Big Drop Brewing Co use a different method of producing their alcohol-free beers than many of the big boys and other smaller craft producers. Whereas beers such as Heineken 0.0 and Adnams Ghost Ship are brewed as full alcoholic beverages before the alcohol is removed via reverse osmosis, Big Drop uses techniques to fully-ferment its beer to a maximum of 0.5% ABV, without extracting any alcohol in the process. This means that the beer isn’t passed through as much processing, hopefully to the benefit of it’s flavour and overall quality.
Renamed to ‘Woodcutter’ in their early 2020 branding blitz, Big Drop’s take on brown ale also uses this ‘limited fermentation’ approach in it’s production. The name ‘brown ale’ brings up memories of Newcastle Brown Ale (which was known colloquially as ‘Pukey Nukey’ back in my university days), but the aromas, flavours and ABVs of ales produced in this style are wide ranging, usually dependent on where the beer was produced geographically. So what road have these Suffolk boys gone down with their non-alcoholic offering?
On pouring we get a clear dark reddish-brown liquid, foaming up with a fair tan head that vacates the area in a hurry. On the nose we get roasted malts and wholemeal bread, with a background of some coffee/chocolate aroma. Definitely some sweetness there.
The sweetness continues into the taste of the brown ale, with malty bread and toffee flavours at the front, advancing to something of a caramel bitterness. Pleasant, however these flavours aren’t particularly strong, and the whole experience is rather lighter than I was expecting. Be that as it may, there is body there.
I don’t think brown ale is particularly to my tastes, maybe due to lingering memories of younger times, but I suspect also due to the lack of hops on the palate. Woodcutter Brown Ale has won acclaim at the World Beer Awards, winning Gold in the Dark Beer Low Strength category in 2019, and it does has flavour. But it just feels a bit watered down, and left me wanting either a fuller-flavoured stout, or a hoppy IPA. Thankfully, the NA beer market has me covered for both of those options!
Nutritional Information (per 100ml)
0.5% alcohol by volume
22 calories energy
(taken from the Big Drop website)
Water, Barley, Wheat, Lactose (milk), Hops, Yeast
Big Drop Woodcutter Brown Ale Review
Big Drop Brewing’s Woodcutter will probably satisfy the cravings of brown ale fans, but unfortunately is not to my personal tastes.