Tag Archive: Low Alcohol


Big Drop: Sour (England: Low Alcohol Sour: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow and clear. Some carbonation. Short lived white head.

Nose: Wet cardboard. Lightly sour. Apple juice to cider. Wet rocks. Pears. Mild vinegar. Soft lemon.

Body: Tart and tingling. Soft lychee. Slight chalk. Mild cider. Cardboard. Mild vanilla.

Finish: Lightly bitter and charring. Vanilla. Touch. Lychee. Watery.

Conclusion: Chilled down this is fairly empty. It is lightly tart and tingling but without any real grip to it. It is watery with beer like elements floating within that. However for all it was as let down like this, there are hints of something else – slight cider apple and soft lychee notes – subtle flavours that are overpowered by the mild, but still rougher, chalk and charring notes.

So, with not much else to it, I decided to see if time and some warmth could make a difference then.

Warmth helps develop some body, giving it a slighter thicker touch that brings out soft vanilla and allows the soft lychee notes a bit more grip to work with. It is still a gentle beer, lager like it its dryness, with lightly tart and sour notes over that. Even with the aforementioned chalk and charring notes it is still gentle – no real rough edges here, which I will admit is an odd thing in a sour beer. Usually they are all prickly oddities and harsh but joyous notes.

There are light cider and light vinegar touches that would be harsher elements if they did not feel heavily watered down by the lightness of the rest of the beer. Now they are just slightly more acidic notes while gentle apple and pear notes are delivered over it.

Now warmed up it is reasonable – as mentioned a lightly sour touch over a dry lager feel with gentle tart fruit notes as the flavours. Sour beers are not a common entry in the low alcohol range, so for that I commend it – however recently Mikkeller did their low abv take on “Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse” and that set a new bar for low alcohol sour beers. So, while this is ok, dry, drinkable and refreshing it is not a patch on that low abv wonder.

Had cool this is very weak, with warmth it is ok but unexciting outside of its unusual place in the low alcohol drink range. So, ok, but with a lot of room to grow better.

Background: I tried this a short while ago, picked up from Beercraft, but did not do notes at the time. This time it was grabbed from Independent Spirit. I’ve been digging Big Drop’s low alcohol beers, especially their pale ale, and wanted to see how their sour did and how it has progressed since the first batch. Drunk on an otherwise non drinking night I put on one of Eels live albums – “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” while drinking – nice gentle tunes. Always like The Eels’ live stuff -each tour they play old songs in the style of their most recent album so it feels like a fresh experience each time.

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Thornbridge: Big Easy (England: Low Alcohol Pale Ale: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale lager yellow-gold colour. Small white head. Only a small amount of carbonation.

Nose: Soft pineapple and lychee. Soft kiwi and lime. Moderate hop character and low bitterness. Vanilla. Fresh orange juice.

Body: Chalky. Soft lychee. Fizzy feel. Dry malt character. Moderate hops and bitterness.

Finish: Fizzy. Chalk. Lychee. Moderate hop prickle and charring.

Conclusion: This doesn’t stand chilling down well – a light cooling works ok, but any more than that and it can get a tad rough, empty and temperamental.

Ok, that is jumping in at the end, let’s wind things back a bit. The aroma on this is very nice indeed – soft fruit notes like falling apart lychee and pineapple chunks make up the core with a few gentle green and orange notes around the edges.

Of that the soft lychee is the main element that actually makes it through to the main body, and this brings us back to the start of the notes, as this is where the issue with chilling comes in. A tad too cool and it just feels chalky, fizzy and rough. The gentle flavours seem to need at least a little warmth to give them some grip.

Warmer it still has a rough touch, but it feels more like a hop bite than an off note, which lends a reasonable “beer” feel to this low alcohol drink. So, it is ok, not as good as the rest of the fantastic new wave of low alcohol beers that has come recently, but its gentler take on flavours is interesting. A lot of low alcohol beers go as big and booming as they can to compensate for the lack of abv body. Going for a gentle tart and citrus touched beer with a light hop bite is a commendable goal to go for to make something different.

It is not quite there yet. It is ok when warmer, but I hope they work with this one, as if they can master it, it will be a very welcome entry in the low alcohol range.

Background: Low alcohol time again! Healthy low alcohol drink day. Thankfully low alcohol beers are actually good these days, which makes life so much easier for beer fans like me. I’ve had a few bottles of Thornbridge’s low alcohol take but not really examined it, so after grabbing a few more bottled from Independent Spirit I decided to properly put it under the microscope. Put on The Germs for listening to while drinking – been a while since I’ve pulled out their stripped down, real DIY punk tracks for a listen.

Mikkeller: Henry and His Science #1 (Denmark: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to grain. Medium white head. Small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Wheaty. Fresh. Lime cordial. Soft milk. Slight hop prickle.

Body: Lucozade. Chalk touch. Strawberry. Lemon curd. Fluffy hop middle. Hop oils. Lime cordial. Malt toffee. Golden syrup.

Finish: Lemon hard sweets. Lucozade. Strawberry. Lemon curd. Vanilla toffee.

Conclusion: This is not 100% beer feeling – it is about 50% glucose energy drink and 50% beer. Which is a bloody odd experience let me tell you.

The lucozade energy drink style elements are the first hit – sweet, slightly syrup tasting, though not in texture, and sugary. The citrus notes that make up the more beer side of things come in after, lemon and lime notes – very fresh and backed by very subtle fluffy hop feel and hop oils that are the most direct beer feeling element but very subtle. There is a slight chalk grounding touch but that again is very mild

Like a lot of low abv beers it seems to find it difficult to create that elusive “Beer” texture and taste – but here it feels like the beer leans into that, creating a distinctly different drink that uses the low abv to create something new in the beer arena rather than trying to replicate what came before.

Soft strawberry notes develop over time, along with a recognisable, if subtle, toffee sweet backing. The hops lean tart and fresh in a NZ hop style which helps quench the sweetness and make the beer easy to drink.

As an attempt to replicate other beer styles in a low abv I would have to call this a failure. As an attempt to use low abv to create a beer influenced experience that stands on its own two feet this is lovely. Lots of flavour, lots of tart notes and sweet notes, and all just about recognisable as beer touched if nothing else.

Very easy to drink, tasty, and low abv – I’m happy with that.

Background: Low abv beer time again! Along with Big Drop Brewing, Mikkeller are at the forefront of low abv beers in my opinion. Though I think they have a brewery in the USA now, this is one of their “Gypsy brewing” style ones, still done by contract brewing in other breweries. Anyway, this was a nice one on a night when I didn’t want to kick off anything heavy, but felt like a beer. I’d had it a few times before so had a good idea of what to expect going in. Put on some Mclusky while drinking, love their out there, rough sounding, awesome music. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Mikkeller: Hallo Ich Bin Mikkeller Berliner Weisse – Alkoholfrei (Denmark: Low alcohol Berliner Weisse: 0.1% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to pale lemon body. Small bubbled carbonation and a large mound of sud leaving head.

Nose: Lemon. Very fresh and tart. Nutty. Sour lime. Lightly milky. Tart apples. Slight sour sulphur funk.

Body: Lemon. Strawberry. Acidic apple meets lactose thickness. Lightly acidic in general. Tart grapes. Subtle vanilla toffee.

Finish: Soft vanilla. Apples. Gooseberry. Acidic touch. Mild raspberries. Slight metallic tang. Sprite.

Conclusion: Ok, I don’t know how they did it, but at 0.1% abv Mikkeller has knocked this one right out of the park.

It is a refreshing, lightly acidic and tart beer, and goes down oh so easily. It is slightly thinner in mouthfeel than a full abv sour, but still manages a nice lactose like grip that makes it compare well with much higher abv beers in its grip and ability to deliver the flavour.

The flavour benefits wonderfully from the lightly acidic character, giving an almost illusionary set of light tart notes float across your tongue as the acidity interacts with the other elements of the beer. There is the expected imagery of lemon and grapes, but also it develops into dancing strawberry and raspberry notes that reward you in every sip.

Now, it doesn’t have that much to round out the tart freshness and fruit, so not a beer to contemplate, but as a summer refresher this is amazing. Lightly sweet with it, it is easy pleasing and easy drinking.

Now if you want a real tart, mouth tingling berliner weisse then I will admit this is not it – it is instead a gentle and lovely thing, and so not one to challenge you. However for quality it sits alongside Big Drop’s Pale Ale – the sour equivalent in the awesome low abv beer league.

Highly recommended.

Background: This is another of my dive into low abv beers, and Mikkeller have a very good track record on those so far. This was another one I tried first from Beercraft but didn’t do notes, but added a few bottles into an order I did from BeerHawk so I could revisit it. Like some previous Mikkeller beers, this is a low abv version of a beer that already exists with the same name. Because that isn’t confusing. Berliner Weisse beers are generally not high abv, but this is the first time I had seen one anywhere near this low abv, so was unsure how well it would work. Put on some old school tunes for this – the classic that is The Clash – London Calling!

Mikkeller: Weird Weather Non-alcoholic (Denmark: Low Alcohol IPA: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Light hazy lemon to pineapple juice. Very large white bubbled head that leaves suds.

Nose: Isotonic drinks to Pocari Sweat. Pineapple. Tart grapes. Light tannins. Vanilla. Wheat.

Body: Pineapple. Isotonic drinks. Grapes. Glucose tablets. Lime cordial. Lemon.

Finish: Soft lemon. Grapes. Lucozade. Light hop bitterness and very light hop roughness. Light peach. Vanilla.

Conclusion: Why do so many low abv beers have a subtle isotonic drink to lucozade kind of taste? I’m sure there is a scientific explanation, but it just seems an odd element to be so reoccurring.

Anyway, this feels like a mix of isotonic drinks, Mikkeller’s Drink in the Sun, with just a dash of New England IPA style. There is nearly no hop bitterness – not in oiliness or hop feel either, except for the lightest of touches from a rough hop character element in the finish.

Flavour wise there is light tart fruit – pineapple, lemon backed by some sweeter peach notes, but they are very gentle. Then again, I’ve always found the NEIPA kind of overly gentle for me, with a few notable exceptions. It is soothing in flavour, if not especially special – at times the grapes and pineapple can be pretty rewarding, at others a kind of glucose tablets to isotonic drinks mehness comes out.

Mehness is a word.

So, ok, I’d say it is the weaker cousin of Drink In The Sun, but it does have its own elements. Then again I may have been spoiled as I’ve had DITS on tap where it utterly rocked, while I’ve only had this in can and I’m guessing this would benefit similarly from being on tap.

A nice enough beer for the low alcohol range, but the bar has recently been risen by the awesome Big Drop: Pale Ale, so everyone else is playing catch up now.

background: Huh, there is also an alcohol version of this, and a gluten free one, and an IIPA and.. ok, naming is just getting confusing here. Really going to have to be careful ordering this if you are the designated driver of your group. Anyway, I first tried this after seeing it at beercraft but didn’t do notes then, since it was ok I grabbed a few more cans of it from beerhawk while doing an order to grab a few rarities I had spotted there. Anyway it is described as a New England IPA, which is a brave attempt for a beer that racks in at a mere 0.3% abv. Some of you may notice the IPA glasses are back – I can’t say if they actually make the beer smell or taste better but after I broke the original glass I did notice I missed it when doing IPAs – it adds a bit of glitz to the event, so I pulled my thumb out and grabbed a replacement. Drunk while listening to Paradise Lost – Draconian times. Still one of my favourite albums, such great gloomy heavy tunes.

Big Drop: Lager (England: Low abv Pale Lager: 0.5%)

Visual: Very pale yellow to grain. Thin white head. Not much carbonation.

Nose: Water. Some soft citrus.

Body: Chalky. Woody. Watery. Slight hop oils. Slight vanilla as it warms. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Cardboard. Twigs. Chalk. Sulphur.

Conclusion: After the great Pale Ale from Big Drop (Which has become an even better beer since I did notes on it – recent bottlings have been amazing) this is a pretty big let down I am sorry to say.

So, to be fair, to get a genuinely decent lager without resorting to tricks is a hard enough task, without having to try and do it at low abv, but even with that taken into account this comes out very flat. The main notes are chalky and rough so it doesn’t have that traditional lager drinkability, nor the excellent use of texture in the best lagers. Similarly it doesn’t bring any of the subtle flavours that a good lager gets from having a long time from cold lagering. It ends up one dimension, rough, watery and without weight.

I did allow this to warm up a bit to see if that altered the profile at all. A small amount of extra flavour comes out – some vanilla, some hop oils, but it is vague and gets lost behind the rougher notes.

Unfortunately there is not much else I can say on this one – it is weak feeling and rough. I think it needs a heavy rework, or just started again from scratch to get a decent beer out of it. I hope the Big Drop crew do take another shot at it – they have shown a lot of skills in their other beers, so I figure they are up to the challenge – but right now? This is one to avoid.

Background: Big Drop are tuning out a range of 0.5% or less beers, including their great Pale Ale which I highly recommend. So I saw that they had a lager out now at Independent Spirit, so decided to give it a go. This was drunk on a bloody cold night so I actually slammed the heat up for drinking this, and I say that as someone from the north. Put on Lacuna Coil – Unleashed Memories while drinking – I prefer their old Gothic influenced days over the heavier style they seem to do recently. Good stuff.

Big Drop: Pale Ale (England: Low Alcohol Pale Ale: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear with a thin off white head and some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Pineapple. Grapefruit. Soft lemon. Fresh. Vanilla. Grapes. Apricot. Cake sponge.

Body: Moderate bitterness. Lemon fresh. Cake sponge. Light chalk. Prickly hop feel. Passionfruit. Dried apricot.

Finish: Light chalk. Lime cordial. Fluffy hop feel. Popcorn. Vanilla. Moderate hop bitterness. Grapes. Cake sponge. Kiwi.

Conclusion: This is described as a pale ale, and it definitely has the level of hop usage you would expect from that style, but for some reason the body brings a character that reminds me more of golden ales.

That body is, incidentally, what makes this beer really stand out. It is a lower than half a percent abv beer but still manages a gentle cake sponge gripping texture which matches well against the prickling hop feel. Most low alcohol beers really have to assault you with the hops to get over the lack of texture that comes with the low abv, but this manages the grip amazingly well.

That body means that this can use the hop flavours in a more nuanced way – with soft fruitiness, a huge range of those fruits coming in from aroma to finish, eschewing the more brutal hop assault.

It is very easy to drink. It uses refreshingly crisp bitter hops rather than bracing hops, continues the refreshing theme with lovely citrus flavour and that aforementioned cake sponge body gives it that natural beery feel – far more than you would imagine it should be capable of.

A great beer for pretty much any time – as a beer in itself it is a solid beer, as a low abv beer it is great. This is up with Mikkeller’s low abv efforts, and that is a high compliment.

Background 1,500 beer notes done! With the number of great beers I had done in the past for special numbers of tastings I was unsure what to break out for this one. So, in a moment of contrary nature I decided to go with this one – a low abv beer from the comparatively new “Big Drop” brewery. I’ve had this a few times over the past six months when I was having a dry day and have been enjoying it – so against expectations of some big booming high abv thing I decide to go the other way and examine what can be done at the low end of the spectrum. Another beer grabbed from independent spirit. This was drunk while listening to some Nine Inch Nails – mainly as I am watching the new Twin Peaks and was surprised to see the band on there – got me in the mood for their tunes again.

Brekeriet: Picnic Sour Ale (Sweden: Low Alcohol Sour Ale: 2.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Small white head. Fizzing carbonation.

Nose: Rhubarb. Oats. Horse blankets. Lightly tart- pineapple and soft tangerine.

Body: Acidic. Lemon. Dry. Slight cardboard. Tart rhubarb and pineapple. Chalky. Tart raspberry.

Finish: Dry. Squeezed lemon. Slight chalk. Rhubarb rises up over time. Tangerine.

Conclusion: If only there was as much rhubarb in the rest of the beer as the aroma promised. The aroma just oozes rhubarb, I could smell it the entire time I was doing the initial photos to go with these notes. A simple aroma admittedly, but enticing definitely.

The main body still has some rhubarb, more acidic lemon than that, but also it comes with a dull cardboard middle which hurts it. Similarly the generally tart beer has a soft chalkiness that it really doesn’t have enough body to accommodate.

The finish does recover a bit – with the rhubarb fully developing again. Over time the beer does shift back and forth in how it feels – some times it comes across quite full and fruity, other times quite empty and chalky. Generally the longer you hold the beer, the more likely it is that some of the rougher elements come out.

So, it is close to working – some times you get everything coming together just right – but it is too variable in how it comes across. Even when it is more full bodied it is fairly simple in delivery; You get the lemon, the rhubarb and the pineapple at the core – though sometimes a slight tangerine and raspberry come out, especially as time goes on.

I want to like this beer, but it just can’t hold its good points reliably – resulting in an overly dry and chalky feel as you drink on..

A good attempt with distinctly sub optimal results.

Background: After having a great time with the last Brekeriet sour beer I tried, I decided to pick up this low abv one – Looked very interesting, made with rhubarb, which is something I am a big fan of. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to a bit of Erock on youtube.

Cobra Zero

Coors UK: Cobra: Zero (England: Low Alcohol Lager: 0% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Moderate bubbled head.

Nose: Dry cake sponge. Malt loaf. Wet cardboard. Wort.

Body: Lime. Cake sponge. Wet cardboard. Wort. Sulphur.

Finish: Cardboard. Wet air. Granite. Sulphur.

Conclusion: 3.4 seconds. That is how long this beer had me fooled. 3.4 seconds. Rounded to one decimal place. You see, despite an indifferent aroma, the first few seconds of this beer sitting on my tongue showed some appeal.

There was a Czech crisp character, a touch of lime, and hints of well used pilsner hop styling. Yeah, 3.4 seconds that lasted. Then the actual beer hit. Well, I say beer, this thing is more like the wort you get in a mash tun. Indistinct, vaguely malty and rough flavour. Here it is “backed” by the joys of wet cardboard and granite. Worse still they have another element from wort, that kind of sulphur element, here it is possibly best described as if someone just farted in your beer.

No that isn’t a compliment. Not even if you have a fart fetish.

Anyway, this shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. The rough wort character was there from first sniff, I was just trying to give it the benefit of the doubt. Giving it a chance to impress me. It didn’t.

It feels unfinished, unpleasant, and hangs around far too long. I’ve both heard and used the term “wet cardboard” before, but never as appropriately as here. It tastes bitter like chewing on bitter leaves rather than like hops, and gives nothing worth a damn past that 3.4 seconds. No it isn’t worth it for those 3.4 seconds.

It is like someone scooped unfinished wort out, then chemically extracted the alcohol, as if they were impatient to get this crap away from them as quickly as they could.

And for that alone I can’t blame them.

Background: So, I was in the supermarket. All my usual low abv beers had sold out. So, I thought I would experiment – what is the worst that could happen? Anyway, despite what I think may be Sanskrit on the bottle ( I looked up and couldn’t find an exact match but it looked close to one of the words for snake) this is brewed in the UK. I’m shocked, shocked I say. Anyway, after grabbing it I hear that apparently recent Cobra advertising has been pretty darn sexist. I’ve not managed to find the advert so I couldn’t say myself. Probably for the best, I don’t need more things to piss me off. This was drunk while listening to Bratmobile – Pottymouth. Yes I’m back on a riot girl punk kick again.

Sainsbury Low Alcohol Czech Lager

Staropramen: Sainsbury’s Czech Low Alcohol Pilsner Lager (Czech Republic: Low Alcohol Pilsner: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow grain. Moderate carbonation. Had a white head, but by the time I had finished kicking my errant camera it had nearly vanished.

Nose: Wet cardboard.

Body: Moderate malt. Slightly chalky. Soft vanilla and palma violets. Light bitterness. Cereal grain. Soft lemon and fruit very late on in the beer.

Finish: Vanilla. Dry. Dried banana touch. Palma violets. Soft lemon on pancakes.

Conclusion: A low alcohol beer night. Because obviously I know how to par-tay! After having been to Prague I figured the best way to recreate that feeling was with a low abv beer from a supermarket brand*.

*warning, some unnecessary sarcasm may be in use.

It is kind of an empty beer. Thankfully not chemically, not an abomination against all things good and proper. Just…empty. There is just about enough to identify it as that elusive pilsner character. Just about. There is a soft palma violet vibe, and an ease of drinking to it. The bitterness is way below the expected level, but on mouthfeel it isn’t terribly done.

I am damning with faint praise aren’t I? It’s intentional.

There just isn’t a huge amount to it. A light kind of grain cereal flavour, some vanilla sweetness to round off the edges. At least it is better than the aroma, which is basically wet cardboard.

It is effectively inoffensive, nowhere near as bad as say Tesco Value Lager or as chemically as Becks Alcohol Free. Also not huge and flavoursome like Drink in the Sun/Snow. It is just, well, there. Beer feeling and lager tasting, but not much more than that.

Late on it does manage some soft fruit, so manages to touch base with enough elements to say it is a Czech Pilsner, but they are so lightly done that it is nowhere near a well crafted one. At 0.5% abv I would think I was being picky, if I had not tried so much better examples.

I guess it keeps your hand off stronger beers if you are driving, and it just about calls to Czech Pilsners so you don’t hate drinking it.

So, ok, not terrible, but far from any form of excitement that a beer should bring.

Background: looking at rate beer apparently this is identical to, or very close to Staropramen Nealko. Never tried it, couldn’t say. Anyway, after coming back from Prague and their excellent Bohemian Pilsners, I saw this. and because I obviously wanted to shit all over my memories I bought a few bottles. Well, it was more that I like to keep an eye out for low abv beers that don’t actually suck. Some of them actually do exist. So I thought I would give this a try. Drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, which may give an impression of my expectations for this beer.

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