Beer is traditionally brewed from barley malt, water, hops and yeast. Because barley contains gluten, standard beers are not gluten-free. During the brewing process, the gluten from the barley flows into the beer.
However, there are some specialty gluten-removed and gluten-free beers that have been modified to remove or avoid using gluten ingredients. Gluten-removed beers start with traditional barley malt, but use a process to remove most of the gluten protein after brewing. Gluten-free beers substitute grains like sorghum, rice or corn for the barley malt.
So whether a specific beer contains gluten depends on if a gluten-containing grain was used in production and if any special methods were utilized to remove or reduce the gluten content.
Is Stella Artois gluten-free?
Stella Artois is brewed by Anheuser-Busch InBev. On their websites and in customer communications, they clearly state that Stella Artois contains gluten and is not considered gluten-free.
Here are some direct quotes from Anheuser-Busch InBev on the gluten content of Stella Artois:
“Our flagship brands, including Stella Artois, are brewed with malted barley and sometimes wheat or other gluten-containing grains. These products do not meet the definition of gluten-free and are not recommended for people with Celiac disease.”
“Stella Artois contains gluten. It is brewed using malted barley and hops and is not considered gluten-free. As Stella Artois does not meet the definition of being gluten-free, I would not recommend this product to anyone with Celiac disease.”
So while many people with gluten issues may have tried Stella Artois without any obvious symptoms, the company is very clear that standard Stella Artois contains gluten and does not meet the requirements to be labeled gluten-free.
Testing for gluten in Stella Artois
While Anheuser-Busch InBev states that Stella Artois contains gluten, some skeptics have sent cans and bottles of Stella Artois out for independent lab testing to measure the exact gluten content.
The results confirm the company’s statements. Independent tests show that Stella Artois contains between 13 – 30 ppm of gluten. Remember, anything under 20 ppm can be labeled gluten-free.
Here are the results of some third-party gluten tests on Stella Artois:
– Testing by GlutenTox Home in 2018 found Stella Artois to contain 30 ppm of gluten.
– Analysis by Vimta Labs in 2016 showed 18 ppm of gluten in Stella Artois.
– Lab results from Pace Analytical Services in 2020 detected 13.41 ppm of gluten in Stella Artois beer.
So while the level of gluten may vary slightly between batches, all evidence indicates that Stella Artois does contain gluten, above the allowed 20 ppm maximum for gluten-free labeling.
Could cross-contamination be an issue?
Some people suspect they react to Stella Artois due to cross-contamination of gluten during the brewing process. However, this is very unlikely. Stella Artois has very strict allergen controls in place during production and packaging.
Here is their statement on risk of cross-contamination:
“Anheuser-Busch has implemented stringent equipment and product handling procedures as well as employee training programs in order to avoid potential cross-contamination with allergic ingredients during the receipt, handling, processing, packaging and labeling processes.”
With robust procedures to avoid cross-contact with allergens, it is improbable that sporadic contamination accounts for detectable gluten in Stella Artois or reported reactions in sensitive individuals. The gluten that testing has consistently detected is most likely from the intentional use of barley malt in the standard brewing process.
Specialty gluten-free beers from Anheuser-Busch
Although standard Stella Artois contains gluten, Anheuser-Busch does brew some specialty gluten-free beers:
– Redbridge was introduced in 2006 and is brewed with sorghum for a gluten-free alternative.
– B-Free is another sorghum-based gluten-free beer launched in 2022.
So people who wish to enjoy the refreshment of a Belgian pilsner without gluten do have some options from brewers like Anheuser-Busch. Gluten-free beers use ingredients that will not aggravate celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
4 other gluten-free beer brands
In addition to Redbridge and B-Free from Anheuser-Busch, here are 4 other recommended gluten-free beer brands:
|Glutenberg||Barley, corn, buckwheat, millet|
|GhostFish Brewing||Millet, rice, buckwheat, tapioca|
|New Planet Beer||Brown rice, millet, buckwheat|
|Omission Beer||Malted barley, hops|
These brewers utilize gluten-free grains or a proprietary process to produce high-quality craft beers safe for gluten issues. There are lots of tasty options for those avoiding gluten.
Symptoms from gluten cross-reactivity
There is another possibility if you have reactions when drinking Stella Artois or other beers containing gluten. Some individuals experience what is called cross-reactivity between gluten and certain beer proteins found in barley, rye and wheat.
These non-gluten proteins can trigger symptoms or immune responses similar to gluten in sensitive people. So you may test negative for celiac disease or wheat allergy, but still have issues when consuming beer due to cross-reactivity with grain proteins. Going fully gluten-free is recommended in this situation.
What about Omission beer?
You may come across Omission beer during your search for gluten-free options. Omission is brewed from traditional barley malt, but uses an enzymatic process to break down glutens.
Testing shows Omission beers contain between 6 – 20 ppm of gluten, meeting the requirements for gluten-free labeling. However, some organizations still do not recommend Omission for people with celiac disease due to ongoing concerns over the gluten testing methods.
Talk to your doctor if you are considering Omission beer, as opinions are mixed on its suitability if you are highly sensitive. For maximum caution, choosing a beer made from gluten-free grains may be preferable over one produced from barley malt.
Other questions about Stella Artois and gluten
Here are answers to some other common questions about whether any Stella Artois products are gluten-free:
Is Stella Artois gluten-free in Europe?
No, standard Stella Artois sold in Europe contains malted barley and is not gluten-free. There is no difference in gluten content between Stella Artois brewed in Europe vs North America.
Does Stella Artois have gluten in the United States?
Yes, Stella Artois sold in the U.S. is brewed with barley malt containing gluten. Stella Artois is not gluten-free anywhere in the world.
Is there gluten in Stella Artois Cidre?
Yes, Stella Artois Cidre contains gluten. While cider is often made from apples or other fruit, Stella Artois Cidre uses barley malt as an ingredient and is not considered gluten-free.
Is gluten-free Stella Artois available?
No, Anheuser-Busch InBev does not currently brew any variety of Stella Artois that is gluten-free. Redbridge or B-Free are their two gluten-free beer options, not under the Stella Artois brand.
The bottom line
Based on ingredient information from the manufacturer and third-party lab testing, standard Stella Artois beer contains gluten and is not gluten-free. Anheuser-Busch has strict allergen control procedures during production to prevent cross-contamination.
People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should avoid conventional Stella Artois and opt for a certified gluten-free beer. While reactions can occur due to cross-reactivity between barley and gluten, Stella Artois unquestionably contains gluten well above the 20 ppm limit to be considered gluten-free.
If you enjoy the light, crisp Belgian pilsner taste, there are brewers that make delicious gluten-free alternatives you can safely enjoy. Going gluten-free does not mean having to sacrifice great beer. With some research, those avoiding gluten can find plenty of options to raise a glass.