The best low ABV beers: taste tested

Looking for beers at the lower end of the ABV scale, but still full of flavour? Our beer expert Mark Dredge has the lowdown, and shares his picks of the best lower alcohol beers for 2023…

If you’re after something completely free from alcohol, discover these top picks.

The best low ABV beers: taste tested

It’s a rare occurrence that a new beer style becomes popular all around the country. Most styles either come from a place of long-held tradition, such as stouts and pale ales, or they’re riding a trend until the next big thing arrives.

Around 20 years ago, though, a new style emerged, and it’s become one of Britain’s favourite beers: the pale and hoppy session ale. Pale gold in colour, the beers usually use American hops to give citrus, pine and tropical fruit aromas. Leaving a quenching bitterness, they have a low or moderate alcohol content, typically under 3.9% ABV. Different versions have evolved, often even lower in alcohol, giving us the hop flavour we love in a lighter brew.

The style – which has many names, including pale ale, session IPA and, more vogueishly, table beer – succeeded thanks to it combining the British tradition for low-strength beers with the high-impact aromas of modern hops. It’s been hugely influential on breweries, where it’s arguably the style that’s had the greatest impact on British beer in the past 50 years. Go to any pub or beer shop and they’ll very likely have a beer under 4% ABV which is pale and hoppy. Time to take a walk on the light side.

Did you know?

Small beer and table beer were styles drunk centuries ago as low-alcohol brews (under 3% ABV) to sip from breakfast until bedtime as a safer and more nutritious drink than water. Today they’ve been modernised to be refreshing, hoppy pale ales but, light or not, in January you’re probably best off waiting until the evening…

Five of the best lower ABV beers

Ilkley Mary Jane, England 3.5%

The American hop duo of amarillo and cascade give this Yorkshire brew bright aromas of lemon and grapefruit, with some toasty malt sweetness
for balance. Try it with a roasted veg salad or frittata.Available from Morrisons (£2.25 for 500ml).

The Kernel Table Beer, England 3%

Every batch of Kernel’s Table Beer uses a different hop combo (and the ABV varies slightly), but you can always expect a strongly fruity hop aroma balanced by a biscuity sweet malt base. A modern classic British beer from London. Available from The Kernel Brewery (£2.60 for 500ml).


Wiper and True Small Beer Light Pale Ale, England 2.7%

This light pale ale from Bristol has hefty hop aromas of citrus and tropical fruit in a beer with great texture for its modest ABV. Try with creamy or coconutty curries. Available from Waitrose (£2.55 for 440ml).

Wiper and True

Dark Star Hophead, England 3.8%This Sussex-brewed golden ale gets its elderflower, orange zest and grapefruit aroma from cascade hops, which also add a lasting bitterness that’s great with herb-roasted chicken or pork. Available from Morrisons (£2.25 for 500ml).

Dark Star

Beavertown Nanobot, London 2.8%

While nano in alcohol, this London-brewed super session IPA has a hefty hop hit of citrus and tropical fruit, with a zesty finish that’s brilliant with fishcakes or falafel. Available from Waitrose (£1.85 for 330ml)


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