Plenty of people know that craft beers usually pack more of a wallop than the mass-market stuff. And today Advertising Age reports that Oregon’s Red Hook Brewery is the latest to dial back the alcohol content in its brews. Why should anyone care? Because the company’s recent release of a pilsner with a Budweiser-like 5.3 percent ABV is part of a larger trend by craft brewers to produce lower-alcohol “session” beers that won’t leave drinkers slurry and stumbling after they’ve downed a few with dinner. There’s no doubt that craft beer tastes way better than that flavorless fizzy yellow stuff that your old man puts away while he’s mowing the lawn. But those bolder characteristics are typically tied to a more potent alcohol punch, so are craft brewers sacrificing quality in the hopes of simply selling more bottles of beer?
The welcome answer is “no.” High-quality ingredients and hands-on brewing processes — the veritable hallmarks of craft brewing — allow brewers like Red Hook to put forth low-octane brews that are every bit as tasty as the flavorful high-gravity beers that put craft beer on the map.
In fact, June’s Food & Wine makes a similar case for lower-ABV craft beers. In a piece about session beers, Massachusetts-based beer importer and distributor Dan Shelton explains that he has taken a shine to low-alcohol craft beers after repeated outings with brawnier brews resulted in a few nights spent sleeping in his car.
Just be careful, craft brewers. It’s a slippery slope, and the last thing the world needs is a small-batch, artisanal version of O’Doul’s.