While our chums across the Atlantic grapple with the idea of tasty beer at less than 5% ABV, British brewers, it seems, are pushing even further downward, seeking to create exciting beers that nonetheless gesture towards ‘low alcohol’.
There is, it seems, a magic 3% boundary below which it’s hard to make a satisfying pint. We’ve had a couple of crackers, from Brentwood and Harvey’s, but, in bottles at least, c.2.8% beers rarely seem to work. Just above the line, however, we found Brodie’s Citra (3.1%) and Redemption Trinity (3%) to be not only passable but very, very good indeed. We’re also very interested in Simpleton, Magic Rock’s entry into a market they’ve called ‘session IPA’.
It’s a market driven, we think, by consumer demand. For our own part, we like drinking pints, and we like the pub, but we’re terrible lightweights, so beers like this, or 20th century style milds, are perfect. It also makes a lot of sense in a world where ‘craft beer bars’ are banding draught beer prices by ABV: if your beer is the cheapest on offer, while still presenting ‘craft’ credentials, you’ll sell a lot of it.
What’s also interesting to us is that the 3% line was pretty much the line in the sand for the CAMRA campaign in its earliest days: most big brewery bitters were c.3.5% and getting weaker each year, leading to several consumer investigations and outraged newspaper articles. Were Watney et al sweating the details to make sure those weaker beers were satisfying? Probably not. Once again, something that is a problem in a near-monopoly isn’t so much of an issue in a more diverse market.