Last year, an Arizona mom eating at a pizzeria made headlines when she allegedly filled her son’s sippy cup with beer. Outrage was immediate. So was her arrest. While we’re not advocating getting a toddler trashed, it’s interesting how one nation’s indignation is another country’s tradition.
French families often pour their children watered-down wine, educating them about respecting alcohol and its polite place in everyday life. While neighboring Belgium is not so wild for wine, families also teach their offspring a similar lesson with tafelbier—Flemish for “table beer.” Traditionally served with meals, tafelbiers are light-bodied and low in alcohol (usually less than 3% ABV), yet still remain flavorful. While table beers were so prevalent that they used to be served to Belgian schoolchildren in lieu of milk, the lightly boozy tradition has waned in recent years due to the rise of bottled water and, more prevalently, soft drinks.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, American brewers have begun to take a keen interest in crafting low-ABV tafelbiers. They’re affable companions to lunch, dinner or whenever you crave a beer but not a buzz. In Indiana, New Albanian offers Tafelbier, while California’s Heretic makes the slightly stronger Tafelbully with Brettanomyces. The wild yeast also appears in Stillwater Artisanal Ales’ earthy, refreshing Beer Table Table Beer, while Massachusetts’ session beer–focused Notch Brewing dials up Belgian yeast and European hops for its Tafelbier. It’s a style-appropriate 2.8% ABV, a low number that appeals to Notch’s brewer, Chris Lohring.
“For me, it’s the ultimate anytime beer,” says Lohring, who sees tafelbier as an ideal accompaniment to outdoor sports or daylong barbecuing. While his dry, thirst-quenching Tafelbier packs flavor aplenty, the dainty ABV means “you have to drink serious volume to get inebriated.”