Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Interesting article in the NYT

The Other Extreme: Low-Alcohol Beers

I came across an interesting article yesterday on the New York Times website. The craft brew awareness is really just beginning to fully blossom in the United States (even Bud is making an "American Ale" that they are positioning as a craft beer). But this article brings to light a Renaissance occurring within the still-young craft brew phenomenon in the U.S.

Many of the beers that Jimmy, Mike, Alex, and myself have tasted and reviewed on this site are full-flavored, high alcohol, punch-you-in-the-face, beers. But it appears (at least this article offers us) that craft brewers across the nation are beginning to find a refreshing challenge in brewing low alcohol beers, that don't skimp you on the flavor. In the article, the author also interviews Jason Ebel of Two Brothers Brewery, whose Cane and Ebel Hopped-up Red Rye Ale was reviewed by me almost two months ago.

My initial reaction is that the full-on Hopheads will continue to steer towards the high ABV's. That's just the way it is. I understand the negatives that the author presents at the end of the article: "real" beer drinkers will always go high %, low % beer's taste gets lost in all the extreme flavors, etc.

I really think it has another side to it, though. Consider all the people on the "fringe". All the people that are intrigued by craft brew and "really want to get into it", but they are intimidated by the extreme flavors and high ABVs. Perhaps these low % beers could act as stepping stones for these "fringe" beer drinkers, providing them with a brew that has a good amount of flavor, but not as extreme as the high ABVs. It's just a thought, but in this growing market of craft beer, it's definitely worth a try.


Mike said...

Nice find, Ryan. I really enjoyed the article and your analysis. I am very excited for the booming craft beer industry, and I do believe the light craft beer market has potential. If you think about it, the average Joe going to happy hour after work is looking for just a light beer looking to relax and unwind for the day. Chances are they would pick a Bud over anything we have reviewed on the blog, mainly because its what they know will be relatively good in taste and won't knock them out at the wheel on their way home. However, if you give this beer drinker a choice between average flavor and great flavor with the same alcohol content, they will gravitate to the better flavor. I think it is smart to begin brewing lighter craft beers because you can open up the palettes of untapped customers.

*NOTE - slightly drunk, I hope this comment makes sense in the morning

Jimmy said...

My initial reaction was very similar to Ryans. I thought, "what a bunch of pansies. They don't know what beer really is. Anything below 3% tastes like PISSSSSS!" But then I realized they made a great point that this could act like the "training wheels" on a bike to the non-typical beer drinkers out there to get into the craft beer market. Simply ingenious! Would be great if it worked. I have never had any of these session beers that I can think of as I typically slay BIG and HOPPY brewdawgs. Would be willing to try one though. If it tastes good, then great, but I have a feeling the low alcohol <3% will affect the overall composition of the yeast and sugar attributes of beer.