We held our second alcohol free beer tasting in Shrewsbury last night. Drive Yourself To Drink is run by myself and dry. – the alcohol free bottle shop in town. Held at the stop. cafe bar in Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, we had a much more moody venue this time around as it was a little later and the house lights were down. Read a review of the first event on My Shrewsbury here.
Our guests filed in to enjoy their welcome cocktail – a dark and stormy riff renamed the ‘Light and Breezy’. Ginger beer and lime were cut through with the cane sugar flavours of Anon – an alcohol free spirit with lightly spiced rum characters. I thought this really created a nicely rounded cocktail – refreshing and sufficiently complex to hold your attention.
Alcohol Free Beer Tasting
So far, so good. On to the beers and we had four to sample which I loosely themed around flavour in brewing. There was Loah’s lager lime (using natural flavours added to the beer), the hop drive Brulo Lust for Life, Drop Bear’s Bonfire Stout (featuring smoked malt in the grain bill) and finally Tempest Brewings Sleight of Hand. I pitched that around flavour from yeast/microbial activity because it’s a sour pale. In truth, this was a last-minute addition to the running order so I hadn’t tried it before and I don’t know what approach they take to brewing a sour!
We were joined by Hugo from Loah who was a really interesting speaker. He added to the evening by bringing his lager along for us to enjoy on draught. I enjoyed the opportunity to chat through each beer and food pairing with him. Certainly a man with a lot of interesting thoughts on no and low brewing.
As ever, the food from Dayve and the team at stop. was an excellent accompaniment. It really took the level of the event up a notch. My favourite was probably the avocado and charred corn tostada, which went amazingly well with the Loah. Having lime running as a thread between the two was probably a real boon there. I was also really impressed at how well it handled the rich, creamy avocado (better than most wines would, let’s face it).
Alcohol Free Brewers or Brewers Brewing Alcohol Free Beers
Finally the evening was interesting for me observationally. Three of the beers were made by dedicated alcohol free brewers, and only one was made by a traditional brewer branching out into low alcohol. And that was the best one. It had the most interesting flavour, with a layered experience in your mouth that took you on a bit of a journey.
None of the others was bad, they are all quality beers. Tempest’s Sleight of Hand is not quite as sour as I’d like, but it was definitely more nuanced than the others. I think there was surprising depth to the Loah. As it is a lager it really does the job I would want it to do. But I think with the other styles there is more work to be done. This made me wonder about just how much ‘catching up’ alcohol free brewers have to do. First it is necessary to understand the nuances of what makes a great beer. Then they have to achieve all of the tricky adjustments necessary to make an alcohol free beer that retains the aroma, flavour and mouthfeel but is also stable and has some shelf life. It strikes me that experienced brewers have the upper hand, and the kit perhaps. Initially they are in a stronger position do a better job. Though the field is closing in terms of quality as we move forward. Arguably this will about face in the future. A dedicated non-alcoholic brewer is after all, dedicated to that area.
There are more questions than answers here. Certainly it is something I will be taking a closer look at in the future.
Anyway, next time we’re doing alcohol free wines and spirits. So bag your tickets on the dry. website and we’ll see you on 30th March.