Definition of small beer in US English:

small beer

noun

  • 1British A thing that is considered unimportant.

    ‘even with $10,000 to invest, you are still small beer for most stockbrokers’
    • ‘The budget of some £400,000 a year looks like small beer compared with the purchasing power of the world's major institutions and leading collectors - the competition.’
    • ‘But while such initiatives are welcome it is clear that, whatever noises are made by the government and its agencies, the roots business is still relatively small beer compared to, say, golf.’
    • ‘Describing himself as an ‘amateur hunter’, the lorry driver from Nottingham says baldly that breaking the law will be small beer for those determined to protect their right to chase and kill animals for fun.’
    • ‘Still, it's pretty small beer given Wagner's reputation as ‘Hitler's favourite composer’.’
    • ‘We provide a lot of pleasure for a lot of people, but we are seen as small beer.’
    • ‘As Venables disappeared to the airport, leaving a trail of one-liners and expensive cologne in his wake, many were wondering if, as a wager, that may not turn out to be very small beer.’
    • ‘Each is very small beer on its own but the trading community has proved that, in the right circumstances, people can and will do business online.’
    • ‘For one thing, however hard the Chancellor's advisers try to pretend that an increase of eight pounds a week is small beer for top earners, a hike of £400 in your tax bill is substantial for all but a few in Britain.’
    • ‘A huge well-marked network of paths of varying difficulties covers the country and makes our public footpaths and long distance paths look like small beer.’
    • ‘Even for a $2 billion company, that is no small beer.’
    • ‘But his earnings of more than £1m in the last year are small beer in comparison to the league of international statesmen.’
    • ‘Of course, all of this is small beer to regular football goers, but to Mark and I, on our first game each, and Ashley on his third, it was still something novel.’
    • ‘Equalling that may have been a reasonable target at the start of the season now drawing to its nerve-tingling climax - but it is small beer now to manager Jim Harvey and his squad.’
    • ‘The cost savings and increased productivity for the Irish business community will make the government's investment seem like small beer.’
    • ‘But however much last year's housekeeping helps profits, it is small beer compared with a big takeover, and Furse must pull off in her second year what she failed to do in the first.’
    • ‘The amount of cash available to pay future bonuses has more than halved, to 1.1 billion, small beer indeed.’
    • ‘A pugnacious, charismatic figure, the potentially dicey situation he is facing at Rangers is small beer in comparison to the personal trauma he has overcome through sheer force of will.’
    • ‘At €61m for 2005, the current spending budget for the arts council is small beer in the wider scheme of things, one fifteenth of the increase in the health budget.’
    • ‘But, say the Nazi-hunters, this is all small beer compared to what still remains secreted in banks in South America, Switzerland and even in Hitler's homeland of Austria.’
    unimportant person, person of no importance, person of no account, nobody, cipher, non-person, man of straw, nothing, small fry, lightweight
    View synonyms
  • 2archaic Weak beer.

    • ‘His drinks cellar would have been stocked with vast quantities of strong beer and small beer (a weaker brew), as well as a range of wines such as claret and canary (a light, sweet wine from the Canaries).’
    • ‘And some small beer in the mornings, for my digestion.’

Pronunciation

small beer

/ˈsmɔl ˌbɪ(ə)r/