The best low alcohol or light beers in New Zealand

6 May 2016 - Best Beer HQ

The best low alcohol or light beers in New Zealand

It seems thirsty Kiwis are crying out for more sessionable beers – and breweries up and down the country are scrambling to answer that demand.

According to Brewers Guild of New Zealand president Emma McCashin low alcohol beer in New Zealand now accounts for about 5% of all total sales, which is twice what it was just two years ago.

“Lowering the drink-drive limits in late 2014 has certainly increased demand for lower alcohol beer which is an opportunity for brewers to get creative.

“That said, brewing a low-strength beer that tastes good is still exceptionally hard to do because of the time, innovation and investment required. The lower the alcohol content the harder it is to brew. Brewers have to experiment and take risks. In some respects, a quality low alcohol beer can define just how good a brewer really is.”

If that’s the case, then Heineken should be ashamed of itself.  Drinking a bottle of Heineken Light is tantamount to drinking carbonated tap water from a week-old beer bottle that maintains only the slightest trace of any beer in it.

In its defence, though, McCashin says low alcohol beer – say, 2.5% or less by volume – is significantly more challenging to brew than regular or higher alcohol beer.

Perhaps that’s why mid-strength offerings from Mac’s and Monteith’s are marginally better (I know, I’ve reviewed them). And why that citrus stuff – I use that word because it doesn’t taste beer to me – from DB is pumped full of artificial fruit flavouring, to hide the taste of bad beer.

But to the people who are prepared to stoop that low for a beer, I have to ask you – why not just have a proper one and order an Uber? Or just wait until you get home and then you can have as many beers as you like (or as many as your wife will let you, in my case).

So to save people from drinking bad beer just because they have to drive, I’ve decided to compile a list of the best low, light, and session beers that I’ve tried. I’ll add to it as I try more, and you feel free to suggest some good ones to me via email and I’ll consider adding them to the list as well.

Best Beer HQ’s favourite low or light alcohol beers (<4% ABV)…

Bach Brewing All Day Extra Session Ale

Croucher Lowrider IPA

Emerson’s Bookbinder

Funk Estate Yes Yes Y’all Session Pale Ale

Galbraith’s Redemption

Hallertau Minimus Breakfast IPA

Disclaimer: drinking and driving is never cool. Don’t do it!

Big Breweries / Craft Beer New Zealand / review /


  • MW says:

    ParrotDog’s Clipped Wing Mini APA is decent too at 3.5% and the Yeastie Boys Minimatta which tops out at 4% is worth a try too.

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