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Belt’s Beer Garden: Light as a Feather

Two beers low in alcohol but not in flavor: Broughton Hopopotamus & Cromarty Happy Chappy


This week I have two Scottish brews that might not have huge amounts of alcohol but they certainly still have some big flavors.

First up, Broughton Ales and an IPA with one of the lowest ABV I think I’ve ever had.

Broughton Ales comes from the Tweeddale region of Scotland and, more specifically, Broughton Village – which is about 30 miles south west of Edinburgh. They were founded way, way back in 1979 and was Scotland’s first microbrewery.

Today they’re all over the UK and have seven bottled beers, eight year-round cask ales, and another 12 seasonal/specialty release casks/kegs.

I found their staple IPA, Hopopotamus, which, besides having a great name, has a unusually low ABV – checking in at just 3.8% - and was made with Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus hops. And the 500 mL (16.9-ounce) bottle was priced very reasonably; £1.99 ($2.85).

Hopopotamus poured a very clear, crisp copper color with not much head ever appearing. There was just a light dusting of off-white foam across the top that quickly disappeared almost entirely.

On the nose this was a well-balanced IPA. The hops provided some nice citrus note – mostly grapefruit, lemon, and orange – while the malts added some soft bready notes and a caramel sweetness that seemed to eliminate all bitter notes from the hops.

My first swig began with a subtle hint of carbonation before the citrus fruit came forward. Just as predicted from the aroma, lemon and orange led the way with some juicy, zesty notes. But they were not alone.

The malts wasted no time showing up either, bringing with them a very sweet caramel and light biscuity flavor that worked really well with the hops…in fact, the sweeter malt flavors actually overpower the hops creating what is one of the most malt-forward and sweetest IPAs I’ve ever tried.

As it finished, there is a sticky resin-like hop flavor and some moderate dryness that clings to my taste buds without letting go for quite some time. The after affects of the sip last much longer than I would have anticipated but all the sticky/dry feeling did was make me go back for more ASAP.

Because of the malt-forward flavors and tiny ABV, Hopopotamus was incredibly easy to drink. And each sip followed the same pattern – zesty citrus fruit followed by a sugary-sweet caramel malt and biscuity backing, then ending with a slightly dry finish and a dash of resinous hops lingering on my tongue.

All in all, this was quite a nice IPA. Perfect for football games, tailgating, day-drinking, on the water, or even after doing a bunch of yardwork in the heat of summer. Super sessionable with some solid flavors and a very reasonable price tag.

This was a very tasty brew with just two things that I wish were different: I wish the ABV was a little higher and that it didn’t end as dry and sticky as it does. Otherwise Hopopotamus was a very well balanced, great tasting IPA.

Up next, Cromarty Brewing and one of their lighter pale ales.

Cromarty Brewing Co. was started in 2011 in the small Highland town of Cromarty, Scotland, roughly 20 miles north of Inverness. Today they can be found throughout the UK (at least in the big cities) and have five year-round beers to go with their ten occasional and four limited edition brews.

Today I have one of their core beers that I picked up in Edinburgh – Happy Chappy, a “new wave pale ale”.

Happy Chappy is brewed with Cascade, Columbus, Motueka, and Nelson Sauvin hops, four types of malt, and comes in large bottles, kegs, and casks. The 500 mL (16.9 ounce) bottle cost a mere £2.40 (or ~$3.40) and has a low 4.1% ABV and 30 IBU.

Happy Chappy poured a darker copper color with a lighter amber color making up the lower half of the glass. Just about a finger of eggshell white head ever built its way up and quickly fell back down to just a dusting across the top.

This pale ale had a very light aroma wafting upwards – it was light citrus (some orange, some lemon, some apricot) with lots of sweet malt and very little hops. The malt added a caramel and breadiness to the scent and really covered up most of the hops, with the exception of the fruit.

My first taste began with very little carbonation initially…although towards the middle of the sip there would be a slight tingle of effervescence.

The flavor, much like the aroma, was mostly subtle with a malt-forward sweetness and a very little hop profile. Up front, there was a caramel sweetness that mixed with the biscuity malt profile and just a hint of vanilla in there as well.

Midway through the sip, tangerines and oranges added a dash of tart citrus with some apricot coming in late to try and break-up the malty invasion.

As things came to a close on Happy Chappy, quite quickly I might add, there was a dry, citrusy bitterness that clung to my taste buds for dear life, prolonging the life of the beer by a few moments. And, except for that last stage with that bitter sting and dryness, the hops were completely out-matched by the malts.

And, even though the flavors might not have been my favorite, I found this “new wave pale ale” to be incredibly easy to drink. I had reached the bottom of the bottle much sooner than I thought I would, so it’s a good thing that it’s only got a mere 4.1% ABV (which means it’s even lighter than Bud Light, which is 4.2%).

Happy Chappy is a malt-forward, sessionable pale ale that has the tiniest bit of bitterness and the subtle, balanced flavors of citrus, caramel, and vanilla. If you’re looking for a beer to cool off on a hot day with or a beer you can drink all day…this is your guy.