Non-alcoholic drinks are globally increasing sales wise. It's not just the dramatic rise of global health awareness, the myth of health benefits in moderate drinking has been totally debunked recently. Yes, the healing and anti-aging properties of resveratrol -the yeast found in red wines- is apparently overhyped. The alcohol industry then got hit even worse by the 2014 British Medical Journal report that even one glass of alcoholic drink a day can dramatically increase heart disease risk.
This news will cause much dismay to alcohol lovers, and men will always have that attachment to their six packs of beers. But of course, there's always the non-alcoholic alternatives. So gone are the days when men drinking 'small beer', the non-alcoholic ones, or even the low-alcohol variants are being frowned. Health conscious is the new definition of manliness. Besides, there's a good news attached to it. Shifting to non-alcoholic beers means now you can day-drink even in the office.
Non-alcoholic beers are not even close to being new, Medieval Europe, especially Southern Europeans and Turkish have done it back then, mixing millet with water and letting it ferment for 24 hours.
With the poor condition of water during that time and the Cholera Plague caused by it, alcohol dramatically gained popularity as the main source of hydration.
In the United States, the history of non-alcoholic beers grows even more during the prohibition era in 1920. With the law only allowing 0.5% of alcohol, many beer breweries start distilling ethanol from their beers. It is actually a simple process, so it doesn't cost them a lot of fortune. When the prohibition repealed, they simply remove the distillation process.
George Washington back then even made his own home-brewed low alcoholic beer, fermenting bran by boiling it for three hours before being strained and combined with molasses. He reportedly consumes more than a gallon every day, but whether he drank it alone or with guests remains to be known.
Globally, low-alcohol beverages are also common everywhere, all with their own unique ingredients and methods. Soviet countries have kvass, made from fermented rye bread, containing less than one percent of alcohol. Asians have many alternatives, such as Kumis in Central Asia, made from fermented mare's milk, Kombucha in East Asia, made from fermented green or black tea, and many others.
In the modern era, non-alcoholic beers are on the rise because of several reasons.
As stated above, health consciousness is a major cause. Some people, and growing number of people, also wants to enjoy the taste of beer while not being intoxicated for driving.
But the majority of non-alcoholic beers are marketed in the Middle East (more than a third of the total market), with Islamic laws preventing alcohol from the nations.
Non-Alcoholic drinks have many up sides. Besides being able to avoid DUI, it produces less to none hangover effects, reduction of kidney, liver, and heart damage, and fewer calories per intake.
However, common downsides found in non-alcoholic beers are the loss of flavor. The distillation of ethanol also adds more sweetness,sugary taste. Being without alcohol also means the drinks have shorter shelf life.
Some states, however, prevents the sale of non-alcoholic drinks to minors under the age of 21. It is thought that the non-alcoholic beers can still induce placebo drunkenness, meaning you can feel drunk while actually you aren't.
With the technology maturing, more alternatives in the market, and the research that it can still induce the feeling of being wasted, one question remains: Can it actually be a healthier alternative to 'real' beers?
Colonial Americans during prohibition era drank three times as much as Americans nowadays. So, the loss of flavor of non-alcoholic beers can be complimented by being able to take more of them even during the day and during work.
But after all, what matters the most to us is the taste, right?
Many methods can be utilized to make non-alcoholic beers, but the most common ones are either distilling the ethanol from the beer or re-brewing leftover grains previously used for alcoholic beers. In theory, we should get roughly the same taste, just far less alcohol by the volume (ABV) level of only 0.5%. But is that truly the case?
That's why we put some of the famous non-alcohol beer brands into the test. Can it truly complement the 'real' beers?
All beverages on this list must be branded as 'beer' yet contain only 0.5% ABV or below, the U.S. legal definition of non-alcoholic beers and must be available in the U.S. market,
With hundreds of brands available, we chose only some of the most recognized brands. Creating a list of which everyone would agree upon will be hard if not impossible. However, this is our take to guide you on a starting point.
From the makers of Kirin Light and Kirin Ichiban is the 0,00% Kirin Free. Made with unique technology from barley malt and totally yeast free. Actually tastes good, and was an instant hit in Japan before it's launched to the U.S. The downside is it's still rare and not widely available in the U.S.
Verdict: Very Good
M&S brought out the lemony and herbal taste of Czech pilsners in their non-alcoholic version. Tastes actually great with a lot of character. Fresh! However, it is a bit thin with almost no aftertaste. If you prefer 'light' beer, this might be your choice.
Utilizing their own patented alcohol-free fermentation process, the 300 years old TescoThat fails to deliver with this one. Smells of vegetable, too sweet with a hot and bitter aftertaste. It's sad to see such a wasted effort, especially since we actually enjoyed their 'real' version.
Clausthaler Classic Low Alcohol Lager
The German brew smells bad but tastes quite thick and reasonable sweetness compared to other non-alcoholic lager beers, but there's too much taste of lemon that made it feels cheap. The aftertaste is also a bit too bitter with a metallic feel.
Brewdog Nanny State We found it one of the best option for non-alcohol beers. Great toffee color and great tropical smell.And although it doesn't taste as well as 'real' beer, it's quite rich with smoky aroma and gentle citrus/grape bitterness. One of our top picks!
Verdict: Very Good
Coming from the big name of Erdinger, it is marketed with 'isotonic, vitamin-rich,reduced calories" healthy label. One of the most successful non-alcoholic beer in the market, yet we found they are better alternatives for the taste. Sweetness is dominant, although reasonable, but it lacks the banana aroma, tartness, and spiciness of typical Erdinger or other German wheat beer. However, it is maybe indeed the healthiest alternative if you prefer one, and the 'isotonic' properties makes it a great alternative for your sports drinks.
Cobra Zero 0%
To be honest, it tasted like cheap and awful home-brewed beer. Bitter yet sweet aftertaste, and we all prefers it the other way around. It's hard to say this but, avoid at all cost!
Verdict: Very Bad
Saint Omer Low Alcohol Lager
Coming in a huge 660ml bottle, and that is maybe the only plus size for it if you prefer quantity. Too sweet, too watery, too thin, bland without any richness in it, also very weak aftertaste. To be honest, with quality this bad, can anyone stand 660 ml of it?
Verdict: Very bad
Foster’s Radler Zero 0%
Radler concept is on the rise in Germany and now globally, mixing lemon with beers. This one from Foster mixes lemon, lime, cherry, and orange with their non-alcoholic brew. Taste great, but doesn't really taste like beer. Will be a great complement for your soft drinks. Actually, if its alcoholized, it might be dangerously addicting!
Verdict: Just as stated; Good but not a beer
Bland and extremely light. Smells like cereal with the bland malt flavor kicks in afterward. Very bitter aftertaste, and we just can't stand the aroma and flavor. As much as we want to love it, it's terribly bad.
Verdict: Very Bad
We got a mixed review here. But well, we always got mixed reviews with American lagers, don't we? It tasted quite reasonable for a non-alcoholic beer, but it's just that; it will largely depend whether you like American lagers or not. Some will say it's the best of the list, and some will terribly hate it. We'll leave it up to you to judge.
Beck's Non-AlcoholicDoes taste like the famous Beck, just thinner, sweeter, and bitter aftertaste. If you loved the real Beck's, you will like this one, as it's simply a lighter version of it. Mixed review with this one.
Also one of the best options here. Bitburger is really serious in developing their non-alcoholic version and shows everyone that it's a very different art than the 'real' ones. Nice, appropriate bitterness with its grassy aroma. Proper lightness and sweetness not commonly found in non-alcoholic beers.One of our top picks.
Verdict: Very Good
St. Pauli Girl N.A.
This is actually the most popular non-alcoholic import. This is another tough one, simply because not everyone likes that sweet floral and honey aroma of European beers with its mettalic taste, yet some of us are a big fan of it. It brought forward just that; thinner version of sweet floral aroma with tinny taste, so we'll leave it up to you.
It's not bad, yet there's nothing really special in its character. Good but boring, think of it like your Heineken or Carlsberg, and it will largely depend on whether you like 'generic' beers of not.
Paulaner Thomas Bräu
Same case with St. Pauli Girl, it has clear honey aroma with metallic taste, yet has a bit worse aftertaste than the St. Pauli. There is one better version with banana aroma famous with the Paulaners. Too bad it's not available in the States, and this is the one we're left with.
The sweetness of honey, barley taste, European metallic aftertaste. Great choice if you loved that character. One of the best European non-alcoholic beer around, yet there are better ones with similar character.
Buckler is brought to you by Heineken, and it does taste like a lighter version of Heineken: "Just right" without richness in both flavor and aroma. But still a good choice among many others.
Another one by Clausthaler, and not the final inclusion. Strong flavor upfront, and quite rich with the flavor splitting three ways: It's strongly bitter at the start, then some sweetness, then back to a bitter aftertaste. Rich and complex, definitely one of our top picks.
Verdict: Very Good
Tasted a lot like a stout, which isn't surprising, since it's actually brought to you by Guinness. Think of it as a thinner version of Guinness, lovely color, rich stout flavor, and slightly metallic aftertaste. Excellent for the stout lover!
Verdict: Very Good
Clausthaler Golden Amber
The third by Clausthaler and by far the best.Rich barley taste but very slight metallic aftertaste, which is probably closest to what we'd like from real beers. Great color, darker than most non-alcoholic beers. The bad, it's a bit too malty, so you'll know that it's not a 'real' beer. Still it's very lovable.
Verdict: Very Good
Yes. there are acceptable, even great non-alcoholic alternatives to your beer. You do need to choose your brand carefully though. But no matter what, that great,wasted feeling of alcohol kicking in can't be replaced. And most of the time, that's what creating the illusion of 'deliciousness' of the brew. The key is not to expect it as your beer, but rather as an alternative. That way, you can even find some of them are more enjoyable than your actual beers.
Besides, with non-alcoholic beers also mostly have far fewer calories, you can drink it more frequently. Don't forget the fact that you can also enjoy it while at work. So you can drink it as a substitute by day while reducing your actual alcohol intake during nights and weekends.
Maybe in the near future with the industry blooming, the research put to manufacture better tasted non-alcoholic beers will also kickstart, bringing us better options. But for now, what we got is not so bad at all. So let's enjoy the taste of beers while being healthy and wasted-free, shall we?