LOW ALCOHOL LAGER: I was very surprised to receive a message out of the blue on LinkedIn recently. It was from Emma Heal, the MD at Lucky Saint. She was congratulating me on my Highly Commended award for 50 Years of CAMRA at the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards. Not only was that very flattering, but she also offered to send me a case of Lucky Saint by way of congrats from her and her team. This was totally unexpected and very generous!
Anyway, I am continually surprised by the quality of low alcohol lagers and ales. You would think now that in the four or so years I have been trying them and writing about them my expectations would already be high. However, there are a few bad apples that spoil the barrel and have made me cautious. There was no need for trepidation with Lucky Saint though. I found it to be delightfully crisp. There is a refined slightly biscuit-like malt character and flavourful, with a delicate citrus finish.
Clean flavours in alcohol free beers
The thing I love about alcohol-free (or low alcohol in this case – 0.5%) beers is how clean they taste. There are rarely any heavy flavours on the finish. Lucky Saint too tails away on your palate, It leaves just a memory of the hop notes but overall a real sense of smug refreshment. This is interesting because it is marketed as an unfiltered lager specifically. There has been a conscious move to leave the liquid as the brewing process creates it. That gives you a drink with a satisfying mouthfeel and layers of (admittedly light touch) flavour. It is vibrant enough but not overpoweringly complex – just what you want from a lager in my opinion.
It’s not overly carbonated either, so I find it much easier to drink than generic European-ish lagers these days. I told The Boy I have CAMRA-belly, which means I cannot stomach too much fizz anymore. Weird because I used to drink cheap lager by the slab. Now just one has me burping long into the night, hours after I have finished it. Lucky Saint apparently remove their alcohol from the brewed product using a “unique vacuum process”. This intrigues me because I have no idea how that works. Hopefully I will get the chance to find out more.
Acceptance in the British marketplace
I am delighted that the low and no markets are finding such acceptance these days. I’ve noticed some of the bigger multinationals boasting about their alcohol free ranges and being the first* to put draught low alcohol lager on the bar. This signals to me that we are getting beyond the gruff cries of “what’s the point of beer with no booze in it?” Finally! I certainly enjoy drinking beer because I love the taste, the smell, the mouthfeel, the ritual and the friendship. And hangovers aren’t great. I don’t necessarily need to be drunk to have a good time. Right, I’m sure many of you cannot believe that.
It has been really interesting to track the gradual societal shift in the acceptance of these products. I am gratified to see their proliferation on the shelves of both the supermarket, the bottle shop and the pub. For me, it was vital to have access to these beers during pregnancy . Quite frankly one glass of coke on a night out is my limit. And plain tonic water gets boring pretty quickly.
Long may it continue say I. There is a place in my life for drinking alcohol and there is plenty of time for drinking without it. What matters is that we all have the freedom to choose.
*not the first at all, maybe just the first on their bars in particular.
I was gifted a case of Lucky Saint, but I’m afraid my opinions are my own, as usual.