Leffe, an ‘Abbey Ale that AB InBev is licensed to brew is eschewing centuries of tradition and looking to capitalize on a more sober 2019.
Here’s the deal…
Stylistically similar to Belgian Trappist Ales, Abbey beers are known for their nuanced complexity as well as for high alcohol content. And they are usually brewed at the Abbey that carries the name, or in Leffe’s case licensed to AB InBev to brew.
So when The Telegraph reported that Leffe would soon be introducing a zero alcohol version of its beer in Belgium, it was likely the decision of the world’s largest brewing company, rather than a response to some sort of Canon from the monks at the Leffe Abbey.
And while purists might call Leffe’s announcement a sacrilege, according to a recent survey 62 percent indicated that they drank too much and the country is still reeling from the recent death of a university student in a drink-fueled initiation game.
Leffe normally carries a 6.6% ABV punch, but the brewer has developed a new technique that allows the beers to go through the usual brewing process, gaining its trademark fruity bitter taste with notes of smoke and cloves, with the alcohol removed after the fermentation process.
And according to AB InBev’s Arnaud Hanset the new buzz-less option was able to retain the original’s trademark complexity…
“We are proud to have been the first to succeed, thanks to the expertise of our brewers, to produce a non-alcoholic beer that is completely faithful to the quality and authenticity of the beer of Leffe abbey.”
The Leffe abbey is located just above the river Meuse in Belgian’s French-speaking region of Wallonia. Like many monasteries its monks turned to brewing as a way of supporting the abbey, starting in 1240.
Using knowledge passed from generation to generation and ingredients found in the wild near the Leffe abbey, the monks developed a unique ale with a subtle taste and high alcohol content, brewed only at the abbey.
In 1952, the monastery turned over brewing duties to the Flemish based Lootvoet brewery in Overijse in a “first-of-its-kind” licensing deal. And the abbey continues to receive sales royalties on a regular basis even after that brewery was purchased by AB InBev.
All Leffe brands are currently brewed at AB InBev’s headquarters in the Flemish university town of Leuven, where Stella Artois was invented.
AB InBev’s non-alcoholic Leffe variation is but the global giant’s latest step to capitalize a growing trend for non-alcoholic alternatives which already represent almost 10% of AB InBev’s total business.