Goose Island’s portfolio of beers is sold worldwide, with 11 available all year round. And since getting its start in Chicago in 1988, the brewery has always taken inspiration from its own employees when it comes to brainstorming new beers.
Most Goose Island beverages clock in around 6%-7% ABV, and the AB InBev-owned brewery is known for its craft pale ale styles. Goose Island Brewmaster Keith Gabbett told BeverageDaily the decision to go low came from one of their brewers.
As a parent, he wanted an ‘easy drinking IPA’ that took less of a toll, so he developed a recipe with some fellow brewers. After getting positive feedback from Goose Island president Todd Ahsmann, they knew they were ‘on to something.’
“It’s no secret that there’s a trend for low-ABV and low-calorie beers, but as with everything at Goose Island, we take our inspiration from our employees and what they want to drink,” Gabbett said.
Maintaining the classic IPA character
So far the So-Lo IPA is sold at retail in 12oz cans, and it tested with a pilot program in Chicago last year. At 3% ABV, it contains 98 calories and 9g of carbs per can. Goose Island describes it as a full bodied IPA with big aroma, citrus and herbal aroma notes.
The brewery wanted to ensure that the brew maintained a classic IPA character, and didn’t sacrifice on taste while cutting calories. After testing many malt and hop combinations and brewing techniques, it settled on a blend of Idaho 7, Mosaic and Chinook hops, with Briess Synergy Select malt.
“We’ve seen great reactions from wholesalers and consumers alike,” Gabbett said.
“We’ve seen So-Lo perform extremely well and wanted to make it available for more people to drink. We think the market is ready for a low-calorie beer that doesn’t sacrifice big flavor.”
So-Lo is rolling out nationwide starting this month, and Gabbett said the company is ready to expand into Canada and other global markets soon.
AB InBev's low-alcohol commitment
The So-Lo from Goose Island joins AB InBev’s growing portfolio of craft based low-to-no alcohol options. Other recent launches under the AB InBev umbrella include Gilt Lifter from Four Peaks Brewing Company in Arizona, which has a keto-friendly positioning and 7g of carbs and a 3.4% ABV.
Meanwhile, Breckenridge Brewery of Colorado has introduced the Resolution Blueberry Acai Golden Ale, which leverages electrolytes at 3.5% ABV. And Golden Road Brewing of Los Angeles produces the Mango Cart Non-Alcoholic Wheat Ale at 0.5% ABV.
In fact AB InBev - which is the world's largest brewer - wants to see 20% of its global beer volumes come from no or low alcohol by 2025. Last year it reported it was making good progress with low and no alcohol brews already counting for around 8%, with a total of 76 low or no alcohol brands.
Independent breweries in the US are also making their mark in low and no alcohol brews: Partake Brewing, Two Roots Brewing Co, Surreal Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery are all making inroads in craft options.
They all offer something a bit different than the non-alcoholic beer options of the past. They prioritize superior taste, a variety of brews and creative flavoring to attract beer drinkers looking for low-to-no alternatives. The category is only expected to grow in 2020.
Gabbett said, “I think it’s clear the market has spoken with the rise of demand for lower-ABV options.”