Friday, 29 August 2008
InBev, the makers of Stella Artois, have recently announced that they are going to “harmonise” the strength of the premium lager at 5.0% ABV, as opposed to the previous 5.2%. While that isn’t the most earth-shattering news, it does seem to indicate a growing reluctance of brewers to offer mainstream products above 5.0%. Holsten Pils used to be sold at 5.5% with the slogan “more of the sugar turns to alcohol”, but that’s now a flat 5% too. A number of mass-market ciders have also had their strength reduced, as has the draught version of Old Speckled Hen.
Now I would certainly never advocate drinking anything purely on the basis of its strength, or assessing alcoholic drinks on a “bangs per buck” basis. But there are many beers - such as Robinson’s Old Tom and Belgian specialities such as Duvel - whose strength is an integral part of their character. It is not unreasonable that drinkers might sometimes want to sacrifice quantity for strength and choose a beer that is rich and warming rather than one that is light and refreshing. And if you want to pay a bit more for a 5.5% lager rather than a 5% one, why shouldn’t you?
But I do get the feeling that brewers are deliberately aiming to limit the strength of their mainstream products in an attempt to avoid an anti-alcohol backlash. This is something that needs to be watched carefully as within a few years it might be extremely difficult to buy any beers stronger than 5% apart from expensive specialities.