Low ABV

Fundamentals #20 – Small Beer

I like alcohol. Or, more pertinently I like the way it makes all the complexities in beer imbued by malt, hops, yeast, water and whatever else interact with my taste buds. The weight with which it presses flavour onto my palate is fundamental to my beer experience. This is why most of my favourite beers are IPAs in the 7% ABV range. This is my wheelhouse in which I will forever turn.

I also like the way alcohol makes me feel – it’s kind of taboo to say such a thing in beer writing, which is a shame. But this is how things are. Of course, I recommend drinking in moderation and always within your limits. But I also think it’s nice to occasionally get a three-pint buzz on. Responsibly. Always responsibly.

Of course, not everyone enjoys getting a light buzz on and there are situations where a lower alcohol alternative might be preferable for example a working lunch, or a prospective evening of operating heavy machinery. People are also being a great deal more mindful regarding their alcohol intake these days.

As a result, we’re witnessing an increase in the number of low or alcohol-free beer alternatives hit the market. Amongst these are breweries that are concentrating solely on producing lower alcohol alternatives.

The problem, however, with most no or low alcohol beers, is that they’re a bit shit. Too often I find them to be thin, insipid and lifeless interpretations of proper beer, which is why today’s beers from new London outfit Small Beer – based in London’s beating beer heart of Bermondsey – took me somewhat by surprise.

The Lager, at 2.1% poured with a tantalisingly pleasing amount of foam, giving way to snappy hop and bready malt aromas. Sure, it wasn’t quite as meaty on the palate as a pilsner at 5%, but the flavour was there and I could’ve certainly done with another bottle considering the speed at which I inhaled it. Next up was the Dark Lager at just 1%, which impressed me just as much. Plenty of robust chocolate and roasted coffee notes shored up the lack of body, making for another surprisingly satisfying beer.

I may not personally be quite converted to the trend for lower or zero alcohol beers just yet, but these impressed and I’d certainly recommend them if you’re looking for lower alcohol alternatives.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up some Small Beer in store or online.

HB&B Top Three: Low ABV Beers

Great tasting, alcohol-free beers are - perhaps surprisingly - one of the most common requests at our shop. Luckily we have a great range of no-booze beers that really hit the spot, for all the refreshment and none of the headache. Here are three of the best.

Maisel’s Weisse Hefe-Weissbier Alkoholfrei
Regulars at HB&B might have seen this one lurking in the corner at the back - it’s a constant on our German shelves. Despite never exceeding 0.5% alc/vol, no compromises are made on flavour with this beer from Maisel’s, brewers of great wheat beers. Its rich spice and orange flavours and soft, sweet banana aromas make it a great Bavarian hefe-weisse beer. Click to purchase.

Brewdog Nanny State
The best-selling beer in the shop during #DryJanuary, Nanny State “gives the V's to Abv”. This beer is full to the brim with hops, giving citrusy, piney flavours balanced against a light and bitter body. This pale ale is one for the hop-heads. Click to purchase.

Square Root/Pressure Drop Smallbanger Wit Beer Shandy
Pressure Drop teamed up with London soda-makers Square Root to create this ridiculously tasty Wit Beer Shandy. It takes Pressure Drop’s already fantastic Lime & Ginger Wallbanger Wit and injects Square Root’s fresh soda. The result is so refreshing, we might just give up booze altogether... Click to purchase.

Bonus Beer! Schofferhofer Grapefruit
Coming in at the 2.5% ABV mark, this is obviously not an alcohol-free beer, but it’s so damn good that we thought you ought to know about it, and what’s 2.5% between friends? This incredibly sweet and refreshing brew is made by blending Schofferhoffer Hefeweizen with carbonated grapefruit juice. The perfect beer to accompany the last of the summer sun. Click to purchase.

As selected by HB&B Assistant Manager Catherine Lockhart