Harvey’s “Sussex Best Low Alcohol” is a varied and balanced bitter-style low-alcohol beer. Get tasting notes and find out where to buy it in this review.
Whether it’s St Austell’s “Tribute” in Cornwall, Fuller’s “London Pride” in the home counties or Butcombe’s “Bitter” in Somerset, some beers have become synonymous with the area they’re from.
In the South Downs and Sussex, that beer is Harvey’s “Sussex Best” – walk into a free-of-tie pub that does traditional ale or one of the brewery’s own pubs and you’ll likely see it among the pump clips.
Harvey’s is based by the River Ouse in Lewes, East Sussex. Set up in 1790, for years the brewery focused on traditional cask and bottled ales. Recently, in response to modern trends, it launched beers in kegs and cans.
Now, it’s also taking advantage of another trend by launching its own low alcohol beers to sit alongside its full-ABV ones. One of these is a 0.5% version of it’s flagship “Sussex Best” beer simply called “Sussex Best Low Alcohol”. The brewery says it’s the same beer, minus the alcohol.
Some of the ingredients feel out of place for a beer from a brewery that many would consider traditional. As well as water pumped from a well below the brewery, yeast, four types of UK hops (Fuggles, Progress, Bramling Cross and Goldings) and Crystal and Maris Otter malts, the beer includes added sugar, maize and natural colouring (E150c). There’s an injection of carbon dioxide in there too.
Like its alcoholic sibling, it comes in a superb 275ml bottle embossed with the brewery’s logo. It pours a transparent deep orange colour.
The smell is understated but varied and complex with cinnamon, raisin, rummy, apply and oaky aromas. It reminded me of a Christmas pudding with all that fruit and spice. It’s a pity it’s not a bit more prolonged.
The body is slightly thin but not a disaster. There’s good carbonation yet hardly any bubbles after the initial excitement post-pouring has died down. The head disappears, leaving it looking a little flat even though it’s not.
There’s few of those fruity, spicy aromas in the flavour. Instead, it’s caramel and medicinal root beer flavours that dominate. There’s low bitterness and it’s nicely balanced.
The aftertaste is a little watery.
Harvey’s Sussex Best Low Alcohol lacks many of the characteristics of the original (the bottled, 4% version holds its head better and importantly has a classic malty flavour).
Still, it’s a nice enough non-alcoholic beer with a decent aroma and some interesting flavours. Just don’t expect it to rival the original, if that’s what you’re seeking.