A New Calling For Low Alcohol Beers?

IMG_0387A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sampling a collaboration between Fyne and Wild called…er…Fyne and Wild, a low-alcohol (2.9% abv) Saison with Cucumber and Mint. Sounds disgusting, I hear you say….beer for hipsters! I hear the outraged splutter. Actually, it’s none of those. It’s a low-alcohol beer that compensates for its lack of body (which, let’s face it, all low abv beers have) with another flavour. By that, I mean a flavour other than hops.

Low alcohol beers lack bass notes; although some are plenty tasty – Adnam’s Sole Star and Rooster’s Low Life are two I’ve enjoyed a fair few times – you do end up moving up a level after one, purely out of a need for something a little more in terms of body. This new generation of low-alcohol beers are experimenting with flavour and style as much as making beers for the pregnant or designated driver (or to enjoy cheap duty, if you’re cynical).

As I drained my Fyne & Wild it occurred to me that this is almost brewed for food; drinking, my mind wandered to Salmon and Watercress, Baked Feta, a bowl of Olives – all down to the flavours in the beer. It wasn’t even registering that it was low in alcohol, if I’m being honest.

There was a difference to it – call it a novelty, if you like – but in a more homogenous way than a celebrity – endorsed beer for food. You see, beer brewed for food isn’t necessary. There’s simply no need for it. They are of no use to bring people in who don’t regularly drink – or buy – beer with food in mind.

Beer is so diverse that any beer that you brew specifically for, say, Chinese food, will be the last in a long line of beers that go well with Chinese food; one for every taste, preference and palate.  But you know that already, right – that’s why you get celebrity chefs to endorse them. Then they disappear; no matter how good the chef or how genuinely into beer he is, they always feel like cash-ins. Chefs; if you want to genuinely further the cause, use your considerable reach to simply put beer into the hands of your diners in your restaurants. That’s all you need to do.

Could the niche of low-abv beers work better when supplemented with spices, herbs and whatnot?  A blank canvas for flavour and experimentation for a different audience than your regular beer drinker? Would non beer-drinkers be more inclined to try a low-abv sharing bottle of something with a meal than launching straight into the Belgian classics, for example? There has to be more than simply boosting the hops to bring the focus away from the lack of depth in the body, right?  Or is alcohol too much of a major factor in what makes beer good with food?

Wild are currently bottling this, and I hope to get my hands on some before this weather inevitably disappears. 

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About leighgoodstuff

Blog: https://goodfoodgoodbeer.wordpress.com/ I'm Leigh Linley; born and bred in Leeds, and writing about it since 2005. TGS exists solely to highlight the great beers that are out there; brewed with passion by Craft Brewers around the World. I also edit the 'Tavern Tales' section of Culture Vulture, which looks at Pubs and Pub Life rather than the beer in the glass. If you'd like to submit a piece for Tavern Tales, or contact me about any Freelance writing you think I would be suited to, then don't hesitate to contact me via email here.

Posted on 09/07/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. phew, if there’s bottles i may get a chance to try it then…though still hoping to find it on cask in ed

  2. ‘Chefs; if you want to genuinely further the cause, use your considerable reach to simply put beer into the hands of your diners in your restaurants. That’s all you need to do.’

    Chefs saying they love beer often seems to be most about underlining a laddish brand identity.

    ‘It’s a low-alcohol beer that compensates for its lack of body (which, let’s face it, all low abv beers have) with another flavour.’

    You’re on to something here: more complexity, especially if it offers a bit of a shock to the palate, can definitely help make up for a loss of alcoholic strength.

  3. A cucumber and mint beer… I’m going to have to try adding a shot of Pimms to this.

  4. Kernel Table beer – 2.9%

    Woop

  5. where did you try this?

  6. I am not particularly fond of the saison style but do like the Fyne Ales and the Wild Beer Co. I wanted to comment on the point you made about restaurants and beer. I agree with you that if Chefs want to further the cause of beer, then put beer on the menus in restaurants. I don’t think it is being ‘laddish’, just giving the diner a choice that is more than your usual wine, lager and soft drink menu. I think so many Chefs and restaurants are missing a trick by not putting more beer on their menus, especially if the beer is locally sourced from a nearby brewery. I have seen this on occasion but more often see restaurants with generic beer from a large mega brewery that is brewed nowhere near them. If they can source local produce they can source local beer, surely 🙂

  7. Sweet will have to keep an eye out for this in London!

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