I’ve been searching for this stuff for a while now. Supposedly being carefully test marketed through NISA stores, a trawl round the five outlets within a ten mile radius has shown it to be as rare as the proverbial ‘rocking horse poo’. Clearly the St Peter’s Brewery dray is drawn by that rarest of breeds, the ‘heavy unicorn’.
The appearance of an ‘Alcohol free beer’ sourced from a brewery that certainly understands what beer should be, would suggest that they’ve discovered the proverbial philospher’s stone. Coming from a once ‘craft’ brewery that I greatly respect, it seems like an adventurous step by craft brewers to address the low/no alcohol market. At this time of year, many of us regret the need to succumb to pints of ‘lemonade and lime’ and other sweet or watery, crappy, breathalyzer safe drinks. So it seemed to me that the good folk at St Peter’s might be doing us discerning ale drinkers a big favour.
Having failed to locate a bottle of the stuff at any local retail outlet on the south coast (UK), I gave in and ordered direct from the brewery. To make the shipping cost acceptable, I added a dozen beautiful bottles of ‘St Peter’s Organic Ale’ which rounded the order, together with the eight bottles of ‘Without’ averaging a reasonable £1.65 per pint delivered.
All twenty bottles were delivered yesterday, skilfully hidden behind the flower planters in my front porch while I was out. I waited until the evening before pouring the first. My initial reaction was one of horror. It looked good, it poured well, but it tasted like…. well… it tasted like malt. It tasted more like the malt extract my mother (a nurse) tried to get me to swallow on winter mornings back in the 1960s than anything healthily used in the brewing process. I confess, the first pint last night was chased down rapidly by first one pint of ‘Organic’, and then – as it happens – a Butcombe bitter.
Left with seven pints of the stuff, I tried another this lunchtime. The initial shock having past, it went down with a more realistic expectation and I was left thinking, ‘maybe another?’. Discretion got the better of me!
The lesson, after just two bottles, is that the buyer has to think out of the box when drinking it. It is not a beer as we know it, nor is it a craft ale as we know it. The initial taste will, I guarantee, put you off. However, on second tasting it has clearly been ‘crafted’ from the natural ingredients so we should cut it some slack. Take the alcohol from ale and you’re bound to be left with something less interesting, but stop the alcohol generation while crafting a well balanced malt liquor and they might be onto something.
It requires something that the IT industry used to call a ‘paradigm shift’ in your thinking.
There are six bottles left in my cellar. I shall report back.