Until recently, drinkable non alcoholic beer was a bit of a misnomer. If anyone thought to drink it, most of the options tasted horrible.
Non-alcoholic beverages (or NA as the in-crowd calls it) is hot and beer brands have risen to surging market demand.
If you’re looking for a nice non-alcoholic beer to go with your summer afternoon or late night pizza after a hard day’s work, let SIP Provisions be your guide.
What Qualifies as a Non-Alcoholic Beer
Before you start sampling NA beers from every brewery from here to Timbuktu, it’s important to understand nomenclature from the world of brewers.
In the 1980s and 1990s light beer hit the market with a splash. People looking to reduce calories and alcohol consumption ran toward lower carbohydrate and lower alcohol light beer to reduce weight and stay relatively “healthier.”
In the United States, light beers typically boast a 4.2% ABV (instead of the standard 5% ABV). This 16% reduction in ABC is exactly what brands like Bud Light, Coors Light, and Miller Light are selling.
Australia, Canada, and Sweden all have tighter restrictions on what it means to be low alcohol with acceptable ranges from 2.2 to 3.5 percent ABV.
Low Alcohol Beer
Low alcohol beer is designed to give you the taste and foamy satisfaction of beer without the punishing hangover the next day.
If you opt for low alcohol beers, you are still drinking some alcohol. The alcohol content varies, but generally a “low alcohol” label means your drink has 0.1% to 1% alcohol content by volume (or ABV).
If you are a strict teetotaller adamantly against drinking any kind of alcohol, I hate to break this to you. In the United States anything with less than 0.05% alcohol content by volume (ABV) can be called non-alcoholic.
Some beers may actually have more alcohol than the label claims. One study in Canada tested 45 beers and found that 29% of beers had more alcohol than what was officially listed on the bottle.
If you’re opting for low or no alcohol beer simply to reduce consumption or over-drinking, the ABV of non-alcoholic beer shouldn’t affect you. Kombucha is also less than 0.5% alcohol by volume and even kids can drink kombucha in a nanny state, so most people are satisfied opting for a non-alcoholic beer.
How Low and No-Alcohol Beer (or NA beer) is Made
If you’re wondering how alcohol-free beer tastes almost exactly like the real thing, you can attribute the similarities to the brewing process.
Alcohol-free beer is made exactly like regular beer with one extra step near the end. Here’s how it works.
The brewer starts with barley, water, hops and yeast. The grains are heated and dried, cracked, and then mashed in hot water. When the grains break down, enzymes are activated and sugars are released from the grains.
When the mashing process is complete, the brewer heats up the mashed grains (otherwise known as wort) and adds hops and spices. This gives your brew its distinct flavor and acts as a preservative.
After that, the mixture is drained and cooled. Ale is stored for a couple weeks at room temperature while lager is stored for many weeks at cooler temperatures. In the fermentation process, the yeast eats up all the sugar and spits out CO2 and alcohol.
Distilleries that want to make alcoholic beer bottle the brew and add carbonation, but this is where there’s a big difference between regular and alcohol free beer.
To get alcohol free beer, breweries need to remove the alcohol. Traditionally, brewers just heated the beer up and waited for the alcohol to evaporate off. Since alcohol is lighter than the rest of the liquid, this was a simple solution.
This heating process was known to kill the flavor of non-alcoholic beer (aka NA beer), so brewers started using other techniques to reduce the alcohol content. One method is a sort of vacuum process, whereas a popular technique that’s gaining steam (no pun intended) is reverse osmosis.
How Reverse Osmosis is Used to Make NA Beers
When it comes to reverse osmosis, pressure is applied to the beer so alcohol can be filtered out. Alcohol and water are passed through a polymeric filter, leaving behind a syrupy mixture of carbohydrates.
Alcohol is then filtered off of the water-alcohol mix before the water is added back into the main product. This makes for an end product that tastes better, and breweries are improving their NA beer brewing methods every day.
Now that you have a sense for what NA beer is and how it’s made, let’s talk about which alcohol-free brews have the best body, flavor, aroma, viscosity, and taste.
Ultimate List of Non-Alcoholic Beers and Brewers
As the demand for non-alcoholic beverages skyrockets, drinkers craving that satisfying beer taste minus the buzz have more NA beer options than ever.
Non-alcoholic beer can be difficult to find in local grocery stores, but you can order many of these NA beer options online. I’ll walk you through some of the non-alcoholic beer brands you can find most commonly in local grocery chains so you can quickly pick the right beers to match your taste.
Heineken makes one of the most widely available alcohol free beers. If your local grocery chain sells non-alcoholic beer, you’re almost always going to find Heineken 0.0. With zero alcohol and only 69 calories per bottle, you can knock back a few Heineken 0.0s without feeling terrible the next day. But how does it taste when you’re drinking it?
Heineken says their mass-produced lager is “malty and fruity” just like the original. This aroma is crisp and fresh with a bit of a bread smell on the nose.
The brew itself tastes a little sour at times, but otherwise there isn’t much to say. Heineken is what it is. Easy, simple and uncomplicated. If you’re looking for a beer taste, you wouldn’t be remiss to choose Heineken 0.0. If you want a true craft experience, you might want to go for something else.
6/10 Heineken 0.0 tastes a lot like Heineken. It’s not anything to write home about but it is widely available so sometimes it’s just the ticket.
Clausthaler is a Germany based beer maker focused exclusively on beer with zero alcohol by volume since 1979. They have dozens of awards and are widely known to be one of the best non-alcoholic beer makers in the world. And fortunately for us, this alkoholfrei beer is widely available in the states.
Unlike most non alcoholic breweries that remove alcohol after the fact, Clausthaler developed an innovative way to make beer so only a negligible amount of alcohol is produced in the first place.
As of this writing, Clausthaler has five varieties of NA beers. This includes:
I’ve only tried their original beer and I like it a lot. The signature lager is balanced, fresh, and incredibly easy to drink. Their golden beer has a subtle aroma, creamy feel on the palate, and a subtle bread flavor.
Unlike a lot of the non-alcoholic options out there, Clausthaler’s lager has a nice body. When it comes to my local beer search, Clausthaler is almost always the first non alcoholic beer bottle I reach for.
Although I haven’t been able to find Clausthaler bitter anywhere in the store, this is supposed to be one of the best non-alcoholic beers around. This unfiltered beer is supposed to have more of a craft approach with a dry-hopped technique.
Clausthaler adds savory hops after the fermentation process with the German Zwickel tradition of unfiltered brewing. The result is supposed to be rich, crisp, and bitter with just a touch of sweet malt with a beautiful golden color.
Athletic Brewing Co.
This craft beer company is famous for its low-calorie, award-winning non-alcoholic beers that are supposed to taste just like regular beer. The company is venture funded and has more media than most startups in the tech space. I just ordered my first six pack and I look forward to reviewing the taste.
Although I haven’t had a chance to taste the following beers, I’m very excited to continue my quest and try a few more non-alcoholic options.
There’s a whole world out there but right now with coronavirus it’s a bit hard to get your hands a lot of the non-alcoholic beers out there.
- O’Doul’s – I’m not that excited to try this non-alcoholic beer but you can get it at almost any grocery store so I’m bound to get my hands on it soon.
- Gruvi Non-Alcoholic IPA – A light and hop forward beer with citrusy and slightly bitter notes.
- Brewdog Nanny State Pale Ale – Brewdog is at it again, this time with a pale ale that’s supposed to taste great.
- Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects – So far this beer is rated 8.3 out of 10. This ruby colored ale has eight types of hops and is known for actually having the same mouthfeel as regular beer.
- Drop Bear “Bonfire Stout” (0.5%)
- Krombacher non-alcoholic pilsner
- Tempest Brewing Co “Drop Kick 0.5%” (0.5%) sour pale ale – Very curious to get a few bottles of this.
- Vandestreek “Playground IPA” (0.5%) India pale ale
I’ll update this article regularly as I learn more about the best non-alcoholic beers available.