For low-no read low-yes

11 June, 2019

The expression “no compromise” keeps cropping up, but should be taken with a pinch of yeast for there aren’t yet many no-low beers and lagers that get pubs a-purring. That said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised on more than one occasion and quality can only improve as Europe’s big boys bring their expertise and financial clout to the market.

Heineken, the world’s second biggest beer producer, has introduced its 0.0% lager and is already recording strong sales in Spain, the Netherlands and Russia, while Budweiser Prohibition Brew (0% abv) appeared in 2017. These two giants together notched up sales of more than £6.5m within 12 months. Guinness’ Open Gate Pure Brew (0.5% abv) is also making friends around Europe. Not to be outdone, Carlsberg has set targets to double sales of its alcohol-free products by 2022.

De-alcoholisation is generally carried out by reverse osmosis or vacuum distillation, –you pays your money and you takes your choice. “We looked at lots of different methods and reverse osmosis gave by far the best-tasting Ghost Ship 0.5%, removing the alcohol but retaining the full, original flavours and aromas,” says Fitzgerald.

Danish brewer Mikkeller takes a different course: “You can make a normal beer and then remove the alcohol but a lot of flavour disappears,” says the company’s Viktor Danckwardt. “We use special yeast strains that do not produce alcohol when fermenting but still add lots of flavour to the beer.” Hook agrees: “I don’t use de-alcoholising methods in any Outfox product as the aromas are usually lacking, the taste profile too sweet and often there’s a distinct (not in a good way) aftertaste”.

The British beer festival, founded in 1977, will this year be offering non- alcoholic beer for the first time. A sign of the times.

Cards on the table – I’m not the world’s number one fan of no-low alcohol wine, I often get burnt aromas and weird aftertastes. Evidently many don’t share my reservations as it’s now a sizeable UK category with 6.10m bottles sold over the past year with a value of £40m. “Our Kantar research indicates that the no and low-alcohol wine market grew by 35% over the past year and, equally importantly, the number of purchasers grew by 48%,” says Richard Jones, Reh Kendermann’s UK managing director.

Australia’s under-35s have yet to catch on. A recent report found that “they are less aware of lower, non-alcoholic wines” but concluded that “there is an opportunity for the category”. As a regular visitor presenting wine events Down Under that’s an understatement if ever I heard one.

LOW-ALCOHOL WINE

Some of the world’s best-known winemakers are now producing low-alcohol wines. Torres makes two 0.5% abv wines from its Spanish vineyards – a white Muscat and a red from 100% Syrah, the latter oak barrel-aged before de-alcoholisation. In Germany, Reh Kendermann produces a 0.5% abv. Black Tower range of white, red, rosé and sparkling. Blue Nun now includes a white at 0.2% abv, a red at 0.1% abv and a sparkling with less than 0.5% abv. Public relations director Hans Kohl says: “All three wines are an essential part of the Familie Langguth portfolio with exports to the UK, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and China. UK is our strongest market for low alcohol, China for non-alcohol.”

Taina Vilkuna MW, product communications manager at Alko, Finland’s alcohol monopoly, says: “There is demand for no and low-alcohol wines in Finland but sales are low. However, the sales of non-alcoholic wine are increasing, especially in the sparkling wine category.” This will be music to the ears of Scavi & Ray, the prosecco producer which has created a 0% abv sparkling white wine (100% Glera) in the image of it Veneto.





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