Leffe’s alcohol content has decreased by 0.6% in the UK

AB InBev has reformulated its Leffe Blonde ale, reducing its strength for the UK market.

The alcohol by volume (abv) for Leffe had decreased from 6.6% to 6% abv, AB InBev’s UK subsidiary Budweiser Brewing Group confirmed.

The change had been made earlier this year “to allow more UK beer consumers to enjoy the amazing and unique taste of Leffe Blonde”, the unit said.

“As we continue to invest behind and grow Leffe in the UK, the abv of Leffe Blonde was adjusted in the UK to better suit the consumer palate,” a spokeswoman for Budweiser Brewing Group said.

She said the decision had been made after data from NIQ showed “the abv epicentre of craft and speciality beers in the UK” was below 5.5%.

Despite the change, “Leffe in the UK has the same full flavour” as its continentally brewed counterpart, the spokeswoman said.

“The change was made to allow more UK beer consumers to enjoy the amazing and unique taste of Leffe Blonde, while still keeping the beer’s essence and distinctiveness intact,” she added.

The abv change will help AB InBev offset higher UK duty payments, after a three-year freeze ended in August. Rates for beer went up by 10.1%, in line with inflation.

Under the old UK duty system, a 33cl bottle of Leffe faced tax obligations (duty + VAT) of 50p. In August, this would have increased to 54p.

By reducing the abv of Leffe to 6% for the UK market, tax due per bottle of Leffe has fallen to 49p.

Beer writer and consultant Pete Brown described the move as “clumsy and inconsistent”.

“There are various different beers under the Leffe brand – that’s a proven way of covering different consumers,” he said. “If AB InBev want to make more money from Leffe in one particular territory, why not launch another specific variant rather than water down a classic beer?”

Budweiser Brewing Group also confirmed “most packaged” Leffe was now being brewed in the UK, having previously been brewed at the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven.

The Grocer understands UK-brewed Leffe is now being made at AB InBev’s breweries in Lancashire and south Wales.

Draught Leffe, meanwhile, remained brewed in Belgium, the spokeswoman said.