Wow. So you may have heard (we have probably already told you, in the first five minutes and more than once) that Powderkeg has just won the World Beer Award for the UK’s ‘Best Low-Alcohol Pale Ale’
But, if you’d asked me six months ago about low ABV beers, I probably would have just shrugged and said ‘meh’. But these days, my fellow thinkers and drinkers, I have had a revelation.
I’m not a beer snob (I am, a bit) – I just try and hold as high a standard as possible, where I can. Generally, I’ve been thoroughly underwhelmed by low alcohol beers. I kinda thought they were pointless – so often one-dimensional at best and lacking sophistication and interest – there were always far tastier, naturally non-alcoholic products to drink.
But, never shy of a challenge, I wanted to have a crack at making one all the same. I could see their potential – mainly in increasing the number of opportunities I would have to drink beer – but it had to taste legitimately, stand-alone great.
The easy way to make low/no alcohol beer is that used by the bigger (and uglier) breweries. They tend to cheat (yes, cheat!) on low-alcohol. They have big, fancy Reverse Osmosis machines that suck all of the alcohol and most of the flavour out of a traditionally brewed product. Not only is that not an option at craft scale – our R&D budget for Green Light was about 30 quid – it’s also a bit daft. Why put loads of stuff in, just to take it all out again?
So our philosophy from day one was that we would only put ingredients IN. Layer flavour upon flavour, building up the malt and the body to provide a chunky yet nuanced base and then use four different hops across four additions to build a solid hop flavour and aroma that could provide the essential depth and intrigue.
Jump forward from there by about three weeks and we’re all stood in a circle in the brewery, glancing nervously at each other, quietly planning polite ways to say it tastes like shit and taking tentative sips from a 100L pilot batch.
But we quickly realised we could save our polite excuses for the next pilot beer because, to almost everyone’s surprise, we had created something of beauty – good enough to change the minds of a crowd of beer snobs instantly.
But there was still one step to go on my ‘journey’ – we had the right beer, but I still didn’t really understand its true potential.
Jump forward six months this time, and I am officially a low ABV convert. It’s really hot in the brewery this afternoon, I need to drive home later, but I’m very thirsty. Green Light. I’m at the beach, I’ve got the kids, I’ve got to drive home later, but I’m so thirsty. Green Light. I’ve had a few pints, and I don’t want to get drunk, but I’m still really quite thirsty. Green Light. I’ve been out on a bike ride, I feel all healthy but, golly, I am thirsty. Green Light.
You get my point. It’s called Green Light for a reason. There’s practically no need to ever be stopped from having a beer now. I want a batman-utility-belt that can be loaded with a 6-pack so it’s always within reach. Like I said, a revelation. A delicious, nearly-healthy, myth-busting, life-changing revelation.
And a perfect example of what we’re always striving for at PK – defying knee-jerk opinions, making awesome beer, and changing hearts and minds.
I love it when a plan comes together.