Author: Malin Norman
Pictures: Big Drop Brewing
Consumption of low-alcohol and alcohol-free beer is growing faster than other beer categories in the UK as well as several other European countries. But less alcohol does not necessarily mean a compromise in flavour; there are some pretty amazing alternatives out there.
Consumers are embracing healthier living and there is an explosion in popularity of low-alcohol and alcohol-free alternatives as a way to drink more responsibly. According to a recent survey by YouGov in the UK, 24% of British drinkers have switched to low alcohol alternatives or would consider doing so. Also, as per Nielsen research, sales of alcohol-free beer grew by an impressive 37% during 2018.
Some of the established breweries have picked up the trend and recent releases include for example Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol (0.5%) and St Peter’s Without® Gold (0.0%). Amongst the smaller craft breweries, this trio provides some exciting options in their line-ups:
Established in 2017, East London-based Nirvana Brewery is one of the UK’s first to specialise in alcohol-free beers. From familiar styles such as stout, IPA and pale ale to more experimental brews including the world’s first kombucha beer, there is something for everyone. One of its praised beers is Kosmic Stout (0.0%), a dark and rich stout with chocolate and hints of vanilla. This beer is also vegan and gluten-free.
Award-winning Big Drop Brewing in Ipswich is also dedicated to creating great alcohol-free beer. Two of its hits include the rich and indulgent Stout (<0.5%) with notes of coffee, cocoa nibs and sweet vanilla, which won Silver at the World Beer Awards and Gold at the International Beer Challenge, and the Pale Ale, a dry-hopped and refreshing pale ale with pine and honey, the overall Style Winner at the World Beer Awards.
Last but not least, Small Beer Brew Co, also based in London, specialises in the production of so called small beer, great tasting beer at a lower ABV. Small beer was a staple of British daily life in the 1700s, when drinking water could be fatal, and traditionally brewed between 0.5 and 2.8% ABV. Try for instance Small Beer Dark Lager (1.0%), which offers a balance of rich coffee, chocolate and toast – refreshingly different and a guiltless pleasure.
Other European countries have had a similarly strong growth in the segment alcohol-free beer. According to data from the Danish Brewers’ Association, the country saw an increase in sales with 31.6% in 2018. For iconic Danish brewery Mikkeller, sales of no-alcohol beer actually doubled last year. Its best seller in the segment is Drink’in The Sun (0.3%), an American Pale-style wheat beer with herb and peach aromas. New release Henry and his Science (0.3%) is the first beer in a series of a new style of alcohol-free beers called Flemish Primitive. The beer is brewed with Mikkeller’s own yeast strain, giving it a delicious passion fruit aroma.
But there are plenty more tasty thirst-quenchers out there. Go explore the low ABV world!