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Out of the darkness: The resurgence of the low ABV beer

Out of the darkness: The resurgence of the low ABV beer

The eighties must have been dark times for the epicure.

A Chicken Kiev matched with with a glass of Gallo Chardonnay was about as good as it got, and if gnawing on a slab of intensively battery-farmed meat, stuffed with can only be described as garlic chunder, covered in breadcrumbs all washed down with a weirdly sweet, but also astringent vanilla syrup was enough to make you avoid alcohol altogether then what were you left with? Kaliber. It is no wonder the adults of that generation seem to look upon drink driving legislation as optional and they say we have it bad now.

Making an alcohol free or low alcohol version of a drink that is by definition alcoholic may sound like a waste of everybody's time and there are plenty of examples post-Kaliber which can emphatically prove such an argument. However, one thing that the craft beer revolution has surprisingly seen grow in its wake is the quality of such drinks.

Some of the techniques to produce such drinks are modern and often sophisticated; reverse osmosis being used to remove the alcohol from a finished beer or using vacuum distillation to remove alcohols whilst affecting flavour as little as possible are some seriously clever solutions. Some are more traditional. The concept of a 'small beer' can be traced back to the days of Shakespeare when a strong beer would have been made to satisfy the wealthy and the remaining sugars left in the grain bed recycled to produce a second batch of far weaker beer that was palmed off on the poor. There are other methods too, involving the use of low fermentable grains and ajucunts, or yeasts with low attenuation that convert little of the available sugars in a beer into alcohol.

But do they taste any good?

Ever since the ubiquitous Brew Dog hit the high street shelves with their hoppy, low ABV Nanny State it seems there have been more and more releases of some excellent low ABV brews. Here are a few for the craft beer fan to enjoy when the sea of double IPA's gets too stormy.


Big Drop Stout 0.5% ABV

Big drop Brewery in Ipswich is blazing a trail with their range of low ABV brews. Of particular note is the stout, a style which seems to lend itself well to this style of beer, with it roasted barley notes, and espresso coffee interwoven with creamy chocolate notes. They actually use lactose for body and cocoa nibs for aroma.


Big Drop Citra Pale 0.5% ABV

Big aroma, apricot jam, lychee with a fine malty backbone. Good body and a clever bitterness and gives it authenticity.


Jupiler Pils 0.0% ABV (Belgium)

Fresh, clean and gently malty. Could refresh more effectively than any number of lagers that actually do have alcohol in them.



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