There was recently a view among beer drinkers that sub-3% ABV beers (if you could find any) were low in taste. That changed when Ireland’s Whiplash brewery, despite brewing some of the country’s finest DIPAs over the past few years, released a 2.8% micro IPA called Northern Lights.
That beer hit a new high among low beers and won ‘Best Irish (But Not Northern Irish) Beer’ in my Golden Pints Awards of 2018 – a 2.8% beer winning a general beer of the year category? Aye boy.
So it’s only natural that I take full immodest credit for any new, low ABV micro or table beer produced following that award 🙂 and a new beer is always going to be compared to the Whiplash gem.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
DOT Brew is a contract outfit from the Republic (split between Hope in Dublin and Larkins in Wicklow) and So Far So Good Session IPA is a 3.2% offering that the blurb says is hopped with Amarillo and Galaxy, so hope for citrus and passion fruit notes.
It does have that faint aroma and looks like thin orange cordial in the glass. Expect more light grapefruit than anything orangey – the passion fruit can be detected somewhere but the grapefruit or greyfurt, as they say in Turkey, is the main thing here. Sorry, I just love the word greyfurt. Anyway, a decent start to the sessioners.
Acclaimed London brewery The Kernel‘s Table Beer is many peoples go-to for a low ABV beer and it’s easy to see why. There have been a few variations of this brew with differing hops and ABVs floating about the 3% mark. The one I picked up from The Vineyard in Belfast was the Citra/El Dorado Table Beer and bang on 3%.
It’s thicker, fuller and more rounded than the DOT beer, a great balance of the two hop varieties. The Citra starts to lift it but – and this is a good thing – the El Dorado brings it back down and levels it off before any hop complacency sets in. They work well together in a low ABV beer with a really enjoyable balance of acceptable bitterness and a low level citrus fruit hop quality.
Next in line is Oscar from The White Hag in County Sligo, bouncing in at a bantamweight 2.6% ABV. It’s a scaled down version of the brewery’s 4.2% Little Fawn IPA which many others have raved about – but not me. And to be fair, I’m not raving about Oscar either. It’s a decent beer but it’s not making me jump on the table, whip my top off and proclaim the beer of the year is here.
It looks thin when poured, straw and thin. There’s a faint whiff of orange squash and yes, there’s a tasty (albeit thin) mandarin and grapefruit hop quality on the tongue but you might rave about it more if you’re a bigger fan of Little Fawn than I am.
Finally, a 2.9% ABV Small Pale from Manchester’s Cloudwater brewery. It looks really thick and oaty in the glass, NEIPA-esque and it has a huge bang of orange and grapefruit pith as well as a squelch of juicy peach.
That citrus twang does overpower any actual hop flavour in there and halfway down the glass it feels like I’ve just been drinking fruit juice. The Man from Del Monte is confused. If it does nothing else for you, it’ll certainly open your taste buds. Grapefruit pith tends to do that.
Four beers there varying from ‘what’s the point’ to ‘reasonably tasty’ with The Kernel’s Table Beer my pick of the bunch but would I swap Whiplash’s Northern Lights for any of them? No.
Next soon on the blog, pray for me as I go even lower with a selection of alcohol free beer.