“What’s a Table Beer?” - a question I often get when I’m telling friends about the SIBA & LBA Keg Beer Award we won in February 2020 (how long ago does this feel??). And to some, the answer might seem obvious...
A beer that’s on a table? Well yes, but then technically any beer that’s ever been on a table (I would presume an enormous percentage) is also a Table Beer.
A beer for the table? You’re on the right track, and historically you’d be very accurate.
A beer that IS a table!! No.
So, historically a Table Beer was a beer that was for everyone at the table. Me, you, Uncle Desmond, Aunt Viv. It would be served in a large jug and shared amongst the entire ensemble. Even the children at the table would enjoy a glass or two. Beer was often more sterile than water and therefore considered safer. And back in the day (I’m talking medieval times), Table Beer was typically sub-1% abv. It originated on the continent (mostly France and Belgium).
Over the years, the alcohol content of Table Beer has trended gradually upwards from sub-1% abv to somewhere between 2 and 4% and I’m delighted to say it’s made its way across the Channel to the sunny shores of England. You can even find some on the beer scene in the US of fucking A!
In terms of style, Table Beer was traditionally always a lager, simply because that’s the style of beer that has always been brewed on the continent. English brewers have always been brewing Ales and IPAs, so we’ve adopted the Table Beer into that style of brewing.
There are a number of craft breweries who now make delicious Table Beers, but I’d like to make a particular shout out to Kernel Brewery who not only make one of the best Table Beers (in my opinion), but were one of the pioneers in the UK craft scene when it came to popularising the style.
You can also find other styles of beer that are labelled Table Beers - in Connecticut, Kent Falls brewery have a 4.5% Coffee Porter which they call a Table Beer. So it can fit all shapes and sizes really.
But when all is said and done, a good Table Beer can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a pint at lunchtime. It can be the beer you knock back standing over your barbecue this weekend. It can be the beer you session in your local pub with a friend this Saturday afternoon. It can be the one (and only one!) beer you enjoy after work, because you’ve gotta drive home.
We brewed TightFive, our Table Beer, for the first time in 2019 and it’s already making a splash in the London taproom scene. At 2.8%, and brewed in the IPA style, it’s the perfect balance of crisp, refreshing and light enjoyment combined with the fruity aroma that is brought out by our choice of hops.
It’s a beer that also celebrates our connection with comedy. Friendship Adventure has a background running comedy gigs and we think they are the perfect environment to share a beer. There are crossovers between the beer scene and the comedy scene. It is, primarily, for pleasure. It is an evening activity. Bad versions of it are dreadful. We wanted to make something that reflected the mood of a comedy gig - something that is both freewheeling and in complete control, something that is simultaneously highly crafted and totally improvised. Something that you can drink a lot of without getting drunk.
On a personal note, I wasn’t initially convinced when Toby and Neil told me we would be brewing a beer at such a low abv (“you mean 3.8%, right?”). But I was a convert from Day 1. It tastes great, it goes down sooooooo easy. And the hangovers are much more bearable! (What hangover?).