Home' Hospitality Business : HB MAR 2017 Contents F
or several decades ‘craft beer’ has been synonymous with big,
bold, higher-alcohol styles such as IPA, Double IPA, Imper ial
Stouts, and more recently sour beer. But that seems to be
slowly changing. As both the craft brewing industry and craft
beer drinkers mature, there has been a r ise in popular ity of many classic,
lower ABV (alcohol by volume), beer styles such as Pilsner, English
Bitter, Brown Ale, and many more. But even beyond these classic
session beers, many craft brewers have begun producing flavour-forward
versions of ‘light’ or ‘low-alcohol’ beer; a segment of the market which
was virtually untouched by craft brewers until recent years.
One such brewer y is Rotorua’s Croucher Brewing Company, which
won a Gold Medal and took home a Best-in-Class trophy at the
2016 Brewers Guild Awards, with their wildly popular Lowr ider IPA.
Lowr ider is a 2.5% hoppy ale that is brewed for the increasing number
of craft beer drinkers who – as the bottle states – want to “keep a clear
head, but do not want to compromise on hops”.
I had the opportunity to speak with the company’s owner and head
brewer Paul Croucher to gain some insight into the different challenges
and considerations associated with brewing such a unique beer. I began
the conversation with the simple question - why brew low-alcohol beer?
“It’s pretty multifaceted,” Croucher says. “One of the inspirations for
us was when we had an English brewer come in.
He showed us all of the beers he was brewing in
his pub and they var ied from probably the high
twos to the low fours [in alcohol percentage]. He
couldn’t believe how strong the beers in the New
Zealand and the US craft beer industry were.
“He was coming from a publican’s
perspective,” he says. “Because if you’ve got a 7%
beer you’re only selling three of those.You’re not
getting people staying, having conversations, and
buying meals and what have you. And of course,
we have become publicans and it’s important for us to be able to sell
multiple pints. Don’t get me wrong, I love those strong beers and how
much flavour you can pack into them, but we were quite keen to start
brewing some lower-alcohol beers.”
He also explains that by law every New Zealand, licensed premises
must have a low-alcohol option available. “That doesn’t mean a no-
alcohol option,” says Croucher. “It doesn’t mean a Coke or orange
juice, it means a low-alcohol option (2.5% ABV or lower). So there
really was a big gap in the market there as far as we could see.
“Basically everyone went for Amstel Light.That seemed to be the
product of choice. All of the other beers seemed to be really insipid
offer ings just to fill that legal obligation, so we thought that we should
be able to get more flavour in there and, after some playing around, we
released Lowr ider.”
But brewing a low-alcohol beer is not as simple as it may sound.
Malted barley - that the alcohol it is converted into - and hops are the
main contr ibutors to a beer’s flavour. To produce a low-alcohol beer,
one must typically remove a good percentage of the malt.When you
do this you lose a good percentage of a beer’s flavour and body, and
you offset how the malt sweetness balances with the hops. The result is
often a thin, flavourless beer, that risks becoming too astringent. So it
is no small accomplishment that Croucher has
been able to produce a 2.5% ABV IPA-inspired
beer (a style known for being intensely hoppy
and full-flavoured) that has been so well received.
“We wanted to use a lot of Simcoe and
Amarillo [hops] and get those nice tropical fruit
notes in the beer,” says Croucher when descr ibing
their approach to crafting Lowr ider. “If you can
get that luscious, big, upfront fruitiness [in the
aroma], it sort of sets you up for that first sip and
makes you more receptive to the beer. That’s what
Beer writer John Oszajca explores low alcohol
beer - a segment of the beer market which was
virtually untouched by craft brewers until recent years.
beer is not as
simple as it
56 | March 2017 | Hospitality BUSINESS
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