Moderation before Consumption?

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in Beer Duty | 5 Comments


At the end of last week, a press release plopped into my inbox from the team at Harvey’s Brewery in East Sussex, promoting the launch of their new beer, Harvey’s R. A teaser campaign has been running for a few weeks, apparently, to peak interest in the new product, which officially launched last Friday, the 4th of July. ‘R’ is a 2.8% ruby session beer, created ‘to be a contemporary brand that appeals not only to a younger cask ale demographic, but also to a growing market that are looking for moderation in their drinking’.

I’ve talked about 2.8% alcohol beers before – most notably in February of last year, with Black Isle’s Cold Turkey. Beers produced at this strength may well have been released in response to this sudden desire for moderation, but also in response to the alcohol duty being lowered for beers up to this abv level. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course; if the Government gives you an opportunity to save a little duty money, as a brewery it can only be a tempting proposition.

The Harvey’s Press Release featured a series of bullet points relating to this, quoted from Heineken’s ‘Seven Macro Trends’ (such as – “Moderation represents a 300 million [sic] category opportunity over the next 10 years and is growing at 10% year on year”). Obviously, I’ve no idea if that’s the reality or not – the low-abv beer market, going on that sentence, is forecasted as an ‘opportunity’ only; but the thing that really stood out for me, was the next section of the press release, about the reasons why moderation provides this potential windfall:-

20 to 25 year olds are looking to moderation for the following reasons
• They want something refreshing and easy drinking rather than strong.
• A desire to last the pace; they don’t want to miss out.
• They feel peer pressure to drink but want lower alcohol options.
• They want to preserve their reputations socially.
• Want to look fit and healthy.

Now, firstly, I’m way over the 20-25 age bracket – I long since had to tick a couple of boxes further on in any survey (’30-50′ being a recent favourite). But I can just about remember being a young, impressionable early twentysomething. Of course, I drank Carling then, but had these 2.8% abv cask ales existed, would I have been tempted? Well, no, probably not. But that was before the ‘craft beer revolution’ and all the joyful bonhomie that followed; back then, anything low in alcohol was the impenetrably mysterious world of Grandad’s mild.

When I was 20-25, did I want something refreshing and easy drinking, rather than strong? Actually, yes, on occasion – but only to keep up with my drinking mates, not for any reasons of moderation. The only thing I would have ‘missed out’ on would have been a limp, plate-sized burger from Casablanca’s near the station. I’m wondering if these answers hark back to Heineken’s ‘Dance More: Drink Slow‘ campaign that launched in January. Do young’uns think “I don’t want to drink that much, as I don’t want to miss out” – or do they think “I don’t want to miss out, I need to have a few more drinks.”?

Terms like ‘peer pressure’ and ‘reputation’ do exist, of course, for this age-group – but do they interlay with the beer/cask ale drinking section of that group? I’m not saying Harvey’s – and others – shouldn’t be offering these kinds of beers; I hope Harvey’s R does really well, but I’m wondering just how successful this moderate alternative will be. Certainly, when I was between 20 and 25 I can only have seen myself switching to a 2.8%er to keep up with the round, but then what would the associated ‘peer pressure’ and ‘reputation’ have been to me, then?

If you’re 20-25, or can remember vaguely what you were like when you were, would those five bullet-points have had you reaching for a 2.8% cask ale?


  1. Matt Burns
    July 7, 2014

    Good post Richard. When I was 20-25, being a student/graduate I couldn’t afford too many beers on a night out. A 2.8% cask beer wouldn’t be an option unfortunately – I would have been looking to get stuck into as many 4-5%ish beers before the budget blew.

    A beer after footy or being the designated driver, sure, it definitely would be the option – but that’s not really a huge market is it?

  2. Sara D
    July 7, 2014

    I’m well out of the 20-25 age bracket, but I don’t remember being that aware of percentages then. Frankly I found most use lor lower ABV beers when I was pregnant and still craving a pint – but I can understand breweries can’t really target the maternity market! Shame…

  3. Danno
    July 7, 2014

    Heineken has really emphasized this in presentations to the Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling students the last few years. I think it’s more reflective of the immense pressure they are under from governments to curb alcohol abuse than any kind of massive push from young people for lower abv alternatives. They have a promo vid showing people ordering water in between pints of beer so they can make it till dawn and not “miss out”.

    Personally, at 25 I wouldn’t have worried about missing anything with a group of people pounding H2O, though I’m sure they’d be real party animals.

  4. Matt Burns
    July 8, 2014

    I suppose you could say that from when I was 20-25 (5 years ago) and earlier, the young market is much more informed about good beer now than what it was.

  5. Craig
    July 8, 2014

    I guess I qualify as their target audience (for now), and I agree. I favour stuff like Table Beer or Jarl, anything below 4% , if I see it when I’m out. I much prefer a long session on something low strength but tasty, rather than getting blootered in three hours.

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