How Low Can You Go?

How Low Can You Go?

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Since the launch of our 0.5% insanely hopped imperial mild ale – Nanny State – almost two years ago, we at BrewDog feel we’ve gone some way in helping drinkers reinterpret low ABV beers; not as weak, flavourless dishwater but as brews to be taken seriously, where bucket loads of hops and a carefully crafted taste experience can prove more than a compromise for the absence of alcohol. We also brewed Edge, a 2.8% mild ale as a seasonal last year and it was very well received.

As champions of craft beers right across the ABV spectrum, it didn’t take much for this article in the Telegraph - - to catch our attention and get us thinking or – to be more precise - thinking about why it’s taken a tax cut to get more brewers considering low ABV.


Cast your eye down the list of comments and there are a couple of points that immediately stand out. The first of which being the general distrust towards anything low ABV – “Who wants to drink cat's p***?” and “They can stick their 2.8% in the urinal where it belongs” being among the comments that reflect a widely supported consensus that (a) Anything low ABV tastes rubbish and (b) Is too close to water to be considered alcoholic so therefore isn’t worth drinking.

From a brewing prospective – as John Keeling the head brewer from Fuller’s explains – there’s also the challenge of creating flavour without being overly reliant on malt. When it came to Nanny State, we got around this by creating a self-confessed hop bomb of a beer but we can see why this approach might become a turn off for mainstream breweries that more often than not use limited amounts of hops in their beers or simply resort to using chemical substitutes which never taste great at the best of times.

The opinions of those in favour of low ABV beers as a means of creating a greater variety for those who want to drive home from the pub, want to have a lighter beer at lunch time or simply enjoy lower ABV drinks, don’t go unheard. However, it would seem – for now at least – the real incentive for brewers isn’t to change people’s perceptions towards low ABV but to circumvent a potential drop in sales following the tax hike. 


We’re not entirely sure whether the concern surrounding the rise in alcohol duty is the best catalyst for a new wave of low ABV beers and whether the resulting product will add or detract from existing perceptions of low alcohol beers. Whatever happens with beer duty, it certainly won't stop us from making the beers we want to brew, be that a double ipa, a huge imperial stout or imperial mild.

As ever though, we want to hear you thoughts on the debate. Furthermore, what would be your ultimate idea for a 2.5-2.7% beer. If we like it enough, we might just brew a small batch for our bars.

BrewDog Glasgow bar interior

Low ABV beers, might improve your Connect 4 skills. We have a range of board games at all our BrewDog bars. I like Jenga and Tokyo* personally.

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Brewhog 05.09.2011 @ 12:58pm
why not a low abv stout tasting like riptide
Andrew Charles T 05.09.2011 @ 5:48am
at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy. i live in an area, heavily influenced by german heritage so, fall season comes around, pumpkin ale and oktoberfests are huge. maybe a new take on the pumpkin ale with a mild abv but with rich malts and pumpkin spices, and a good deal of hops. call it punk'n pi and make the abv 3.14% ha
Chris Thompson 04.09.2011 @ 11:12am
i say re-visit the nanny state but hop the hell even more out of it !!!! if you want to change a perspective or two i think you should go for something that tastes like sink the bismark ... ON STEROIDS!!! but has the low ABV of nanny statei know it might not be possible but hey .... why not?
phanson 03.09.2011 @ 10:18am
OK trying again - nothing to do with this but is anyone else having trouble with the login page on equitypunks? The 'Submit' button keeps taking me to 'password recovery' and I don't want to go there.
Graeme 02.09.2011 @ 9:25pm
Belhaven 60/- is one of my all-time favourite beers, packed full of flavour at 2.8%It's a shame more places don't sell it; it suffers somewhat from the dated "shilling" moniker.
jhardacre 02.09.2011 @ 6:02pm
In a similar vein to Dan G, I just made a cherry mild than turned out pretty good. I've never heard of a low ABV Lambic - could such a thing be possible?
Dan G 02.09.2011 @ 1:58pm
I've just finished brewing a coffee-flavoured mild that came out at about 3.5% ABV - coffee gives a smooth richness akin to dark malts, but obviously without the extra alcohol. I'd love to see a BrewDog version!
Kapten Glas 02.09.2011 @ 12:43pm
Falcon in sweden got a really good 2.8 lager called Falcon Bayersk. Dark and very tasty.
Mr Stoggs 02.09.2011 @ 12:00pm
My wife would definitely be in favour of some better low ABV beer. While I’m celebrating my birthday tomorrow with Sink The Bismark and Black Tokyo Horizon, she’ll barely be able to have a sniff, being 7 months pregnant with months of feeding ahead keeping her to little more than a unit at a time. Milds less than 3% she has tried have so far have as a whole been disappointing. Some crafty low ABV brewing could make life a little happier.
nacho 02.09.2011 @ 11:54am
Yeah I'd like to see a decent 0% beer too....
mike 02.09.2011 @ 11:16am
some of the best beers i've had recently have been those with a low abv. i am a huge fan of every kind of beer style, but one of the most enjoyable elements i find in a beer sometimes is subtlty. i recently visited the brewdog bar in Aberdeen and decided to try the Nanny State. i found it the most contemplative beer of the evening. a great beer. i'd love to see more beers like nanny state, and its great to see that there are some of these beers starting to emerge. take for example, redemption's 'trinity' at 3%. slightlty higher in abv maybe but still only a very slight alcoholic kick - brilliantly balanced on the hops my view, subtlty is one of the true tests of brewing.cheers!
Abitofbitterness 02.09.2011 @ 11:03am
I struggle to find beers under 5% that I enjoy. Maybe I have ruined my tastebuds with imperial IPAs, but I still would love to have a staple, tasty and refreshing low ABV beer! My liver will thank you if you make it happen
sdehn 02.09.2011 @ 11:02am
Have to agree with Iprise, the partially fermented punk was delicious.. Also have to agree with Dave Nanny State was too thin and didn't feel right.As someone who works close to the Edinburgh bar but also has to drive for part of his commute I appreciate the sentiment behind trying to produce good low abv beers, but can't help feel its simply wasted man-hours which can be put towards other projects.
James, BrewDog 02.09.2011 @ 10:40am
Brewhound - we are not putting down anyone.
Koomber 02.09.2011 @ 10:39am
I wouldn't consider anything anything from the comments section of a Telegraph article admissable as anything other than (possibly) evidence that some people shouldn't be allowed the internets.By all means lads, o ahead and make something fiiiine and low ABV.Personally I'd like to see you try your hands at something a bit maltier
Brewhound 02.09.2011 @ 10:34am
Why do you always have to put down other Craft brewers. Everybody in that sector wants to produce great beer and you were not the first to go low abv.
Michael S 02.09.2011 @ 10:28am
Well, my great love is strong stout, but the reason I think this company is great is that you guys experiment. So do what you wanna do folks.
Gaz 02.09.2011 @ 10:19am
Agree with davew99 - why not see if you can be the first brewery to come up with a truly tasty alcohol free beer? The most drinkable alcohol free beer I've had so far is Mahou Sin - alcohol free Spanish lager - better than Becks Blue but not by much, and unfortunately it doesn't seem to be sold outside Spain.So - how about it chaps? Could you turn your technical wizardry to producing the world's first alcohol free beer that doesn't taste like it's alcohol free?
Steve I 02.09.2011 @ 10:16am
As an avid home brewer, a certified hophead and someone who enjoys a goodly number of pints...and still likes to function the next day, I brew a very light (extra light spray malt) and extremely hoppy ale (green bullet and pacific gem...approx 120 IBUs) coming in at 3.5%. I use Cascade and N brewer to double dry hop. The abv could be lowered with less light malt and body could be bumped up with some cara malt. I'd be willing to share my recipe...Good luck!Steve
Dave 02.09.2011 @ 10:12am
Having tried Nanny State and before that How To Disappear Completely i just found them too thin. Sure they had a big flavour but it just didn't work for me. I'm not sure that low alcohol beer is to be encouraged. Beer is something you need to set aside time for. If you're driving, working, whatever then you shouldn't be thinking about alcohol at all. Brewdog should stick to the big beers they've been so successful with. Keep the high abv dark wonderful tasting beers coming.
Gary S 02.09.2011 @ 10:12am
I was in The Rake at Borough Market this week and had a couple of pints of Redemption Trinity. It is actually a pale mild at 3%ABV and it's one of the tastiest pints I've had in a good while.
fezzles 02.09.2011 @ 10:08am
I think I was in the "it's too close to water" camp but was happy to try edge. It was lovely, really enjoyed it. Maybe a low abv ruby mild could be nice. I quite like ruby milds as it happens
iprise 02.09.2011 @ 10:08am
The partially fermented Punk IPA we tasted at the shareholder brewday was actually pretty good stuff. Perhaps a series, of Punk, fermented for 1,2,3 and so on days, before dry hopping. You could call it Punk Evolution.
davew99 02.09.2011 @ 9:58am
I would truly like to see a tasty 0% beer. I am frequently driving or on call and resort to drinking Becks Blue. Its better than coke but only just.
rich 02.09.2011 @ 9:52am
More Edge!