How Low Can You Go?

Global brewery giant AB InBev have announced that they are to cut the alcoholic strength of their three main brands from 5% to 4.8%. This reduction of Becks, Budweiser, and Stella Artois may mean little to the likes of you or me, but can be seen as indicative of current drink trends.

Certainly that is the official AB stance; that it is merely reacting to current UK trends and that “most drinkers won’t bat an eyelid as long as the 4.8% brews deliver on taste”. Quite possibly, but there is another explanation. According to industry sources, AB were pushing for yet another price rise-something the big retailers weren’t happy with. This left AB little choice: if its margins were to be maintained, then ABV had to be cut.

Of course, ABVs have been quietly coming down across the board for some time now. Stella itself was once 5.2%-it still is abroad-and I’m sure the estimated duty saving of £8.6m on its new lower strength version will put a smile on some AB executive’s face.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the taxation spectrum, there has been an explosion in the number of 2.8% (or even weaker) beers as brewers look to take advantage of the 50% duty cut. The All Party Parliamentary Beer Group in the Houses of Parliament recently held a tasting of some of these for the delectation of MPs and Lords.
ABInBev: Rolling Rock 2.8%
Becks Blue, 0.05%
Carlsberg UK: SKOL 2.8%
Molson Coors UK: C2 2%
Adnams Brewery: Sole Star 2.7%
Brentwood Brewing BBC2 2.5%
Brodie’s Brewery Summer Stout 2.8%
Everards Brewery: Southgate 2.7%
Greene King Tolly English Ale 2.8%
Guinness: Mid Strength 2.8%
Harvey’s Brewery: Sweet Sussex Stout 2.8%
Harvey’s Bloomsbury Brown 2.8%
Hop Back Heracles 2.8%
J W Lees Brewery: Hero 2.8%
Marston’s Brewery: Marston’s Pale Ale, 2.8%
Marston’s Alcoholic Ale Shandy 2.8%ABV
Mann’s Brown Ale (Marston’s) 2.8%ABV
S A Brains Brewery: Founders Brew, 2.8%
Welton’s Brewery Pride & Joy 2.8%

I can’t say I’ve tried any of these and look forward to sampling them. But judging by my experiences so far with very low alcohol beers, I don’t hold out much hope. However, the way things are going, it may not be too long before you are popping into your local and asking for “A pint of pisswater, please.”


Curmudgeon said…
As well as saving duty, it also has the added bonus of appeasing the anti-drink lobby.

How long before there's a further cut to 4.5%?
Neville Grundy said…
I tried Tolly English Ale (2.8%), a Greene King beer, and found the flavour provided by the hops could not disguise the thinness of the beer. It was, however, only £1.29 a pint.
Frothy said…
As an experienced brewer I worry for the shelf life of proper real Ales being served at 2.8%. Its all very well for pasteurised commercial beers but REAL ale will loose a lot from the preservative properties of the alcohol. Matt
Chap said…
Ray Welton's Pride & Joy won't let you down, tastewise ...
Chap said…
Agree about the motivation behind InBev's move. As far as the low alcohol beers go, Ray Welton's Pride & Joy has been a boon to Sussex drinkers who want to enjoy the pub but have to drive home afterwards, and it won't let you down, tastewise (for a time). Some of the Bamberg alcohol-free beers also taste OK for a time. But the only real reason for drinking these beers is circumstances.
Tandleman said…
This article is rubbish. You have missed out JW Lees Golden Lite.

How could you?
Tyson said…
Although I'm obviously a huge fan of Golden Lite, it isn't in the list as it wasn't at the parliamentary tasting.
Anonymous said…
JWLees have been selling pisswater for years.

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