I don’t to that many beer reviews on The Wine Ninjas, but after reading through the press release from South Bermondsey’s Small Beer Co, I had to try these — for the following reasons.
1. My days of drinking 5-6% alcohol beer are over. Yes, I like my liquor strong, but my beer weak. And I’m not the only one. Most of my friends gravitate towards well crafted, more “sociable” ABV beers these days. Why? Because we’re grown-ups, and we don’t want to be staggering into the gutter at the end of a night out. (There must be a graph somewhere showing an inverse proportionality between age and beer strength.)
Usually, you don’t get beer lower than 3.8% in pubs, but there’s definitely room in the market for something even less strong. Just look at the popularity of Dry January and Sober October. I’d certainly swap a Dry Jan for a slightly “damp” one, with lighter drinks, taken in moderation.
2. The Small Beer Co. are committed to sustainable brewing methods, even cleaning the brewery with recovered heat and water. All of their electricity comes from the wind, sun and sea, while there’s no filtration, processing or pasteurising — the sole ingredients being water, malted barley, hops, oats and yeast. So, while I’d never exactly call beer “healthy”, this is about as close as it gets.
3. There’s an interesting history attached to the brewing of small beer. A staple of British life during the 18th century, due to the lack of clean drinking water, it was traditionally brewed between 0.5 – 2.8% ABV. According to a well-known online source “Small beer was produced in households for consumption by servants and children.”
“Here you go Johnny. Drink up yer beer. It’ll put muscles on yer eyebrows.”
Background aside, what you really want to know is what they taste like, right? I sampled three out of the four currently available, and I was genuinely impressed.
The imaginatively titled Lager (pictured left, at the top) poured out a lovely amber hue. Bright, clean and refreshing, with nutty notes and zesty orange flavours, this’ll be perfect for summer barbecues.
2.1% ABV. 74 calories per 350ml bottle.
4.5 NINJA STARS
The Steam (pictured middle, at the top) was the strongest beer of the trio, at 2.7%. It was (coincidentally, I presume) also my favourite. It’s aptly named because of its velvety, warming notes of milky, malty, “Ovaltiney” chocolate, but this is finely counterbalanced by a citrus lick on the tongue. Low on alcohol but very high on flavour. I loved it, and I’ll be buying it again.
2.7% ABV. 88 calories per 350ml bottle.
5 NINJA STARS
A light beer in a stout style, the Dark lager pumps out smokey, toasty malt, coffee and chocolate flavours. It’d go really well with a meat pie, although it was the only one of the three that I thought could benefit from being a little stronger in alcohol.
1.0% ABV. 49 calories per 350ml bottle.
4 NINJA STARS
Right… now I need to sample the new Session Pale Ale (2.5% volume). Will report back on that one…