New Booze Round-up The Drinks Cabinet

New booze round-up #7: Low- and no-alcohol beers (and shandy)

M&S shandy hop back

Ever since writing a few pieces on low- and no-alcohol beers we’ve received a steady supply of samples, hoping to grab our attention for the next relevant commission. In just the last few weeks four new beers have sent to us and, seeing as they’re all good (many more aren’t), we decided to round them up together.

Here they are in ascending levels of alcohol…

Brooklyn Brewery, Special Effects, 0.4%

When this arrived we had a hunch it would be good. Brooklyn Brewery makes a decent fist of just about everything it produces and we think there’s a common style to beers in their core range. This is billed as a ‘hoppy lager’ but it looks much more like an ale – a very brown liquid sporting a white-with-a-hint-of-malt coloured head.

The flavour has a bit more maltiness than you would expect from a lager, which helps smooth out some of the harder edges apparent in many alcohol free beers, and the body feels quite full and flavoursome. The hopping is as we would expect from a hoppy Brooklyn beer: a rootsy bitterness that falls short of being aggressive with some brighter fruity tones. We hoped for a decent beer and it doesn’t disappoint.

Big Drop, Citra Four Hop Special Edition Pale Ale, 0.5%

Big Drop is a Suffolk brewery that specialises in low alcohol beers and we’ve been impressed with their range thus far. This special edition is fresh and fruity, a crisp beer with a slightly chalky light body and citrussy hops that tastes every bit a modern craft ale. Our first bottle was enjoyed on a hot Saturday afternoon – guzzled before a home brewing session, performing a great job of getting us in the brewing mood without alcohol diminishing our focus. And the sign of a good beer? We couldn’t wait to open the next one…

M&S / Hog’s Back Five Hop Lager Shandy, 2.2%

We like a shandy (or, as we call it in posh company, a cocktail). M&S’s new beer from Hog’s Back brewery is a rare thing: a lager shandy you don’t have to make yourself. German breweries commonly do this (it’s called a Radler) but it has never quite caught on in the UK, which is a shame.

This can doesn’t quite contain the hopfest you might imagine from its five hop boast, but there’s a good beery undertone that adds some dryness to the sweet lemonade along with just enough alcohol to make an impression. There’s some good zestiness to the lemon and the whole package is crisp, fizzy and well balanced between lager and pop. A proper shandy: refreshment achieved.

Camden Week Nite Lager, 3%

Camden produce one of the best ranges of lagers in the UK so its no surprise to discover they’ve turned out a new brew with a lower than usual ABV of 3%. It’s unfiltered, dry-hopped and comes in a bright blue can – very showy for such a sober beer. And it tastes great. It’s light bodied with a dry finish and has some citrus refreshment running through it. The dry hopping pushes forward more hops than most lagers, with some grass and straw flavours that take on slight notes of ash through that dry finish.

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