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 - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/8683197/British-breweries-to-sell-weaker-beer-following-low-alcohol-content-tax-cut.html - 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.

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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. 

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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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