...And becoming more prevalent in beer. There's been a fair furore in the blogosphere over the decision to raise duty on those beers over 7.5% ABV to counteract the reduced duty on those 2.8%ABV and below. There have been a lot of strong beer reviews, but very few of the new wave of 2.8%-ers. Browsing the beer aisle in Tesco today I was pleased to find an extra few shelves had been gained from wine by beer. On closer inspection three of these beers turned out to be the mythical 2.8% brews I'd not yet seen. Feeling game for something different I bought one of each and I'll let you know how they worked out.
|All three of these are 2.8%|
Its not often that I review the Family or Regional brewers on this blog. I know a lot of people think they are staid and boring. If you're still reading then the brewers in question are Greene King (as Tolly Cobold), Fuller's and Marston's. First thing to mention is that at £1.39 a pop, there's no discernible saving over regular-strength brews. If you're looking for bang for your buck its not here.
The Greene King Effort is up first. Tolly Cobold Tolly English Ale is described thus: "This Fine Amber ale has been brewed using a complex mix of hops to offer balanced bitterness with strong tropical notes. All the flavour you would expect from a great English ale but at only alc. 2.8& vol." Will it stand up to that appetising introduction? Well, not quite. It starts off well with a good English hop nose, earthy and spicy with a hint of that metallic fuggles character. The digestive biscuits of caramalt are immediately apparent in the mouth, joined today by all-butter shortbread as a tolerable amount of diacetyl is added to the mix. There's a ghost of sweet pineapple, those aforementioned tropical hops must have been added in a minuscule amount. It finishes with a surprisingly moreish dry bitterness and peppery red fruit. I'd take this over GK IPA any day. (But please GK, sort out those clear glass bottles, I don't want to end up tasting something light struck!)
Similar in appearance, yet world's apart in taste is Marston's Pale Ale, likely a reworked version of their regular pale ale. On first getting the bottle open I grimaced as the familiar "Burton Snatch" prevalent in a lot of Marston's beers rears its ugly head. I don't enjoy the sulphurous quality at all in beer, reminding me of Icelandic drinking water, though some people swear by it. Thankfully it doesn't get into the taste and the eggy-pong soon dissipates leaving some sweet fruit esters. These are the most dominant flavours in the beer too, almost artificially so, I wonder if any unfermentable sugars went into this for body purposes? Finish is fairly sweet and a bit thin. Not dreadful but not inspiring either.
A beer that has had a few mentions in the digital world is Fullers Mighty Atom (launched October 2011). I did not like this one bit! Toffee and honey on the nose the body is like a mix of stewed oatcakes and melted butter. There's a touch of pithy bitterness that momentarily hides the butter then it returns in abundance Being a mainly malty beast I can see this as being a good beer for use in batters and stews. This was a disappointment for me though as I like the majority of Fuller's brews.
All three beers are well made, but of the bunch I'd probably only drink Tolly English again. It also shows that you shouldn't judge a beer by this brewer, as in this case the brewer I usually enjoy least produced the beer I enjoyed most in the bunch. Of course you might prefer one of the other two! I'd be keen to try some other styles of beer at 2.8% or below. Although a touch on the thin side I enjoyed the trial brew of Brodie's summer stout at GBBF. I think darker beers would have a bit more body so am quite surprised that all three of these examples are pale ales. Has anyone else come across any low ABV beers launched since the tax reduction came into effect?