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The Fall of ABV

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a rise in low percenters recently. Just a few years ago it was positively unfashionable to talk about session beers, at least in the way I know them (6% does not a session make), but breweries are coming out with low and zero ABV pints all over the shop. And not just as their token zero percenter either, but as a key part of the range.

Why? Is it because it’s just cheaper to brew? Is it because more traditional UK styles, with typically lower ABVs, are back in fashion? Is it because of – dare I say it – health concerns?

Recently I was contacted by Little Big Beer, which describes itself as ‘the first craft beer that is BIG on taste and LIGHT on alcohol’ – I think this is arguable considering BrewDog’s Nanny State came out in something like 2009, but it peaked my interest nonetheless.

Little big beer 
The founder of Little Big Brewing, Mark Hey, says ‘unlike lager drinkers, real ale drinkers have been thirsting in silence for a lighter choice.’ And at 2% it’s certainly that.
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Their strap line is tailor made for chaps and chappesses who like a clear head. So is that what this is about? Is there a group of consumers out there seeking a great tasting beer without feeling a bit wobbly afterwards? Isn’t the wobbliness part of the joy of beer?
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Nirvana brewery, who set up shop just this year, are the only UK brewery dedicated to brewing low alcohol beers – in fact, their highest ABV is just 0.7% (an IPA would you believe). They were inspired to brew by friends who had recently become parents, had given up alcohol during pregnancy and were unimpressed by the selection of alcohol free beer available to them.
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During their research they discovered that there was a growing demand for low alcohol due to health reasons, but also just for a beer that people could drink during the day which didn’t result in them getting smashed and waking up feeling like they’d been hit by a bus. “We’re not telling folk not to drink beer as we love beer” they told me, “we’re just an option for those who want it.”

And then, just as I’m thinking this could be A Thing, What’s Brewing pops through my letterbox and I read the following letter from Nick Blackburn:

A few days after returning from the Bournemouth AGM, I suffered a small stroke which, fortunately, left me largely undamaged.

 

I am now advised to take no more than one drink per day. This has led to a sudden interest in low alcohol beer and a wish to promote its availability.

 

Although it is initially counter-intuitive (who in their right mind would drink that?), there is a case to be made for brewing decent weak beer and making it available in pubs, notably for anyone who is intending to drive and, of course, for those like me who are under doctors’ orders.

 

CAMRA sought ‘a reduction in duty on beers between 2.9% and 3.5% ABV as it would encourage responsible drinking’. Has CAMRA ever taken a view on promoting beers of 0.5-1%?

You can read the full letter on Nick’s blog – Low Alcohell, where he also has ambitious plans to ‘find decent low alcohol beer…and persuade CAMRA to support and encourage the brewing of it.’ 

I have to say I’m really coming round to the idea of incorporating 0% beers (taste permitting) into my life. After all I’ll often have a 3.5% mild or, when I can get my hands on it, a lovely 2.5% Schofferhofer Grapefruit (okay okay it tastes nothing like beer I know). I love beer so the idea that I could try many in one session without falling asleep on the Central line, or enjoying a quiet one on the sofa on a school night without the associated guilt (or hangover) is appealing to me. That said, it’s great that we have the choice now, and if that choice tastes just as good as the ‘real thing’ then we shouldn’t need to find reasons to drink it.

Still, you might see me a bit wobbly now and then.

2 thoughts on “The Fall of ABV”

  1. I think there’s definite mileage in low-ABV beers if they can be made to taste great. My general drinking ethos is “a little, fairly often”, so I’m often having the odd one mid-week and reducing its effect would be very welcome.
    Agreed – occasional wobbly is great but most of the time I could really do without any the side-effects!

    Liked by 1 person

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