When someone says “craft beer”, the usual connotations, at least to a non-beer drinker, are of hugely hopped, rich beer, usually with an ABV above 7 percent. And to be fair, for a while this was the case as brewers wanted (and in lots of cases still do want) to explore and expand the science of their profession.
But while it’s relatively easy to create a big-bodied, high-alcohol beer, there is much more finesse in creating a low-alcohol beer while maintaining flavour. This is a challenge that has been accepted by an increasing number of New Zealand brewers, giving rise to the new session beer movement.
There are already a few stand-outs. Croucher Lowrider (lovely and hoppy at only a smidge over 2.5 percent) and Hallertau Minimus (both the summer and winter versions) from Rotorua and Auckland, respectively, are real favourites of drinkers who want to remain upright after night out.
This is of huge importance to brewers, who, unsurprisingly, drink a lot of beer. Matt Warner of ParrotDog says that you can “have one with lunch and still function for the afternoon; have one or possibly even two and still legally drive home; have a handful throughout a long session and not turn into ‘that guy’.” Indeed, no one wants to be ‘that guy’ (remember: drink lots of water).
ParrotDog have recently turned out their own low-strength ale: ClippedWing. “We wanted to brew a refreshing low ABV beer for those long summer/autumn sessions where you don’t want to fall over at the end,” says Warner. “We wanted most of the goodness of an American-style pale ale, without the higher alcohol content. We’ve brewed three batches of it already to try and meet demand.”
He’s not wrong. ClippedWing (a ‘mini APA’) has taken over Wellington. At 3.5 percent it has the same ABV as the brewery’s Dogg (a dark mild ale), which is a better bet for a low-strength beer in winter.
Beyond particular beers made for sessioning, there have also been a number of ‘mini’ versions of popular beers. 8‑Wired released their Semi-Conductor (a mini Super Conductor), and recently at Greater Wellington Brewday I had a Minimatta, which was a low-alcohol version of the ‘world famous’ Gunnamatta from Yeastie Boys.
Enjoying beer doesn’t mean getting drunk. Your sober driver can actually join you for a pint. Session beers allow us to do something I love — they let everyone enjoy a beer together.[info]
What to drink
ParrotDog have made another beer for GABS (the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular): DevilBird (a Belgian golden strong ale). This, along with a number of other GABS beers from Wellington brewers, should be released at the end of May after GABS.[/info]