Tuesday, 22 February 2011

2.8% - worth the effort?

The treasury revealed the results of its review of alcohol taxation in the UK back in November, and they concluded that strong beer (7.5% and above) ought to attract a special extra duty rate, and that weak beer (2.8% and below) would benefit from a special lower duty rate. This will discourage winos, teenage preloaders and alcoholic middle class mothers from drinking evil, strong, craft beer and encourage sensible brewers, like me, to make beer that doesn't make you feel a bit squishy after your 2 daily pints.

The sceptics greeted this announcement with derision, citing Asda British Bitter as about the only brand at below 2.8%, and who admits to drinking that? A quick trawl through ratebeer.com seems to indicate that beers of such low abv are universally unpopular, amongst we geeks at any rate. Take Carlsberg (Sverige), for example, it has amassed a score of 2. That's 2 out of 100. One taster describes it as "quite nasty actually". There's plenty more underperformers too: Schwaben Brau Pilsner (RB score 3), Risingsbo 1856 (RB score 4) and Tuborg Pilsner (RB score 6) for starters.

Perhaps the cynics are right?

But wait, look here, Weltons appear to have fared better with Pride & Joy, a pale, hoppy little brew that scores a more respectable 36. And they're not alone, Harveys of Sussex weigh in with Sweet Sussex at 19, whilst Brew Wharf astonish the audience with ABC at a mighty 85, though, to be fair, it is 3% and therefore doesn't count. I'm reliably informed that Sapphire, from Thornbridge, was indeed a hoppy little wonder too but hasn't been 'rated' enough times to score.

Top rated appears to be Grassroots Den Lil IPA, a Danish offering notching up a huge 89 and attracting some reasonably complimentary comments.

So it appears that it is indeed possible to craft a tasty brew at sub 3%, but that it isn't done very often. Given the coalition's encouragement, I think I'd like to have a go myself. The challenge is, therefore, to brew a 2.8%er, get enough ratings to score on RB and finally, dreamily, to beat Grassroots and be king of the low abv brigade.

As it happens I'm teaming up with my mate James at Wantsum and my two mates in the local CAMRA branch to collaborate on this project in time for Planet Thanet Easter Ale Festival. So, that's where you'll find the beer, and that's where you can let us know what a dreadful waste of time it is, or not.

Right, time for a double IPA I think.

*(It was decided to ignore the fact that the strongest beers are weaker than the weakest spirits and wines, possibly because the SWA send out free bottles of top quality malt whisky to key decision makers whilst its members sell industrial white spirits, at great profit, to kids and tramps. Maybe.)


Mark said...

I had a crack at this a while back: http://www.beerbirrabier.com/2010/04/single-circle-small.html

I found it so difficult to get body into the beer without adding fermentable sugar. And then you can only hop so much before it all turns into a tannic, stewed mess.

Of course you're a top quality brewer and I just mess about in my kitchen, so I'm looking forward to trying this at PT. :)

Nick P said...

Great to see that you're having a go at this, rather than just having a pop (so many brewer's blogs sound like a Daily Mail rant).

Microbrewers enjoy experimenting with high alcohol beers, but of course it's the lower alcohol ales that we drink normally down the pub.

I look forward to trying it at Planet Thanet.