It's being marketed as the pint for new men - not lager louts - and has half the alcohol content of normal beer. Is this a good thing?
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine
He takes care over his appearance and moisturises daily. He knows about art, literature and food, as well as football and beer. Isn't it about time metrosexual man had his own lager?
"Lite" lager is brewed with a lower alcohol content but all the taste of the full-strength stuff, according to the breweries. It's pitched at the less laddish new man who still wants a "proper pint" with his mates.
Until now the trend has been for stronger drinks and larger measures. In recent years standard lager has risen in strength from 3.5% to 4.5% alcohol content and wine from 10% to 13%. But breweries believe if the beauty industry can get men moisturising, they can get them into mid-strength lager.
Will it help stop drunkenness?
If sales figures from other countries are anything to go by they're right. In "bloke-ish" Australia such lager now makes up 13% of the beer market.
Brands include Beck's Vier and Guinness Mid-Strength and on Monday Britain's biggest beer brand, Carling, is officially launching a 2% lager - C2.
"We've finally cracked the mixture of art and science to brew a mid-strength lager that tastes just as good as a regular pint," says Andy Cray, brand director for Carling.
But "alcohol-free" lager - remember Barbican? - has never taken off. So what chance does the mid-strength stuff have?
"With lower-strength beer you have got to give the drinker some alcohol so they feel the product is genuine," says brand forensic expert Jonathan Gabay.
"Alcohol-free beers never took off because it was never seen as authentic. If the alcohol content of C2 was too low it would just be paying lip service to the proper stuff, but 2% could be just enough to give the product credibility.
"Carling understand it needs to be marketed as a genuine product, that's why they call it a 'proper pint'."
According to the breweries, it's all about making our lives easier. They understand people are busy and therefore need to fit socialising in with other activities. Full-strength alcohol is not always appropriate, so they have come up with an alternative.
It is also being targeted at women
The right occasions for such mid-strength lager? According to the breweries it's perfect for a swift one-at-lunch pint, a cheeky on-the-way-home pint, a rewarding after-football-training pint or a responsible big-meeting-tomorrow pint.
But it doesn't take a genius to work out the benefits of launching such brands. Carling already sells 1.5 billion pints a year. If it can persuade drinkers to buy twice as much lager without getting twice as drunk, it will be laughing. Even better if they can get people to drink beer on occasions when they usually wouldn't have.
And not everyone is toasting this new dawn in drinking. Carling has been criticised for its marketing pitch, particularly C2's "More Time In the Pub" slogan. While Alcohol Concern welcomes the trend, promoting mid-strength beers as a way to spend more time in the pub is not positive.
"Simply drinking lower-strength products does not solve much," says a spokesman. "Especially if you are using it as a reason to stay in the pub longer. You could end up drinking just the same amount."
Death rates due to chronic liver disease have gone up eightfold since the 1970s and there are 13,000 violent incidents outside pubs and clubs every week, according to the charity. If low-alcohol beers encourages people to drink on occasions when they wouldn't have usually, such problems could increase.
Estimated 5.9 million people drink to get drunk
Men should have 3-4 units daily
Women should have 2-3 units daily
One pint of beer can be 2.8 units
One glass of wine can be 2.3 units
Carling says it takes alcohol responsibility seriously and carefully followed advertising regulations to ensure responsible marketing and promotion of C2.
And heavily-girthed drinkers who might be looking to the mid-strength trend for a healthier option could be disappointed, says one expert.
"Just because something has the word low or lite on the label does not necessarily mean it is better for you," says a spokeswoman for the British Nutrition Foundation.
"Take some low-fat products, there might be less fat but often there is more sugar and the calorific content is higher than the full-fat alternative."
But ultimately its success all comes down to the traditional lager drinker, so what do they think of the concept?
"To me it's like skimmed milk," says Tom Daley, 31. "It's just a pale imitation of the real stuff. What's the point?"
Low Alcohol Beers are not a solution to the current situation/problem we currently face in this country. What people need to understand is that they don't need to drink alcohol at all to have a good time whilst socialising. Do you really think that the average man is really going to think that drinking a lower ABV beer is "good" for the image? "Wimps" will drink the mid-strength beer and "Real" men will keep to the higher-strength one. Its like the situation with half fat foods - a lot of people will think that if it has half the amount it means that you can have twice as much! Re-education is the key.
I don't think it's going to be hugely popular, but i really can't see that a beer at 2% is going to have the same pleasing taste as a full strength beer. If i want a pint of water. i'll have one. 2%? Pointless.
Jaime Rubio, London
I'd definately drink it, it's nice to have a drink without getting drunk
Jon Young, Luton, UK
Sounds like the breweries want you to drink more, spend more and keep you in the pub longer.
Will never take off in the UK.
Steve, London, England
"a lower alcohol content but all the taste of the full-strength stuff"? No taste whatsoever, that's what you mean.
Dave S, Warren Row, Berkshire
I think this is great news, though will have a more conclusive opinion when I have tried the stuff! Wasn't a fan of alcohol-free lager, not because of the lack of alcohol - but because, lets face it, it tasted rubbish!
So as a keen lager drinker (not always a resposible one at that!) I welcome this as a sensible alternative. If it truly is as refreshing and tasty as the 'real thing' & carries some credibility then it's going to be a winner.
Graham Lofthouse, Coventry, England
I brew my own beer. This is surely more Metrosexual than anything else? I can even use my hydrometer to control alcohol content during the fermentation process. Ha ha.
Every man ought to 1) own a tool kit 2) BBQ once a year 3) make their own beer. FACT.
Paul Jones, London, UK
I really don't get this. If I don't want to have much alcohol, I'll drink a non-alcoholic drink, or have just one normal pint. If I do want alcohol, I'll drink a proper pint. Why don't they just say this is shandy and be done with it?
I think its a splendid idea - it will allow me and my chums to spend more time catching up in the pub wihtout getting too squiffy.
Stephen Smith, London
It is a good idea and let's have a wider range of products. The key is the quality of the taste. The drinks industry has not shown any responsibility to date but this could help. It will not stop the "I drink to get drunk" types but for those who enjoy a pint and good company, great.
John Fawell, High Wycombe
Halfwit lager drinkers will probably fall for this. They fell for the marketing of "exotic foreign" lagers, actually created and brewed in the UK, and they even fell for the advertising of one brand that boasted how expensive it was!
If you want to drink half the amount, buy half as much!
Russell, Southampton, UK
Carling C2 - a great example of corporate and social responsibility?
Yes, it's a lower strength drink, and yes, people who drink it won't get drunk as easily as they would do on normal lager.
But how much money are Carling saving on tax with this new lower ABV? And how much more money will they make because of this?
Responsibility? Maybe not!
Tom O'Neill, Manchester, UK
Has anyone thought about the consequences of drink driving? I presume that drivers are entitled to drink twice as much of the lower strength beer before being over the limit, but does this just serve to confuse what is already a confusing points scale?
Natalie Wainwright, 22, Merseyside
Why does this article fail to mention anything about drink-driving. It seems patently obvious to me that this mid-strength lager will encourage people to think they'll be OK to drink a couple of pints and drive. Surely this throws up doubt in everybody's mind how many units a pint of this beer will consist of? I know plenty of people that still think drinking two pints of normal strength lager is OK before driving when actually that may take most people over the legal limit.
Terry Brennan, Windsor
A cynical marketing ploy if ever I've come across one. Like low-tar cigarettes, it's aimed at people who feel guilty enjoying a little life's pleasure, with the underhand target of actually getting them to consume more.
V, Newcastle UK
I work in Saudi Arabia where alcohol free beer, or near beer as it is called, is all we can legally obtain. There are many brands from all around the world and some are actually of reasonable taste when served cold (eg San Miguel from Spain).If a decent variety could be found in the UK then the designated driver at Christmas may not have to put up with sweet soft drinks all night.In terms of 'street cred', a pint of near beer looks just like a pint of normal larger.
They sell alcohol free beer here in Czech and it's successful. There is a 0 tolerance on drink driving so some people drink the alcohol free stuff instead. It tastes very similar to beer as well. (Czech has one of the highest beer consumed per person rates in the world so if it's good enough for them why not the Brits?)
Paul, Brno, Czech Republic
It will still come down to the cost. No doubt they will be charging more even though it isn't as strong.
Duncan, West Yorkshire, England
As long as the lower alcohol lager doesn't cost as much as a full strength pint then I am sure more sensible people will buy it.
Darren W, Newcastle upon Tyne
I tried this beer a few months ago were they were trialing it in a bar I used in Coventry.
I'd never heard of it at the time so I gave it a try. I couldn't tell the difference. Normally when I am driving I'll have a couple of pints of lager shandy which halves the strength of the drink but tastes very sweet as it's filled with suger / lemonade. Once they sell this everywhere I'll certainly give it a go.
Neil McAliece, Coventry, England
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