Tag Archive: Low Alcohol

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.

Drink In The Snow

Mikkeller: Drink In The Snow (Denmark: Low Alcohol: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Dark reddened brown. Coffee froth brown head.

Nose: Roasted. Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Nuts.

Body: Slight chalk. Tannins. Treacle. Sweet chocolate. Syrup. Coffee.

Finish: Chocolate liquore. Treacle. Tannins. Coffee. Greenery. Slightly roasted.

Conclusion: This is possibly the greatest low abv beer I have ever tried. That may seem like it is being damned by faint praise, but considering there has been quite some competition of the position recently it is intended as praise indeed.

The aroma is pure porter, roasted elements, coffee, chocolate, it delivers exactly what you would expect from that style. I would defy most people to be able to pick it from a range of standard quality porters by aroma alone, it is spot on.

The body is not quite so awesome, mainly because there is a limit on how thick you can get the body at this abv, or so it seems. However within those limits you get a slightly syrupy chocolate, bitter coffee, treacle and even a slight chalkiness. I have seen many a full abv porter that have delivered less. It isn’t perfect, a touch too syrupy and a few tannins notes that are out of place, but basically it is a very serviceable dark beer with great porter notes.

As a normal beer I would be calling this good, but without any qualities that make it stand out above the herd. At this abv? Wow, I take my hat off to the brewers. This just blew my mind and my expectations of what can be done with beer.

I have a dozen of these yet to get through this winter and I am looking forwards to them. This is the perfect beer for when you can’t have a beer. The bar for low abv beers has been raised and everyone else must play catch up.

Background: I have been enjoying sampling a few low abv beers recently, and Mikkellers drink in the sun range have been near the top of the heap. So when I saw this, the dark winter version, in Brewdog’s guest beer section I grabbed a bunch. Mikkeller turn out a vast number of beers each year, and don’t even have a brewery, instead hiring time at different breweries to produce their beers.

Drink Sun 1 4

Mikkeller: Drink In The Sun 2013 1.4% (Denmark: Low abv wheat ale: 1.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach skin to gold. Large off white mounded bubbles.

Nose: Passion fruit. Wheat. Hops. Lemon and meringue. Apricot. Peach. Musty berries.

Body: Robust bitterness. Grapefruit. Lemon. Apricot. Custard cream biscuits. Tangerine. Gooseberry.

Finish: Bitter hops. Sour grapes. Granite. Apricot. Custard cream biscuit.

Conclusion: So, returning to the Drink in the Sun beers, this time at a slightly bigger abv (a whole whopping 1.4% !?!) which proves to make it a bit more beer like in character. Now, considering that my only real flaw for the 0.3% version was that it occasionally did not feel beer like, especially with the tea and tannins at the end, then could this be the new, all time great, low abv beer?

Well, it has definitely lost the tea and tannins, replacing it with a robust hop character which is very welcome. However for some reason the huge fruitiness of the beer has been toned down as well. Now there is still fruitiness there, but nowhere near the insane wow factor of the 0.3% version. It is similar to the 0.5% version of nanny state where the hops are bigger than the fruit. Now if they hadn’t brought so much fruit in the 0.3% version I would have just considered that the cost of doing low abv businesses but since they obviously can I wonder why they did not. Anyway, the fruit here is brighter and more full bodied that the nanny state version, these feel more bright yellow fruit while that was slightly tarter fruit to my mind. Still it is a close enough comparison.

This is very beer like, and still reasonably fruity, but for all its tannins flaws I would say I prefer the 0.3% version as it is brighter and more pure in its delivered flavour. Now this does have a fuller feel to the body, more passion fruit and more rounded, less fresh and bright. It feels like a missed opportunity in some ways, if they could match the freshness of 0.3 with the body of this it would be the new all time great low abv beer, as it is its still nice wee low abv beer, and very good for the style. It just lacks that little bit to push it make it live up to its potential.

Background: Low abv beer hunting used to be a chore, or a way of wading through chemical nightmares. However recently I have found a few enjoyable low abv beers, so I am on a bit of a hunt for them. I recently tried the ultra low 0.3% abv version of this beer, and was looking forwards to seeing what the hugely robust 1.4% version would be like.

Drink in the sun 0 3

Mikkeller: Drink In The Sun: 2013 0.3% Version (Denmark: Low ABV Wheat Ale: 0.3% ABV)

Visual: Hazy apricot. Large white mounded froth that leaves lace.

Nose: Apricot. Pineapple. Custard crème biscuits and moderate hops. Mass market ice cream. Coriander.

Body: Apricot. Moderate bitterness. Fresh lemon. Tannins and tea. Pineapple. Orange juice. Custard sweetness. Passion fruit.

Finish: Tea, tannins and hops. Slight lemon and pineapple. Some bitterness. Passion fruit.

Conclusion: The quest for a great low abv beer continues, and in this hunt in the darkness I have found this from Mikkeller.  This beer actually sits nicely between my prior two picks stylistically in addition to a distinct Mikkeller character of its own.

The hops are well used to compensate for the low abv, very fruity and fresh, I would say in a Nanny state style but these are much smoother and more rounded in flavour. From aroma to early body there is a bomb of citrus hops and sweet flavours. It is almost like a hoppy fruit juice. Then as the hops fade out we get the element that causes me to make my second comparison, that being to the Erdinger Alcohol free beer.

The similarity comes in the tea and tannins like flavours. I’m guessing that the flavours were always there but early on the hops hid them. As with Erdinger it is interesting but not what I am looking for in a beer. With the two being wheat based beer I am wondering if this is a characteristic of wheat beers at that low abv.

This however is better that Erdinger by far, more pronounced  hops and beer feel early on really sells it as an actual beer, if a slightly strange one. If they could find some way to keep that feel and flavour throughout the entire beer then it would easily be a new favourite of mine.

As is I am still impressed, while it isn’t perfect it is the most beer like of any of the super low abv beers I’ve tried and pleasant beer to drink when you don’t want alcohol. The citrus burst is enjoyable by any standard, if obviously not rocking with the big abv guns.
Not bad at all.

Background: I’m eternally on the hunt for good low abv beers, though with very mixed results. Mikkeller are generally awesome.  Thus this seemed like a good chance to get a low abv beer I can really enjoy. At 0.3% it is nigh taking the piss, which amuses me. They seem to have done many different versions of drink in the sun. I have a few bottles of the slightly higher abv 2013 version for sampling at a later date to compare.

Erdinger Alcohol Free

Erdinger: Weissbier Alkoholfrei (Germany: Low Alcohol: <0.5% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed grain. Very large white mounds of bubbles for a head. Moderate carbonation. Slightly hazy.

Nose: Tea bags. Wheat.

Body: Tannins and tea. Slightly tart and acidic. Light banana. Apples and green grapes. Cloves. Smooth texture.

Finish: Green apples. Tannins. Tea. Cloves. Light grapes.

Conclusion: When is a beer not a beer? Possibly when it tastes mainly of tea. Now, I’m a Brit, so beer and tea should, hypothetically be the greatest thing ever for me. After Doctor Who.

Is it?

Well let’s take a look at the beer itself first. At less than half a percent of alcohol it is facing as its peers mainly a bunch of crap, with occasional moments of mediocrity. With the exception of Nanny State I cannot think of another that low alcohol beer that I like.

This manages to call back to the standard weiss Erdinger beers with a touch of wheat, banana and cloves. They are, however, secondary behind a slightly tart and acidic body of light green fruit and, yes, huge amounts of tannins and tea.

It really does taste like some one has left a drying tea bag in it. Now this isn’t unpleasant, but not overly beer like as a hinted at in the opening line. The rest of the characteristics however are more spot on, the texture is smooth and the look and head of the beer are spot on. The aroma is a bit dull, but that thickness of texture is something that is very hard to catch in a low abv beer so is very impressive.

The flavours, though only mildly beer like are enjoyable, especially when compared to other similar beers. Nanny State tastes more like a beer, this feels more like a beer on the tongue. It is a trade off. So, moderately enjoyable. As a higher abv beer it would be an interesting quirk but not overly good. As a low abv beer it is actually my standby when I can’t get hold of Nanny State despite the aforementioned tea influence.

So, no, not a godsend to Brits everywhere, but it does well for what it is.

Quite refreshing, lightly acidic and works well on a hot day.

Background: I have gone through a fair few bottles of this. Most alcohol free (which in this case means less than half a percent) are shit. Whatever ones I find I can enjoy I tend to get in whenever I can, so I can have something beer tasting without the booze. Yes, as you may have guessed I enjoy beer for the taste, getting intoxicated is an optional, though often pleasant, extra. So, I thought to myself, let’s give the old standby a review, eh? So here it is.

Harringtons: SobeRing Thought (New Zealand: Low Alcohol Stout: 1% ABV)

(Note: I originally received two bottles of this beer from my sister as a kind present.   The beer is the same one used in the Lord Of The Ring films by the actors, to give them something that looks and smells like beer. The first bottle was drunk several years ago and was a thin and somewhat watery thing, but it was cool to try the beer from the set of the film.  The second bottle is now years out of date, and I decided to see for humours sake, what would happen to this beer after such a long time. As such this should not be taken as a definitive tasting note )

Visual Dark reddish mahogany brown with no head and obvious sediment. Comparatively fizzy.

Nose: Blackcherry, lots of malt and liquorice. Blackberry and yoghurt, Toffee. Condensed cream.

Body: Very fizzy, chalky and bitter. Hint of brandy snaps and hint of treacle. Chalk and charcoal.

Finish: Bitter and wet, slight wheat and very light brandy cream.

Conclusion:  Ok, as admitted this is a bit of a joke review,  when I first drank this years ago I found it very weak and flavourless, but hey it was the Lord of the Rings beer. So the second bottle just hung around.  I’m not sure quite how out of date it is as the best before has rubbed off, but that really should say all you need to know.

But, here’s the thing.

In all the five odd years this beers been in my cupboard, it’s actually gained a really tasty nose, much to my surprise.  This led to me to think that maybe the body has improved as well.
Unfortunately no, the body is still fizzy water – however for all the years it’s out of date, it doesn’t seem to have actually got any worse.

So huh, still a pretty rubbish beer, shockingly better for being so out of date.

(Thanks to Claire and Martin for the beer, I may mock it, buts it’s still cool to have drunk the same beer the actors did)

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