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Busy drinkers leading low-ABV trend

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Conscious drinkers: more pubgoers want to avoid the grogginess associated with higher ABV beers, says Small Beer Brewery co-founder James Grundy
Conscious drinkers: more pubgoers want to avoid the grogginess associated with higher ABV beers, says Small Beer Brewery co-founder James Grundy

Related tags: Abv

Co-founder of Small Beer Brewery, James Grundy, explains that low-alcohol beer has found a growing fanbase in modern pubgoers who are too busy to have a hangover the next day.

Situated just off the Bermondsey Beer Mile in south London, the brewery launched in autumn 2017 and brews beers which range from 1.0%–2.7% ABV. 

It has a modest portfolio of four beers that are stocked in pubs across the country, in addition to stockists in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Drinkers’ desires to avoid social media embarrassment, detrimental hangovers, and for lower-calorie options are behind the growing popularity of low-alcohol beer, explains Grundy.

Good drinks with friends

He says: “There's a lot around occasion at the moment – people still want the pub to be the centre of the community. 

“But [people have been] noting that when you go out to the pub to catch up with friends on a mid-week evening or a Sunday, you can still have great drinks but without it leaving you feeling groggy on the Monday morning.

“We're all so busy now. Everyone's running around at 120mph but you don't want to not have those great drinks with that friend you haven't seen for a couple of months. But again, you have a deadline to meet the next morning,” he adds.

“We still very much want that togetherness and that social interaction – doing that over drinks, or having a great drink in your hand, is kind of our culture. But I think people want the slowdown associated with the higher ABV, the 5–6% [beers], less and less now.”

Almost a fifth of UK drinkers said, to alcohol awareness organisation Drinkaware in 2017, that they were cutting down their drinking behaviours, with the value of the low-alcohol category increasing year on year.

The brewery released its Session Pale (2.5% ABV) in a can format earlier this summer, which its co-founder describes as being “the beer of the summer”.

The low-ABV trend comes hand in hand with consumers actively seeking out drinks with lower calorie and sugar contents. 

Small Beer’s products have between around a quarter and a third of the calories found in a standard bottle of beer – its 350ml dark lager drink is 49 calories. 


Healthy lifestyle popularity

Its brewing processes means its drinks are mostly vegan and gluten-free, which are lifestyles that have also seen an uptake in recent years.

“I think we're really lucky we have a tribal following in the vegan, gluten, free-from space. People who know us as a go-to,” Grundy adds. 

Plans for the brewery include investments into expanding its team and challenging taboos around the low-alcohol category.

“We're talking about an entirely new category that we’re pioneering here, and new occasions for many consumers, so we have got to be able to support that category education,” explains Grundy. 

“The stigma is with the consumer still. This is because of what has gone before, [and] lower alcohol typically isn't [seen as it is] going to taste as good. 

“Before they have even tried it, people say ‘oh, will that taste watery?’, and those are the perceptions we're looking to change.”

Related topics: Beer

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