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  • Joseph Callender

It's Not Easy Being Low and No

I find myself with the opportunity to jumpstart the career in craft beer that I had paused some years ago. Now with a moderation mindset firmly entrenched, the upswelling of nonalcoholic craft beer has led me to recommitting to a career in beer. I have a new "beer job", albeit at a traditional craft brewer. Patience with "no and low" craft beer opportunities must be exercised. The segment is just a baby at this stage.

This restart to the beer career has got me wading back into the traditional beer off-premise retail venues more and more, but my moderation mindset means that I have to be a bit more diligent and discerning with finding craft brews that fit into a moderation lifestyle.

Easier said than done!

My sense is that there are actually an appreciable amount of low ABV (say, below 4.5%) choices in any of the major markets but because the practice is to place every beer by brand on retail shelving, it requires a ton of patience to turn cans to spy the ABV. My local Total Wine actually does a pretty good job of placing the ABV on shelf labels but it's still a laborious process to piece together a selection of low ABV treats.

I miss the time when I could walk to my liquor store in town and just select by brand or style. It was a less bothersome frustration back then deciding which brand new releases to take home that day. Today, I can barely find any craft choices below 5.5% there, although they have carried Heineken 0.0 cans for a few months now.

An ABV-forward selection process carries a lot more disappointment in the searching process. For every 6 cans I turn to find the ABV, maybe one or two meet my low ABV criteria. But then maybe it's a style I'm not feeling at that moment and I often end up grabbing something in the moderate ABV range out of frustration and not wanting to walk away with nothing. I still have taste buds that I have to please. I just promise myself that I'll have only one per drinking session, which I've been pretty good at following through on. I can always keep the session going with my regular supply of rather tasty macro and craft NA brews. Although, the juxtaposition of an NA brew against the just-consumed, full-bodied, complex alcoholic brew can leave me a bit wanting in the mouthfeel category.

I keep meaning to research whether or not any databases exist that would permit a comprehensive search by ABV range. It feels as though a moderation approach requires some homework before heading out to the beer shop but I am not aware of an opportunity to do so at this point. Reach out to me if you know of something....please!

My other intention with my moderation message and mindset is to start compiling a list of brews between 1- 4.5% as a reference source for other moderation-minded imbibers. I'm currently working out how this would be best handled as a feature of this blog site.

Of course, you will still utlimately be at the mercy of the existing search databases, brewery "Find Our Beer" maps, and knowledgeable and committed retail staff to seek and secure low ABV products for at-home consumption.

The system continues to have the consumer experience gaps that it had years ago, that are now accentuated by a growing subset of moderation-minded craft beer drinkers. The system is not really ready to support us yet but we can start to make it aware of where it's dropping the ball.

Awareness will increase. Adjustments and accommodations will come. For now, patience is required.

Do you have a particular personal struggle with deploying a moderation approach to craft beer? Share it in the comments.
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