Ship’s Bell Dry Hopped Lager – our first alcohol-free beer
Ring out another first for Bellfield Brewery and let the Ship’s Bell steady and righten your course. Our latest beer, an alcohol-free (0.5% ABV), dry-hopped lager will be available in our online shop, at our Edinburgh Food Festival bar, and on draught in our taproom from Thursday 28th July.
Accessibility has always been integral to Bellfield. As the UK’s first brewery dedicated to gluten-free brewing, and with all our beers vegan friendly, we’ve always strived to put craft beer on the table for all palates feeling left out.
Looking to open this up even further, we’ve set our sights towards uncharted territory: alcohol-free beer. Helping guide us on this voyage are another set of pioneers: Scotland’s first alcohol-free brewery, Jump Ship.
Low Beer with Lofty Ideas
Let’s face it, some situations call for a low-strength drink. Responsible driving. Childcare. Beating the heat. A “working” lunch. Handling hazardous chemicals. An evening’s last glass that saves you from a marauding hangover the next morning.
Low to no alcohol beer offers a welcome mindfulness of our alcohol intake, as Jump Ship's Siobhan Hewison outlines here.
This isn’t a pining for the dour old days of Presbyterian temperance. Nor is it the ringing of a last call bell for ethanol.
Ship’s Bell is about enjoying booze better: extending that ephemeral ‘two-pint feeling’ of hedonism and escapism for as long as possible; or, saving it for another evening.
What is classed as beer no longer has to sit within the confines of 4-5% and fizzy.
Low to no-alcohol beer is just as much a product of craft beer’s opening up of the ABV scale as a half-pint of double-IPA.
Partly fuelled by the pandemic, partly fuelled by greater health awareness, non-alcoholic beer sales have seen a boom in popularity in the UK in recent years. One in two of us will have bought one at some point in the last year.
However, as with a fair few things in our beer culture, we still lag behind Germany where one in every fifteen beers is low alcohol.
How A-Boat It?
Schools of alcohol-free brewing can be broadly split into two practices: removing alcohol or restricting fermentation.
We opted for the latter. Without stripping anything from the beer, we fine tuned every part of the brew to keep the tiniest proportion of the malt’s sugars fermentable.
This begins in the mash - the first process in a brew-day where malted grains are stepped in treated water to create fermentable sugars.
We brewed with a much higher mash temperature than usual, helping to extract as much body from the grains as possible, yet with little fermentable sugar.
For fermentation, we pitched in a yeast intolerant to moderate levels of alcohol, even then letting it ferment for only 48 hours.
Allowing the beer to go through lager’s traditionally long and cold conditioning phase gave us a chance to use some new equipment: porting the liquid off of the yeast-bed into one of our horizontal conditioning tanks to prevent any danger of re-fermentation.
On top of these decidedly less conventional methods of brewing, we’ve backloaded the beer with large dry-hop additions of Mosaic and a supercharged blend of hop compounds called Cyro Pop.
No or low strength, however you define it, this beer is a cracker that won’t lead you off-course.
It should be light and crisp, with a bright, tropical hop sparkle of mango and peach, set against toasty malt aromas.
Burst open a can safe in the knowledge you can sink it without getting wrecked.
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