There was a time when the idea of drinking any beer under 5% ABV was simply unthinkable. It was a time when you would think nothing of sinking eight pints of Stella, during its 5.2% heyday, partying till 3am, and then getting up for work the next morning. Indeed, those were the good times – the days when you and your mates were invincible, and could take on the world and come up smiling in the morning. Those days are, however, gone. Now it’s all about the low ABV beers.
But fear ye not, for this is a good thing. Partying till 3am in a loud, filthy club is not all that much fun; even less so when the night ends with you flagging down a taxi while your vomit-stained best mate hides behind a wall*. And yes, you would get up for work after a heavy night, but you never felt exactly great – and now you have a much better job, with bigger responsibilities than feeling like utter shit behind the Virgin Megastore games counter**.
Of course, beer has changed too. It’s more interesting and varied than ever before, meaning you can still enjoy a decent pint without scaling the headache-inducing heights of the past.
The brewing industry has been through a revolution this past decade. There is an incredible amount of variety for drinkers now, including the lower strength beverages. Whereas ABV was once linked directly to flavour, this is no longer the case. Brewers have become much more inventive in their use of hops and techniques to create low ABV beers that still deliver a proper flavour hit. This is great news to us more mature drinkers, as it means we can still enjoy a few pints without ending up face down in the gutter or feeling like a pig shat in our heads in the morning.
Here at Age of Dad, we have picked out our favourite beers that come in at under 4% ABV and still deliver a delicious mouthful of glorious boozy lifeblood. These beers represent a new dawn in the enjoyment of beer, and will revolutionise your drinking from here on in.
* That was me.
** Also me.
Cask ale is no longer the drink of choice for beardy blokes in cardigans who smell a bit like wee. It has come out of the dark ages and brewers are now breathing new life into the market. Traditional brewers have realised that they need to up their game to compete with the craft beer market, and many craft breweries are also putting out superb cask offerings. Drinking cask ale is no longer associated with getting old, and in my view is the connoisseur’s choice when it comes to drinking.
Arbor – Pocket Rocket 3.9%
As the name suggests this American style pale ale from Bristol brewery Arbor is bursting with hoppy goodness. This light ale is probably my favourite example of a low ABV ale that still has the complexity of a much stronger ale. Grassy, fruity with bitter hop finish, this is a superb ale that never lets you down.
Magic Rock – Ring Master 3.9%
Ringmaster is another American style pale ale but this time courtesy of Huddersfield-based brewery Magic Rock. This is their flagship pale, which bursts with citrus notes with an underlying malty character. This session beer is a winner any time of day and has everything you would want from a classic American pale.
Salopian – Shropshire Gold 3.8%
This quintessential English bitter is the sort of beer that would keep your Granddad happy. From Shropshire’s finest brewers Salopian, this well rounded biscuity ale is rife with malty notes and a touch of bitter hops. This is a traditional bitter but far removed from that tasteless crap your uncle used to bring round in the Eighties.
When craft beer exploded in the UK it seemed that there was going to be a constant drive to create mind numbingly powerful beers that could fell even the most seasoned drinker. Double IPAs and Imperial stouts are still popular, reaching ABVs in the double figures, but many brewers are now looking at the other end of the market. Creating a beer with a low ABV that still tastes great is a much more difficult task, and it is one that these brewers are relishing.
Siren – Half Mast 2.8%
Quite how Wokingham-based brewery Siren pack so much into this 2.8% IPA is beyond me. They have succeeded where many of their counterparts have failed in creating a low alcohol IPA that still has all those tropical, bitter and biscuit notes that we have come to expect. The flag may be at half mast, but it is rippling with pride in the low ABV stakes.
Wiper and True – Small Beer 2.5%
Bristol-based Wiper and True are known for creating some exceptional beers that push the boundaries in terms of strength and flavour. Their aptly named Small Beer, is an ongoing project to create a low strength IPA that stays true to their reputation as one of the UK’s best brewers. This golden IPA is packed with citrus, pineapple and mandarin notes, with a genuine mouth feel and gentle bitterness in the finish.
Weird Beard – Little Things That Kill 3.9%
London brewery Weird Beard are known for their exotically flavoured beers and seriously powerful dark beers. Given their skills at creating strong beers it comes as no surprise that they can also brew a superb low ABV beer that still delivers on flavour. Little Things That Kill is a beer that constantly changes with each brew, but maintains the same malt profile and great taste. Eminently quaffable and consistently delicious, Little Things That Kill is a quality craft beer from a top UK brewer.
If you move away from the traditional ales and IPA driven craft beers you can find some really interesting beers with a lower ABV. Sours, lambics and wheat beers are some of the oldest and most traditional styles of beer around. Drinking these will not only make you look like a knowledgeable beer expert, but also keep you feeling fresh come the morning.
Lindemens – Kriek – 3.5%
This Belgian sour cherry beer has been around forever and shows no signs of disappearing. Brewed using age old lambic brewing techniques, which rely on wild yeasts in the atmosphere to ferment the beer, this is as authentic as it gets. It generally comes in a small bottle and, if you’re in a decent bar, its own special glass, making it quite the talking point. A great example of this style of beer and a lovely tipple indeed.
Wild Beer Company – Sleeping Lemons 3.6%
Sour beers are back with a bang thanks to the craft beer movement, and for fans of this genre that is a good thing. I am not a huge fan, but in Bristol-based Wild Beers, Sleeping Lemons, I have found one I can get on with. The brewers preserve lemons over the winter for this German-style gose beer, which utilises coriander and salt to deliver a refreshing beer that also partners very well with food. I am a big fan of Wild Beer and in this beer they have created a fantastic example of a once forgotten beer style.
Dupont – Avril 3.5%
We all know, and love, Belgian beers for their absurdly delicious and powerful double and triple monastic brews. These superhero strength beers have a legendary status with UK drinkers, and any boozer worth his salt will have visited Belgium just for the beer. As it turns out, they can bang out a pretty decent low strength beer as well. Belgian brewery Dupont, have managed to pack all the qualities of a Belgian saison in to a 3.5% package. Referred to as table beer in its native land, this straw coloured and citrus enhanced delight has all the yeasty notes you know from Belgian beers, but without a leg-wobbling double figure ABV.