Greene King has launched a 0.5% abv version of popular bottled ale brand Old Speckled Hen ahead of the festive season.

The brewer aimed to retain the rich and distinctive flavour of the parent brand in spite of the reduction in alcohol.

It is brewed with Pale and Crystal malts alongside Challenger, First Gold and Goldings hops in a bid to allow the toffee malt character to shine through.

Matt Starbuck, managing director, Greene King Brewing & Brands, said: “Important in the decision whether to introduce low or no alcohol version of our famous beer is the driving belief that the beer should always taste like a proper beer.

“After extensive consumer tasting trials and expert tasting panel analysis it was decided to introduce a low alcohol version so our brewers could absolutely match that consumer expectation.”

Greene King is tapping into a low-alcohol beer sector that is now worth £48.6 million (Nielsen, year to October 2018).

Starbuck added:  “The low alcohol beer market is fast evolving as people’s drinking habits adapt to fit with healthier lifestyle choices. 

“Choosing alcohol free drinks shouldn’t mean compromising on the occasion and there is an ever increasing demand for a grown up alternative to soft drinks and alcohol free beers that simply don’t hit the taste mark. 

“Old Speckled Hen is a trusted and much loved brand whose gluten free version swiftly rose to become market leader when it launched in 2017 and we are confident that Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol will achieve just that in this market category.”