Does 0% Alcohol Mean 0% Taste?

Non alcoholic beer – what’s the point in that?

If your idea and memory of 0% beer is a bottle of the awful Kaliber back in the day, or maybe you’d think, as I often do, “I’d rather just have a decent cuppa, thanks” then maybe this blog post is for you.

I never drink non alcoholic beer. Partly because I have that image of nasty Kaliber, which then leads me to think I’d rather have a decent cuppa…oh I’ve already done that bit. But what is the point of alcohol-free beer? Apart from the obvious, like being able to drive home or not get drunk at a party. Okay there are two very valid reasons.

So after the last post of looking at some sub-3% beers, the next rather obvious step was to go lower. To be honest, when planning these scribblings, I was a bit scared. “Am I just throwing money down the drain?” said this fearful County Antrim man. That question will be answered later.

Five beers were picked up – all under £1.70 each. The first four from Tesco and one from Lidl. Bite me.

Let’s get this done then – starting with Brooklyn Brewery’s 0.4% ABV Special Effects lager. First thing noted is that it’s dark brown and likely to scare your stereotypical Irish lager guzzler. But as anyone who reads my blog is a well informed and educated soul, you’ll know that some of the best lagers in the world are dark – namely German bocks, one of my favourite styles.

It’s toffee, malty and slightly peppery. A datey, fruity twang comes up at the end but not enough to obstruct the toffee. It’s a decent and, dare I say, enjoyable start to this alcohol-free test but to be honest I’m scared of getting my hopes up. Let’s hope the reviews stay this positive.

Moving tentatively on, that’s followed by a truly 0.0% ABV beer from St Peter’s brewery near Norwich. I love this brewery’s bottle shape, looking like a cough medicine bottle from a Famous Five book.

Without is also dark amber in colour, although it does say so on the back label, and with a similar malt base to the Brooklyn beer. Again there’s that slightly sweet toffee but lacking in fruitiness. The toffee turns to malt the further down the glass you go. Then the malt really takes hold and turns the beer into Malty McMaltface. I struggled to finish it and I’d really rather not experience that again. See what I’m putting myself through for you guys?

From the same area of England comes the 0.5% ABV version of Adnams‘ flagship beer Ghost Ship. A healthy look about it in the glass and it doesn’t really smell of anything despite the label claiming it’s a citrus pale ale.

I knew before hesitantly tiptoeing into this test that some of these non-alcoholic brews might not be the best and to be honest I was looking forward to this beer as I’d read some half decent reviews, but I can only imagine those reviewers were drinking this while eating a vindaloo. This is just coloured water. There’s no flavour. There’s no depth. There’s nothing. Avoid it. Have tea or coffee instead.

The last one from Tesco is Germany’s macro offering Erdinger Weissbräu’s Alkoholfrei wheat beer. The label blurb says this “refreshing isotonic drink … reduces tiredness and promotes the natural functioning of the body’s immune system and energy metabolism”. Wow, that’s a new one for me. Step aside Lucozade Sport. I’m convinced a shed load of sugar must be added somewhere but there’s no mention of it in the ingredients list.

There’s none of the expected nudges of Erdinger’s hefeweizen wheat beer, that of clove or bubblegum but this is lemon fruity, vibrant and, for a non-alcoholic beer, surpringly tasty. There’s a light and sherbety sweetness dancing around there and I’m genuinely taken aback. Now I believe the isotonic blurb. It’s reminiscent of a lemon shandy than anything else and perfectly drinkable if you have the car keys to hand.

Finally, from Lidl, Perlenbacher Patronus, another German alkoholfrei weissbier. It has a creamy, thick head and smells floral with parma violets thrown in. There’s the same sherbety lemon experienced with the Erdinger – is this what an alcohol-free weiss beer is meant to taste like? It’s certainly a learning curve for me, all this 0% stuff.

Patronus is light and fluffy, and on further inspection down the glass, not as sherbety as initially thought. The parma violets kick in a bit more and the sweet maltiness comes through, a bit like ‘Nice’ biscuits without the coconut.

Before this test, I’d probably have had a cuppa or orange juice instead of an alcohol free beer, so have I changed my mind now? Yes I think I have. Would I buy any of these beers again? I probably would. Some I’d avoid like the plague but I certainly would now have no hesitation in picking up the Brooklyn or Patronus.

As a big fan of a proper cuppa I’ve surprised myself by saying that.

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