The best low/no alcohol beers for non-boozy boozing
FoodTribe's round-up of the best non-alcoholic beer, from lagers through to stouts
During lockdown, it seemed like things went one of two ways. People were either drinking a lot more, or looking to curb their drinking and finding non-alcoholic alternatives. Waitrose reported that non-alcoholic searches increased massively during the pandemic.
In the past, you’d have been struggling for options for an alcohol free beer, but now, everyone from the biggest breweries to the smallest craft outfit seems to offer an alcohol free (or low alcohol) option. Sometimes, you just don’t fancy a proper ‘soft’ drink: you still want the taste and experience of drinking a beer, but without the booze. That could be for any number of reasons.
Some low alcohol beers are brewed using special yeasts and low-sugar malt, which results in very little alcohol, and others start out their lives boozy, but have the alcohol removed. While 0.5% ABV might seem like it’s ‘still some alcohol’, it turns out it’s the same amount as a ripe banana. And when was the last time you got tipsy from eating a banana?
Without further ado, here’s FoodTribe’s round-up of some of the best no and low alcohol beers out there, from lagers through to fruity numbers, and weisse beers through to stout.
The fruity one: Stiegl Radler Grapefruit 2% ABV
Both myself and DriveTribe’s Tim Rodie are big fans of Stiegl Radler Grapefruit. If you’re looking to be refreshed, this is the drink for you. Tim loves it so much, he’s basically written an ode to it. The Stiegl brewery was established back in 1492. It was originally brewed in downtown Salzburg, but relocated to the Maxglan area of the city towards the end of the 19th century. Apparently, Mozart was a fan as well. They might not have had the grapefruit radler back then, but we reckon he’d have loved that too.
The non-boozy brewery one: Big Drop 0.5%
Big Drop Brewery only makes alcohol-free beers, with never more than 0.5% ABV. The company now has a huge range, covering everything from pale ales to IPAs to sours, and all the way through to stout. Stout in particular is often pretty underrated in the non-alcohol beer world. Big Drop was set up in 2016, and working with brewer Johnny Clayton (who used to be at Wild Beer co), they’ve nailed the techniques to make alcohol-free beer without having to take out the alcohol. Across the range, they use more than 20 speciality grains. Importantly, the beers are full-bodied and don’t taste like watered down versions of proper beers.
The Dutch one: vandeStreek Playground IPA 0.5%
Three types of American hops, none of the alcohol. This lovely IPA gives you everything you’d want from a ‘normal’ IPA – citrus, tropical, grapefruit and bitterness. Brothers Sander and Ronald van de Streek started making beer in their flat in Utrecht in 2010. By 2013 they had crowdfunded their way to launching a brewery and the brand. They offer some permanent beers in the range, including this one, and some limited editions.
The big dog one: Brewdog Nanny State 0.5%
Brewdog’s Nanny State used to be a 1.1% beer, but it’s now all the way down at 0.5%. This one’s got some serious body to it, partly down to that fact it’s packed with eight different types of malt. It’s a pale ale, but is darker in colour than what you might expect from a pale ale. It’s quite rich, with a lovely, long bitter, citrussy finish and a decent head (which can be a problem with low/no alcohol beers). This could be one you’d be fooled into thinking is a ‘normal’ beer. Brewdog’s now such a huge name and it’s been around longer than we expected. The company started out in 2007, and has grown at a ridiculous rate since then.
The perfect pilsner one: Lucky Saint lager 0.5%
You know sometimes you just want a deliciously cold, crisp lager, and nothing else will do? Lucky Saint fits the brief – it just doesn’t have any of the booze. Founder Luke Boase had a few setbacks on the way to making his dream come true, but these days, Lucky Saint is one of the best regarded and best tasting non-alcoholic lagers out there. It’s unfiltered, so it’s a bit cloudy, and it’s got a lovely biscuitiness to it, with a smooth and citrussy finish. Not only is it tasty on its own, it also works really well in food: I’ve used it in my chilli con carne and my fish and chips…
Pick up a case from Lucky Saint. FoodTribers can save 20%, using the code 'FOODTRIBE20'.
The German one: Krombacher 0.0%
This one’s a proper thirst quencher, with a slightly sweet aftertaste and a decent body. It’s brewed in the same way as Krombacher’s other beer, and then goes through de-alcoholisation. Apparently it holds the accolade of being the most popular non-alcoholic Pilsner in Germany. The Krombacher brewery was founded in February 1803 by Johannes Haas, the son of a tavern owner. At the time, there was a law saying beer could only be sold in restaurants that had their own brewery and malt kiln. Hermann Haas sold the brewery in 1896, and it was run as a limited partnership, before becoming a corporation in 1905. Today the company is family owned by the Schadebergs, after Bernhard Schadeberg assumed management of the company in 1922.
The American one: Brooklyn Special Effects 0.4%
The story behind Brooklyn brewery is really interesting. Co-founder Steve Hindy was first introduced to brewing in the Middle East. He worked as an Associated Press correspondent in the 70s and 80s. After befriending an American diplomat who happened to be an avid home brewer, Steve decided to give it a go himself when he returned to New York in the 80s. Brooklyn Brewery was set up in 1988, after Steve partnered with Tom Potter and managed to raise a few hundred thousand dollars. The chaps started out locally, and now Brooklyn Brewery beers are available around the world. Special Effects was the company’s first non-alcoholic offering. If you love your zesty, tangy pale ales, this could be the non-boozy one for you. It’s a dry-hopped amber lager, with good body, a little sweetness, and not much bitterness.
The fun one: Mikkeller Weird Weather 0.3%
Mikkeller was set up back in 2006 by maths and physics teacher Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. Since launch, the company has released more than 800 beers, and now ships to around 40 countries worldwide. With such a huge number of beers (of course not all are available now), you’d be quite right in thinking that a good number of those are no- or low-alcohol. One of the more ‘normal’ styles from the range I’ve tried, Weird Weather is a hazy New England style IPA. This is one of four versions of Weird Weather: there’s a 6.7% version, two 8.3% versions and this 0.3% version. It’s got a really decent body for such a low ABV, a creamy, fruity taste and a bit of bitterness, which helps you not drink it too fast!
The really fruity one: Mikkeller Limbo Yuzu 0.3%
Another Mikkeller offering. There’s a whole Mikkeller ‘Limbo Series’, with flavours including raspberry and blueberry, but the yuzu pips it for me. As you might expect, it’s made with yuzu juice. Yuzu is a citrus fruit that’s almost like a cross between grapefruit and mandarin in flavour. It’s sharp and refreshing, and works really well in beer, like this Flemish primitive ale. Ok, so the flavour is definitely more yuzu than beer, and if you’re expecting a classic pale ale, it might not be for you. But for the fruit lovers out there, you will find this deliciously addictive.
The supermarket one: Sainsbury’s low alcohol Czech lager 0.5%
This one’s one of the cheaper, if not the cheapest on the list, but it’s very good. It’s quite light-bodied, but super refreshing. There’s lots of malt, and it’s fresh, a little sweet and very easy to drink. Not that you’d expect a supermarket beer to be a proper craft affair, but this has got some big hitters involved. It’s produced by the Staropramen Brewery (owned by Molson Coors) and is bottled by Marston’s in the UK.
The big brewery one: Heineken 0.0
Tried side by side with a normal Heineken, I found it pretty difficult to tell the difference. If you’re a die-hard Heineken lover, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell, but they’ve certainly done a decent job of imitating a mass market lager. The body, head and flavour are all decent and if you’re after something easy drinking that you can pick up in a lot of places, you can’t go wrong with Heineken 0.0.