Sunday, 1 April 2012

Imaginary 2.8% beers


    back in January I noted a beer tasting session in Parliament for MP's to sample some of the 'brave new world' of exciting lower strength beers.

It didn't seem that strange - after all, it was obvious that the punitive HSBD fiasco would frighten a few brewers (and likely many more punters) off strong beer and that the ever so begrudging reward of a duty cut on very low strength beers would spurr some brewers into brewing said products. No-one seemed very sure or willing to provide evidence of the level of this impact though.

Much was made of the innovations that the great magnanimous brewing family had utilised to create a whole range of exciting new beers at 2.8% or below. The scene was set to see what this new breed of ale was about, and, best of all, to make an informed judgement about whether the brewers claims held any credibility.

Well, its April now, and even though lower strength beers may be aimed squarely at a "Summer" market (don't forget we just had it!) it would surely be the case that Brewers were already rolling out their new array of ultra weak ales, which they had since well before the duty imposition in October to create.

I am not saying that no such beers have evolved in that time - as clearly shown by the Beer Today blog I linked at the time, there were quite a few beers from a number of (albeit mainly larger brewers) offered for sale. Yet, I haven#t seen any. And interestingly, there hasn't exactly been any response, commercial or publicity wise, from brewers that, erm, well, you kind of like and respect. Thornbridge dallied with a series of low gravity beers a few years ago but I got the impression they were just experimental excercises in brewing. BrewDog did nanny state, which was a hugely unpleasant beer, now of course not to be seen in cask form.

But that's it.

Good, innovative and respected micro's like Magic Rock, Summer Wine Brewery, Brodies beers, Hawkshead, Ilkley, Dark Star and Red Willow have all done lower gravity beers, but all around the kind of acceptable established cut off point of 3.5%. This weekend I had a bottle of the Ilkley Mary Jane at that strength - it was very nice, but as with all such offerings, I found myself wooed principally by the flavours that I hadn't expected, in a beer that I attributed the oft used description "impressive for its strength".

So, one wonders,  where are these amazing new beers? I have seen one 2.8% beer. It was rubbish. I would desperately like to try a few and roll my beer drinkers palate over them all to pick out the flavours and characteristics present in such a beer but I have never seen one other than that I tried once in the Shakespeare.

Maybe I only drink in pubs that sell exclusively micro brewery output, and the weak beers are all made by nationals and mega regionals - perhaps because I buy almost all my bottled beer from Asda, who never change thier beer range more than once a year I am missing out on the bottled 2.8% offerings?

Whatever the explanation though, I stilll haven't seen any.

Which suggests there is a very real chance that the Government will oversee a minimum pricing policy that will do nothing to improve the plight of the British pub, further tax hikes that see us the most punished drinkers in Europe, a nonsensical tax hike on stronger and usually more interesting brews that punishes those with an interest in aged or imperial/export beer styles, and has offset this dire situation with an idiotic plan to reward brewers that make beers that no-one makes, no-one drinks and seemingly, no-one can find!

Has anyone seen a 2.8% or lower real ale, anywhere? And if so, what was it like? Please let me know what you thought - lets see if we have just transferred rarely brewed luncheon ales or light ales from dark bottle shelves to cask, or whether as predicted by CAMRA, and the mega brewers, sub 2.8 really is the way forward...

Wee Beefy.


  1. Tesco have a range in bottles. There's a few, though they are no cheaper than the full strength stuff. It is in the same section as the alcohol free stuff.

  2. I tried a few of the bottled ones here, but wasn't too impressed. Head retention seems to be a major problem.

    I have also seen Caledonian 2.8 in a pub on cask, but didn't try it.

  3. Thanks both, interesting to note that Tesco have put the lower gravity beer with the alcohol free stuff - I think therein lies an explanation for my not seeing it.

    Am due a few supermarket trips this month mainly looking for stronger stuff but would buy some 2.8 beer if spotted. Am also hoping to get to some new or rarely visited pubs so maybe this will finally lead me to the weak stuff....

  4. I think most micro brewers dont make this low strength beer firstly beause their is little call for it at this moment in time. Secondly, although all the flavour is not in the strength it amplifies what the beer has already like a well season meal.

  5. the important thing to note is that you can't combine low strength duty with progressive duty. so if you're smaller than 60,000 hectolitres a year (no idea what that is in barrels, but quite a lot), you get no benefit from brewing low strength beer. so for all but the regionals it's purely a matter of supply and demand

    that said, we're doing a 2.5%ish 'red half IPA' this summer, just for the hell of it... (return leg of the 'collaboration of insanity' with Arbor)

  6. Hello Mr Unpronouncable. Loved your Dxcvl1 beer (soz, can't recall name, but it was fantastic as you know). Like your explanation, essentally you reckon there is no incentive for what I usually consider better brewers to bother with the watery stuff.

    The question is, in a years time, will the regionals?

  7. DCLXVI - 666 in Roman numerals! (and the name of a fine album...)

    yep, no incentive for 90% of brewers to do low gravity, unless they're lunatics like us who do it for the hell of it!

    1. I sense this may be a subtle nudge towards an imminent release (as per last comment). Please don't release any new beers until 30th April, when I get paid, and can afford to pop down the Rutland...

    2. And perhaps brewing kit scale plays a part? I reckon your H.R kit is ideal for shall we say more "experimental" brews, whereas most regionals and larger independents go through rigorous market testing or simply brew too much in one go to dabble. Greedy King, Everards, Adnams, Marstons and Wells Youngs will push the sub 2.8% ales no doubt. Good luck wi that....