Top of the Hops: How low can you go?

A new year, a new brew

Low alcohol beer. Seems like an oxymoron, right?!

Well you might be in for a big suprise

Low alcohol beers have come a long way since the likes of Kaliber and Becks Blue. I happened upon some new offerings while training for a marathon to help with drink-orientated social situations. Here’s a small selection of the latest and greatest options:

Big Drop, Pale Ale, 0.5%

Big Drop is new on the scene and outside of craft beer shops it is hard to come by. However, if you persevere then you will be rewarded. All their beers are low alcohol, so they know what they’re doing. This little beaut won this year’s World Beer Awards’ Low-Strength Pale Ale category and I must concur. It’s delicious compared to even regular strength beers. Gasp!

It is crisp, clean and bursting with citrus flavour and a hint of lime. The label caught my eye too, featuring a hand drawn illustration using screen printing and black etching techniques, contrasted with bold contemporary typography.

In their own words:

“This dry-hopped pale ale is deliciously refreshing. The nose has hints of pine and honey. Packed full of flavour from citrus-heavy hops with a twist of fresh lime to create a crisp, zesty beer.”

BrewDog, Nanny State, 0.5%

Coming a credible close second is BrewDog’s readily available offering. Nanny State is more readily available than Big Drop and a solid bet. This beer was a direct response to The Portman Group’s (Britain’s self-regulating alcohol industry watchdog) banning BrewDog’s 18% Tokyo Imperial Stout, amid shock-horror headlines about its strength. As one tabloid noted, a single bottle contains the equivalent of 3 pints of normal strength beer. In response, the company unveiled a 0.5% ale called Nanny State. This fits neatly into the BrewDog brand aesthetic with their low-fi stripped back style using one of the UK’s few remaining letterpress studios (United Creatives). In terms of taste it’s hard to beat; where it falls flat is in the finish for me. Otherwise it is light yet punchy and flavoursome with citrus grape fruity notes.

In their own words:

“Packed with loads of Centennial, Amarillo, Columbus, Cascade and Simcoe hops, dry hopped to the brink and back and sitting at 45 IBUS, Nanny State is a force to be reckoned with. With a backbone of 8 different speciality malts, Nanny State will tantalise your taste buds and leave you yearning for more.”

Erdinger, Alkoholfrei, 0.5%

The wooden spoon goes to Erdinger Alkoholfrei wheat beer, which they have decided to market as an isotonic vitamin enriched sports drink. Seriously. Yours truly got given one upon completing the Sheffield half marathon. On that day, it tasted great. On reflection, it is sadly a poor imitation of a wheat beer. By no means is it unpalatable but it is a little too on the sweet side with none of the bitter undercurrent you’d expect. A decent effort though, and as “sports drinks” go… Packaging-wise, it’s classically Erdinger in its branding, not offensive but not ground-breaking either.

In their own words:

“A cool glass of Erdinger Alkoholfrei not only tastes fantastic, but is also healthy – thanks to the vitamins B12 and folic acid, as well as the polyphenols it contains.”

Image source: Pale drop


Chris Jeeves
Bitchin’ Kitchen in house beer enthusiast