Heinken is reducing the strength of its John Smith’s Bitter and John Smith’s Extra Smooth beers from next month.

The company is currently advising its retail and on-trade customers that all draught and canned product delivered from February will be 3.6% abv rather than the current 3.8%. Heineken said the move  was designed to bring John Smith’s in line with competitor smooth ales that already sat at or below that strength.

“Extensive research conducted with retailers and consumers consistently confirmed that a 0.2% reduction in ABV does not compromise on the taste and quality that has made the brand the UK’s most popular ale,” added the brewer.

Last summer, Heineken cut the ABV of its packaged Strongbow from 5.3% to 5% this month, while six months previously lager brands Stella Artois, Budweiser, Beck’s, Carlsberg Export and Cobra dropped from 5% to 4.8% abv.

Such moves have been interpreted by many industry insiders as a way of reducing duty costs.