Thursday, 30 June 2011

Trickle becomes a flood

Many will have said it was watery piss already, but the next beer to have its strength reduced is Budweiser Draught, which is being reduced from 5% ABV to 4.3% to make it “more sessionable”. Few beer lovers will be shedding any tears over this, but it’s yet another example of the growing trend of beer watering. I suspect few of its drinkers realised it was actually 5% in the first place.

Incidentally, while there is a widespread belief that American beer is weak, this is largely a myth. Most regular US beers, although very pale and bland, conform to the “Continental” 5% standard rather than the British 3.8-4% “session beer” standard. This may arise from the fact that, in the US, alcohol content is normally shown by weight, not by volume. As alcohol is considerably lighter than water, a US beer that is 4% by weight will be the same strength as a Canadian one that is 5% by volume.


  1. Yes, I'll add that when I worked in Colorado in 1983, there was a "three-two" law. People aged between 18 and 21 were permitted to buy beer less not exceeding 3.2% alcohol by weight - so over 3.5% abv, and hardly less than the strength of Boddington's/Boddingtons at that time.

  2. Curmudgeon: US beer that is 4% by weight will be the same strength as a Canadian one that is 5% by volume.

    Another manifestation of this is evident in parts of America where the 'low-point beer' is in existence - all bars cannot serve beer above 4% ABV refrigerated in the likes of Oklahoma with its absurdly draconian alcohol law.

    I think they may be referring to the taste rather than the alcohol content, although there are a lot of low-alcohol beers out there.

    Having said that, a lot of the really cheap 'college beers' on sale in the US aren't weak in alcohol content at all - Natural Ice (a popular beer for college drunks) is 5.9% but, as you say, they're a mixture of between 4-6% with obvious 'light' versions. But the people who drink that stuff aren't interested in taste as such anyway.

    I've only had American craft beer very rarely, but "weak" is probably the last possible word I'd use to describe most of it! Canadian craft beers seem to stick around the 5% mark - Mill Street Coffee Porter at 5.5% was pure heaven!

    I worry about the increasing homogenisation of British beer - if all the beer tastes similar (whether through the ABV being weakened, the beers fall flat in the taste department through being too bland or most people don't like anything that even remotely tastes of anything distinctive) then it helps to kill off even more customers, who will be willing customers of the supermarkets.

    The supermarkets, as you mentioned earlier, now need to work on the hoppy beers so that there is something for all, as a lot of the golden beers aren't especially hoppy, and IPAs don't exist even in the local shops that specialise in beers.


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