Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Unlikely pioneers

You wouldn’t have guessed it in advance, but conservative, secretive family brewer Samuel Smith’s of Tadcaster seem to be leading the response to the reduced beer duty for beers of 2.8% or below. They have cut the strength of their keg Light and Dark Milds to this level, together with that of Alpine Lager. I think the two milds were only about 3.0% before, so it isn’t a huge difference in strength, and Alpine, once their standard lager, has now been supplanted by Taddy Lager as their full-strength offering.

It is significant that they have done this by cutting the strength of existing products rather than introducing new ones which will inevitably carry something of a stigma. Would you really want to go in a pub and order a pint of Small Beer?

I sampled a pint of the Light Mild, available at the Boar’s Head in Stockport at an incredible £1.18 a pint (where Old Brewery Bitter is £1.60). It’s a nitro effort, although not quite as soapy as John Smith’s Extra Smooth. It’s a bit darker than OBB, with a dense, lasting head, and is bland but inoffensive in flavour, with a slight burnt caramel tinge. Nothing to write home about, but if your finances are limited and you fancy a pint it has an appeal.

It was notable that, despite there being no actual market in the Market Place, the Boar’s Head was standing room only at lunchtime today, when Robinson’s nearby Baker’s Vaults and Bull’s Head were both closed.


  1. As an old, medically challenged, volume glugger of beer I welcome a weak beer as long as it's drinkable!
    Hopefully something similar will appear way down in the SouthWest and I can last a little longer without getting too 'tired'.

  2. Possibly you might see the Wadworth's Small Beer I mentioned in the post - although a target price of £2.50 is a bit different from £1.18!

  3. I'd love to see Wadsworth's but I'm stuck with the monopoly of St Austell Brewery and being a Northerner I find their offerings at all strengths quite undrinkable! Will a 'National' get on the low strength bandwagon.....?

  4. I think the national brewers are biding their time to see how this market goes. I had expected the likes of Carling and John Smith's to introduce 2.8% brand extensions, but so far it hasn't happened.

    I doubt whether we will ever see much in cask form as at that low strength it just goes off too quickly.


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