January is now the month of dry-ness in Ireland (for some) and it leaves beer drinkers like me looking for a decently flavoured and satisfying malt based beverage – alcoholic content aside. Low and non alcoholic beers are seeing decent growth worldwide recently so the options are increasing.
Ive picked up all of these beers locally between a few different retailers so this is what was at hand, no special effort was made to track any of these down but there are a lot more out there if you feel the need to find them.
Brewdog – Nanny state pale ale – 330ml bottle
This is one of the more accessible newer non alcoholic offerings you will find in decent beer retailers. Nanny State has lots of hops in it, all the big name hops from Centennial, Columbus, Cascade, Amarillo and Simcoe backed up with a pile (EIGHT) speciality malts. With that sort of a hop and malt bill you would be expecting this to be phenomenal and I suppose its not bad.
The hops are evident from the moment you open the bottle, its definitely hopped up, its got a decent amount of bitterness to begin with but personally I would find the bitterness grating after a few but where it falls down is bodywise. Unfortunately the usual thinness associated with non alcoholic beers is here despite the heroic grain bill its got. Its worth a try I suppose.
Mikkeller – Drink’in the sun – 330ml bottle
Similarly enough to Nanny State this is a relatively new regular addition to Irish shelves from Danish brewing outfit Mikkeller. Its an American style wheat ale coming in at 0.3% abv. This is not like any other non alcoholic beers you may have tried previously. Its pours a nice hazy golden colour with a fluffy white head. Tropical and citrus fruits foremost with Drink’in the Sun, super easy drinking, bright and refreshing. Bodywise the wheat carries it nicely, you would be forgiven for thinking this was a session ale with an ABV higher than 0.3%. Recommended.
Heineken – 0.0 – 330ml bottle
This, along with Erdinger Alkoholfrei will most likely be the most readily available non alcoholic offering you will find in your local pub/retailer.
Im not a Heineken fan, I find their regular pilsner to be weak, watery and tasteless. This is no different, its all of those things – with no alcohol. Its got that skunky aroma that comes with beers in clear and green bottles and seems to be a trademark of our Dutch friends. Would I buy this again? No, I definitely would not.
Erdinger Alkoholfrei – 500ml can
A German brewing legend like Erdinger should fill you with confidence that they can make fine beer consistently. Im a big fan of their usual offerings from Dunkle, Urweiss, Oktoberfest and Schneeweiss but unfortunately this falls way short of anything else Erdinger produces. I am a fan of nearly everything from these guys but not this, its a got a weird tin/metallic aroma off it, very weak bodywise for a Weissbier and a sweetness thats associated with NA beers. Its probably the most readily available non alcoholic beer you will find but for me this doesn’t taste like beer at all. With a better selection of other NA’s now available I would not pick this up again.
(I tried both the bottled and canned Eridinger Alkoholfrei and both have the same metallic aroma so its nothing to do with the packaging in my opinion)
Weihenstephaner – Alkoholfrei Munich Helles – 500ml bottle
Munich Helles is one of my favourite beer styles. Its a simple German classic, doesn’t rely on a mountain of hops, it shows off the malt beautifully and you can easily drink a few of them so when the worlds oldest brewery makes a non alcoholic version of their helles I’m on it. This was the first real good non alcoholic beer that I have ever had. Its got a great bready aroma thanks to the malt being allowed to shine. The NA version of this beer works well for me because the regular version has a light enough body and mouthfeel to begin with so this doesn’t feel like its missing anything. The hops deliver a nice spiciness to the finish that will refresh you. I really like this beer from Weihenstephaner, its a good alternative to its regular Helles.
Thornbridge – Big Easy – 330ml bottle
Another beer thats newish to Irish shelves but falls into the same category as previous non alcoholic beers, lacking in any sort of body. The Big Easy pale ale is hopped with Amarillo and Cascade bringing out the tropical aromas and flavours as the dominant features for me, The body is really thin, disappointingly so. I got the feeling of drinking a flavoured fizzy drink more than a beer which is odd. It pours like, looks like and smells like a decent beer but it falls short of something I would rebuy.
Maisel Weiss – Alkoholfrei – Weissbier – 500ml bottle
For me this is the best non alcoholic beer I could get my hands on. Maisel Weiss Alkoholfrei delivers that full bodied, tasty and satisfying beer that everyone associates with German weissbiers. I think I might struggle in a blind taste test to distinguish between this and the full alcohol version. As you would typically expect from a weissbier theres lots of clove, banana and mild bubblegum going on here. While this would be my personal go to for a low/non alcoholic beer it was also was the cheapest at €1.60 per 500ml bottle so its got great value in its corner too. Of all that I sampled this is by far my favourite.
Open Gate Brewery – Pure Brew – 330ml bottle
Not quite sure how long this one from the Open Gate Brewery in Dublin has been around, a matter of months to a year maybe? Its a non alcoholic lager brewed differently, by that they mean it hasn’t been brewed as a full strength beer and the alcohol boiled off as per many other non alcoholic beers, its to do with a specially developed yeast strain according to Guinness.
All I have to say about this is that its priced appropriately (€5 for 4 330ml bottles) to garner plenty of sales. Its going to have its regular buyers – I won’t be one of them. Weak, watery, thin, aroma and flavour free. No thanks.
Baltika – Zero – 475ml bottle
Baltika Zero is my final non alcoholic option. This really is a poor beer. Another green bottle disaster, definitely lightstruck/skunky with more than a touch of oxidation by means of a cardboard aroma. Taste wise this is sweet from the corn used in brewing it, again not something that I go for. Colour-wise this is about as pale as you can get without it being completely water – think all of the light American big name lagers out there, this is right up there with them. Honestly this is one beer I will never buy again or recommend to anyone.
Other decent options
While none of these meet the spec to be classified as non alcoholic they definitely deserve a mention and should be considered if you are looking to stay under the 4% abv mark for any reason.
O’Brother Brewing – Freewheeler – Super Session IPA 3%
Whiplash – Northern Lights – Micro IPA 2.8%
Stiegl – Radler – 2%
Larkins – Galaxy Quest – 3.8%
Very special mention:
Yellowbelly Brewing & Black Castle Drinks – Designated Driver – Dry hopped Craft Soda