2020 was expected to be a difficult year for craft beer due to slowing growth of beer consumption, increased competition from new breweries and the extraordinary success of other alcoholic beverages such as hard seltzers. These issues, plus the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to business at brewery tasting rooms, bars and restaurants, could make this year a disaster for most small craft breweries and put their futures, like many in the hospitality industry, in serious doubt.
Before the pandemic, several craft breweries had developed a new wave of low-calorie and low-carb IPAs to counter the hard seltzers and other “hard” beverages. This week, I tried two.
Oskar Blues Brewery’s One-Y IPA (4 percent ABV; about $9.99 for a six-pack at most retailers) is a 100-calorie beer containing five grams of carbohydrates. The initial and brief aroma is mild citrus. The flavor is also mild citrus, but this beer is bone dry, which accentuates the perception such that it takes over the entire flavor experience. This lack of complexity makes this beer particularly unappealing.
Bell’s Light Hearted Ale (3.7 percent ABV; about $10.99 for a six-pack at most retailers) contains 110 calories and eight grams of carbs. The extra carbs provide more body than One-Y, and there is a bit of sweet malt character that balances the citrus aroma and flavor of this beer. This one has enough complexity of hop and malt flavors to make it somewhat satisfying and interesting.
Breweries should stop calling these types of beers IPAs. Low-alcohol and low-calorie beers such as these suffer by the comparison to full-on versions of the style. Modern IPAs are big, rich experiences, and these are not even close to that. Cheers!