Lion lowers beer alcohol content, risks consumer backlash

Drinkers will have the final say

Success or not of Lion’s decision to cut the alcohol content of three of its beers will ultimately be decided by beer drinkers.

Although Lion bravely declared the flavour of XXXX Bitter, Tooheys Extra Dry and James Boag’s Premium Light would not change, recent history suggests otherwise.

CUB’s VB lost market share rapidly following a reduction in its alcohol content in 2009. A few years later, CUB returned the beer to its original 4.9 per cent alcohol content and sales picked up.

Just as CUB did in 2009, Lion cites containment of costs for the change. Production costs would fall instantly as beer is taxed on its alcohol content. The savings could bolster company profit, fund new investments or maintain crucial retail price points.

XXXX Bitter and Toohey’s Extra Dry will change from 4.6 per cent alcohol by volume to 4.4, while James Boag’s Premium Light will fall from 2.7 to 2.5.


Hahn Ultra 330ml 6-pack $10.90–$13
Flavour vanishes as alcohol content declines, presenting a challenge to brewers of low-alcohol beer – especially of dry brews, not propped up by sugar. Hahn’s new Ultra (0.9 per cent alcohol) does a good job of it: light bodied, dry and refreshing, it offers real beer flavour and mild bitterness, albeit without the body of full-strength brews.

4 Pines Imperial IPA 500ml $11
From the grey world of ultra-low-alcohol beer, we move to the gawdy world of high-alchol IPA. 4 Pines Imperial IPA (9 per cent alcohol) radiates sweet malt and hop-derived tropical-fruit aromas. These flow through to an equally brazen, malt-sweet, syrupy palate laced with intense, lingering hops bitterness.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 8 and 9 March 2016 in and the Canberra Times