To some people alcohol-free beer is an abomination. What’s the point of drinking a beer without a buzz? But there are lots of situations when a beer without the buzz is a great option. BBQ’s at lunchtime when you need to drive in the afternoon would be a perfect example. And remember, these beers have about half the calories or carbohydrates of their full-leaded cousins.
And there are plenty of people that don’t have a happy relationship with alcohol, but still want a “grown-up” drink to have with friends. Alcohol-free beer beer could be a great option.
A few years ago, it was very difficult to buy alcohol-free or non-alcoholic beer. Today, there seems to be a new brand appearing on shelves each week.
“Alcohol-free” is a bit of a misconception, as the alcohol level in these beers is around 0.3% – 0.5% for most of them or equivalent to 0.13 standard drinks. However, it is worth noting that commercial orange juice can have roughly the same level of naturally occurring alcohol.
So what are the choices? We found ten “alcohol-free” beers to taste in a marathon session. Most beers were sourced from Jim’s Cellars on Edgeworth David Avenue in Waitara, a few came from Dan Murphy’s in Hornsby and a couple were sourced from Annandale Cellars.
Sagres Sem Álcool
Sociedade Central de Cervejas is a Portuguese brewer that is owned by Heineken. They produce two non-acloholic beers, the Sagres Sem Alcool and Sagres Sem Alcool Preta, a dark beer. We tasted their light beer and found the flavour “not too bad” although the mouth feel was a little soapy. Colour was a good amber and slightly darker than most.
We liked this beer. A good mouth feel, crisp and clean with a good light beer flavour. It has a good smell and a slightly hoppy nose.This is a beer brewed the traditional way and then they remove the alcohol so you get all of the flavour and none of the hangover.
This beer had a slightly sour flavour and was a bit watery for my palette. However, not only is it an alcohol-free beer, it is also gluten-free so that means people with a gluten intolerance now have an option on a sunny afternoon.
The packaging says it is 0.0% alcohol by volume.
This was our yardstick for the afternoon. We kept coming back to this beer to remember what a good, full-flavoured beer should taste like. Good beer nose, great moth feel.Brewed and bottled in Germany, Clausthaler follows the German Purity Law of 1516, but by using a special process can brew with regular beer yeast which imparts such a great flavour.
Budejovicky Budweiser Budvar
Brewed by Budweiser Budvar Brewery, a large Czech brewer. This beer has an initial great flavour which settles back to being “average” quite quickly. It has a “European” flavour with a tart after taste. Great beer to drink on a hot day, so long as the beer is ice-cold.
Bitberger Drive is a crisp, refreshing beer. This is another one marked as “alcohol free malt beverage” (some marketing person needs to play with those words and make it sound more appealing!) this is a bottom-fermented beer which has its alcohol removed.Good mouth feel and a lovely bright golden colour in the glass.
Be careful when selecting this one because other Bitberger beers have very similar packaging.
Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier
This is not a quaffable beer for me. That is, I couldn’t drink a lot of it, but it is perfect with a BBQ. Marked as a “Hefe Weissbier” it is a yeast fermented wheat beer (Hefe means yeast and Weiss means wheat). Of all the beers tasted, this had the most flavour with a delicate amount of fizz and a tangy after taste. As a wheat beer, it is cloudy with a strong wheat beer aroma.
Less than 0.5% alc/vol.
Schlossgold has a good mouthfeel and a lot of malt flavour. This is the sort of beer that goes down well after mowing the lawn. This is the beer that I chose to drink as I was completing my notes after the marathon taste test.Available at Woolworths and Dan Murphys, Schlossgold comes in cans, so it cools quickly in the fridge, but needs to be poured in to a glass to avoid that “tinny taste”.
Less than 0.4% alc/vol.
Erdinger Alkohol-Frei Weissbrau
Marketed as “a refreshing isotonic recovery drink” Erdinger Alkohol-Frei Weissbrau is another cloudy wheat beer with a strong flavour and good beer smell from the largest wheat beer brewers in the world.Wheat beers need to be served very cold to appreciate their full flavour. This is a good beer to drink with food.
Less than 0.4% alc/vol.
This is another beer available in supermarkets with a good mouth feel. Marketed as an ultra-light beer and brewed in Australia, it should be served cool, but not icy too develop its optimum flavour. A good hoppy flavour, it is a tart beer brewed under license from Carlsberg Breweries of Denmark.
There are a few other non-alcoholic beers that are sold in Australia, but were unavailable for our test. They include the Holsten 0.0% Pilsner from Coopers, Höpman Alcohol Removed Premium beer and the Weihenstephaner “Original”.
Like any refreshing drink, personal preference plays a huge part in the selection of a favourite. If you want a non-alcoholic beer, buy a few and compare. Like any beer, there are more appropriate beers for different situations. I like a Schlossgold after mowing the lawn or washing the car but I would reach for the Weinhenstephaner Hefe Weissbier for dinner. If I was simply picking a non-alcoholic beer to have at the beginning of an evening, it would be the Clausthaler.
As publisher of The Kuringai Examiner, I have an interest in all things on the North Shore, particularly news, sport and food. I'm always on the outlook for something unique and original to bring to my readers.