Lighten up: The best low-strength beers

 

I've never really understood why people give up alcohol for January. Of all the months to avoid hooch, why choose the grimmest, darkest, most spirit-sapping of all? It's the time of year when a glass is most welcome, particularly if it involves a warm pub and some friends.

That said, lower-strength alcohol does appeal if you've had a particularly booze-heavy Christmas, and this is where beer comes into its own. Few other alcoholic drinks can give you the complexity of flavour that a 3.5 per cent cask ale offers.

Lower-strength beers are increasingly popular in the USA – until, now, land of the free and home of the 9 per cent hop-bomb – but our native beer-makers are a few steps ahead: there's nowhere else in the world where you'll find so many good sub-4 per cent beers.

Conversely, the influence of America's craft-brewing movement means many of the best low-ABV beers you'll find on this side of the Atlantic are heavy on piney, resinous hops, mostly sourced in the Pacific Northwest.

Not all of them make it into bottles, so look out for Redemption's Trinity (3 per cent ABV) or Magic Rock's Simpleton, even lighter at 2.6. The latter has impressive body for a beer so weak, which takes real brewing skill.

We can all raise a glass to that, even in January.

BREWS TO CHOOSE

Totally tropical

Buxton Moor Top

Hopped with the US variety Chinook, this Derbyshire-brewed golden session ale brims with tropical flavours. £2.04 for 33cl bottle, beerritz.co.uk, 3.6 per cent ABV

Hop to it

Hawkshead Windermere Pale Ale

A blend of three English hops and Citra go into this  Cumbrian classic. £23 for 8 x 500ml, hawksheadbrewery.co.uk, 4 per cent ABV

All-rounder

The Kernel Table Beer

The hops and alcoholic strength vary from batch to batch – but you can be sure this will be crisp and satisfying. £2.40 for 500ml, mrlawrencewinemerchant.co.uk

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