What does a 2.8% beer actually taste like?

Adnams Sole StarIn October the Government brought in new beer duty regulations meaning that breweries paid considerably less duty on beers brewed at 2.8% and under. They are also trying to encourage ‘Binge Britain’ to refrain from drowning their sorrows sitting on park benches supping cans of 9% Special Brew by considerably increasing duty on all beers brewed over 7.5%. Unfortunately imported Belgian beers, and British & American craft beers also fall under the same legislation despite the fact that the price alone of these specialist beers will deter all but the wealthiest & most discerning tramps and alcoholics. With Trappistes Rochefort 10 (at 11.3%) and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (10.6%) being two of mine & Sarah’s favourite beers I’m more than a little disappointed that we’ll be penalised for enjoying these wonderful beers in a responsible and respectful manner.

According to CAMRA’s survey at GBBF, one in two pub goers would drink a 2.8% beer. My cynicism leads me to believe that they think they should drink a 2.8% beer and answered accordingly, but in reality would they actually choose it over a standard 3.7 – 4.5% beer? However, it has often been said that one of the great skills of English brewers is the knowledge & ability to produce such a wide variety of full flavoured beers at relatively low ABV’s compared to our European cousins who in particular usually produce beers around a minimum of 5% ABV. Is 2.8% pushing it too far though?  We have already seen Carling C2 (a 2% lager) almost completely disappear less than five years ago, although this was before the Government duty reduction, and admittedly it’s not exactly hand crafted…

I was extremely sceptical until our recent October Beer Festival where we had Norfolk Brewery Wolf’s low ABV offering Moonlight. It was the first to sell out. It is a pale golden ale and despite being under 3% it had bags of flavour, mostly from the hops, lovely citrus flavours and a little sweetness, admittedly it didn’t have much body, but it was a great thirst quencher and an ideal quaffing beer. We had some great feedback from the customers, and at roughly 1.6 units per pint, even two and a half pints should keep most people under the drink drive limit of 80mg of alcohol. Following that eye-opening experience, I still surprised myself when I got quite excited as a package containing a mini keg of Adnams new 2.7% Sole Star landed on the doorstep. Fergus has been doing a great job at Adnams producing some stunning beers over the last few years Solebay Celebratory, Innovation, Spindrift, American IPA and a cracking Mild to name but a few. It’s always a pleasure trying another one of his creations and with my new-found open-mindedness I was looking forward to trying this one too.

I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It poured a clear rich amber with a frothy white head and looked extremely appealing.  The citrus aromas of the cascade & chinook hops were immediately apparent as was the classic Adnams Burtonised water. It reminded me immediately of Adnams Lighthouse (previously named ‘Champion Pale’). The bitterness hits the palate first with all those lovely floral citrus hops, then comes a gentle toffee sweetness from the malt and a lovely dry finish. Once again this beer is a touch light on body, but it is really to be expected. As a self-confessed hop head, there is definitely enough to keep me coming back for more in here.  If I were taking it easy then I’d be quite happy drinking a few pints of this. Would I prefer it to a stronger beer on another occasion? I’m not sure, but we’ll certainly be giving this beer a whirl at the Thatcher’s in the New Year, will you?

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6 thoughts on “What does a 2.8% beer actually taste like?

  1. We are always delighted to find a tasty beer at 3% or less because it means we can extend our session and stay in the pub longer without suffering a hangover. We wouldn’t want the market to be dominated by them, but they’re a nice option to have. Glad to hear Adnams have nailed it.

  2. It’s important that brewers do embrace the idea of these beers. Moonlight is a lovely beer and anything that allows drinkers to keep below the drink-drive limit must be good for pubs like your own which are some way from larger population centres. This Adnams brew sounds just the ticket, I’ll watch the FB page for news of it’s arrival!

  3. I supped my one of these on christmas day with help from the relatives, Everyone loved it, me included, I didn’t tell them it was less than 3% and no one noticed.

    Like you say its maybe a tiny bit thin but at the same time it packs a punch, I find my self wanting this type of beer more and more lately, especially on a night after work or an afternoon watching the footy.

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