Over the last month, several brands have announced their decision to reduce the ABV of some of their key brands.  Budweiser Draft will reduce from 5% to 4.3%, while Brains are reducing their SA Gold from 4.7% to the same 4.3%.  I’m sure the price will not reduce any however.  The thought in the trade is that they want to compete with the likes of Carling and Fosters, however the change in flavour when losing around 10% of your alcohol content could put as many existing drinkers off the drink as they may attract new ones after the ABV reduction.

Reducing yourself to the lowest common denominator in the market is not a way to improve your beer.  In the case of Budweiser I can see it making little difference, as people buy into the brand of Budweiser, not its distinctive or interesting taste, as it is lacking both.  However with Brains I can see this being a risky move, they do some decent session beers and I hope this does not spread to their other ales.  I’m not against weaker beers as my favoured range is between 3.8% and 4.5%, an ABV typical of the pale beers I favour, but a beer is originally brewed to certain strength, and the reduction makes it a different beer.

While discussing lower ABV in beer, the 50% duty cut for beers under 2.8% kicks in at the start of October, and research from CAMRA shows that 50% of pub goers would like to see a low strength option.  Personally I’m split on this, I’m yet to be convinced you can brew a interesting rich flavoured ale below this level and would probably not select such a product if offered, but if others want the option, then I see no harm, I just don’t think you will get the quality of flavour I look for in a beer.  That said it does mean you can have more than 2 pints while driving, and save around 50p per pint, but I would rather drink quality than quantity and pay that little bit more for it.

It is interesting to note that there is very little incentive for small brewers, who receive duty relief already due to their size, to produce such a product as they would not qualify for this second tranche of relief.  CAMRA are campaigning for this ABV threshold to be raised to 3.5%, an alcohol level I have experienced good beers at, but I have doubts the government will choose to lose even more taxation during times of fiscal problems.

Not widely reported in the press, AB InBev, who are famous for bring you Stella are looking to sell 3 very famous UK ale brands that most ale drinkers will have tried early in their drinking career.  The 3 brands are Bass, Boddingtons and Flowers.  At least one of these beers would have been guaranteed to grace a majority of bars across England ten or fifteen years ago, and I personally drank a lot of Flowers and Boddies before my palette got more discerning.

The asking price for all these is £15m, but so far there have been no offers, with existing brewers considering at least one of these three, Bass, as “yesterdays brand”.  For Bass, this I can agree with to a degree, Flowers to a lesser level.  But Boddingtons is still a brand which could be revitalised with its very strong regional link to Manchester area being the core of its marketing again, as it was successfully during the 1990s.  The beer was one of the best of the “mainstream” ales when brewed in Manchester, although I’ve not tasted one since its move away and deserves to be revitalised.

Little Valley Brewery based above Cragg Vale got the accolade of Beer of the Month for August from respected beer writer Roger Protz for their Python IPA this week.  I’ve seen this beer locally over the last few weeks, but not tried it due to the combination of the 6% ABV and myself driving at the time.  Roger Protz describes the beer as a pale golden beer with citrus and bitter hops dominating, with a finish of butterscotch, malt and spicy hops, of which there are three.  I hope to try this beer when I next see it as it sounds a very interesting beer from a brewery with a very good pedigree.  If it is as good as their other beers I won’t be disappointed.

And on that happy note, I wish you all good supping until next week.