Celebrating “spacer” beers
For drinking between “normal” beers on a long session. For a week-night. For the Designated Driver. For cutting down. For starting early after the third #lockdown Zoom meeting of the day. For getting through pregnancy and breastfeeding. For all these reasons and more, the recent explosion in choice and quality of zero and <0.5% abv beers has been a boon and I love them!
Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge fan of well-poised Imperial Barrel Aged Beasts, the occasional Triple IPA (harder to find in the UK than the SF Bay Area but not impossible!), even a 3.7% Young's Ordinary, 4% Crafty Devil Mikey Rayer All Dayer, or 3.5% Brains Dark (Mild)! However, as I've embraced my early forties, these low abv beers have found their way firmly into my regular drinking week.
It started as a bit of a challenge for me after my first encounter with a really drinkable <0.5% beer. I think it was a Big Drop Pale Ale or Stout. Soon I was sourcing them direct, enjoying the thrill of “will it be drinkable or will it taste like wort?”. Accepting the variable hit rate until I settled on a stable of options that I now vary between.
Here, dear reader, are my current favourites and a few honourable mentions:
- Thornbridge Zero Five <0.5% – This is one of my go-tos. I like drinking it direct from the bottle, feeling the cool taste of the beverage with its sharp, almost metallic, hoppy tang. It might be too light in body for some or have too much of a malty/worty edge for others but for me, it's just right (and really reasonable to buy direct from the brewery!)
- Infinite Session IPA <0.5% – Another go-to. Love the name and the simple branding. Comes conveniently in cans and you can also sometimes find it in supermarkets/M&S. Note – the Pale Ale is a good choice for when you you need a break from the IPA's assault of Amarillo and Cascade dry hops.
- Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout and Off Piste Hazelnut Porter <0.5% – These folk really set the bar high when it comes to low abv dark stuff, especially if you like milk stouts as the addition of lactose (as well as multiple grains) is a great trick for building mouthfeel and complexity. Their collaboration with Tiny Rebel for the latter brewery's 7th anniversary resulted in arguably the most glorious <0.5% beer yet – the sumptuous Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout. Brew it again please! For some adventurous fun, check out their World Collab Series where they team up with friends to push-the-envelope further with saisons, goses and who knows what next!
- Mikkeller Henry and his Science 0.3% – This is one quirky beer, right from it's label of the eponymous Henry making the beer in his lab, through the brewing using a specially selected yeast strain, to the taste – refreshing, tart and great for summer! Hunt it down through UK vendors such as drydrinker.com or lightdrinks.co.uk
- Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropica NA <0.5% – Great option if you want a modern, tropical, craft IPA but need a break from the alcohol! However, the link takes you to their “Keep the Party Going” pack, which illustrates the #SpacerBeer concept perfectly!
- Brewdog and their every expanding range. Starting with Nanny State (too worty for me but the first <0.5% beer I had on draught), now encompassing Punk AF, Hazy AF, and Wake Up Call Coffee Mik Stout. They even have a completely “alcohol-free” bar in London! Bold stunt? Sign-of-the-times? Oxymoron? You decide!
- Adnams brew a <0.5% version of their Ghost Ship if you're after something maltier (you can also find an M&S branded “Southwold Pale Ale 0.5%”!).
- Thornbridge Little-by-Little Stout < 0.5% – Another milk stout, not as rich as Big Drop's offerings but certainly not-to-be-sniffed-at. Pick some up while you're getting their Pale Ale!
- Big Drop Paradiso Citra IPA and Pine Trail Pale Ale <0.5% – For me, these beers don't reach the height of their dark beers but are well worth sending past your personal palate.
- Nirvana brewery – various low-to-zero abv offerings. I like their story and what they are trying to achieve more than I like their beers but that is personal taste and I suggest you check them out yourself!
That took longer to write than I anticipated but hopefully it'll inspire one or two of you to take another look at these options – if only as an occasional break from the harder stuff!
All links are correct as of 27 May 2020 but may not be when you come to read them! Hunt the internet for these beers and their friends and enjoy!
Entry 2 of my participation in the “100 Days to Offload” challenge – find out more and join in!