I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I just learned that Avril Maxwell of New Zealand won the 2009 Stella Artois World Draught Master competition, which was held in New York on October 29. She beat representatives from 25 other countries in what might be the most harrowing bartenders’ competition in the world. It’s a promotion for Stella Artois that fixates on the brand’s nine-step pouring ritual. If you want to practice at home, you’ll need a pressurized keg with a proper tap. The steps go like this:
1. “The Purification.” Clean and rinse the glass.
2. “The Sacrifice.” Open and close the tap quickly to clear the line.
3. “Liquid Alchemy.” Place the glass under (not against) the tap at a 45 degree angle and begin the pour.
4. The Head.” Lower the glass to allow the perfect head to form.
5. “The Removal.” Close the tap quickly and move the glass without letting any beer drip.
6. “The Beheading.” Smooth off excess foam with a head cutter.
7. “The Judgment.” The proper head should be about two fingers.
8. “The Cleansing.” Clean the bottom and sides of the glass.
9. “The Bestowal.” Present the beer on the proper coaster with the logo facing the drinker.
I had the pleasure of watching (and cheering) the 2008 competition held in Leuven, Belgium, where Stella is brewed. A pass to the competition requires an invitation, but anyone can visit the brewery Monday-Friday and taste the freshest Stella you’ll ever encounter. The beer is impeccable. I’m still trying to decide if the pouring ritual makes it even better. If nothing else, my thirst keeps building as the bartender pours. Despite the brand’s best efforts, though, it’s hard to find a proper Stella pour in most bars I frequent.
And, to be honest, I’m even fonder of a sister brewery in Inbev’s Belgian portfolio, Hoegaarden. Like Stella Artois, it is distributed in the U.S. by Anheuser-Busch (another Inbev line). While the Stella brewery is a large industrial complex, Hoegaarden’s ‘t Wit Gebrouw brewery is small and colorful—and has a great restaurant/pub attached: Brasserie Kouterhof.