In my youth, I worked at a local social club. Non-alcoholic options consisted of a few bottles of Kaliber, a non-alcoholic beer brewed by Guinness.
I would not touch the stuff, and neither did many others. Even old fashioned drinks like ‘light & bitter’ and bottled beers like Manns Brown Ale easily outsold it.
Jump to 2019 and times have changed. Not only is there no longer a stigma about abstaining, but there’s more choice than ever with a wide range of interesting alcohol free options available.
For a couple of years now, I have gone dry for January.
In 2018, this coincided with entering the London marathon, which was my very first. I thought that reducing my alcohol intake would help complete the distance, but in the end the effects were negligible!
However, as I was dry for the whole of January, it was an excellent opportunity to try a variety of non-alcoholic beers to see if any could fill the void.
In 2019 I’ve repeated abstinence, this time doubling the list of alcohol free beers to a whopping thirty beers.
It’s clear to me that even in 12 months the methods and technology of producing these beers seem to have improved.
There are also many more styles, with Brown Ales and Sours entering the market, as well as fantastic pale ales showcasing american hops.
We’ve come a long way from that dusty bottle of Kaliber.
Here are my thoughts on booze-free beers available, ranked from the worst to the best.
30. Becks Blue
Apparently, it’s brewed according to the famous German purity law, the Reinheitsgebot, but like Becks itself, this shares little in common with good quality German beer.
When opened, a pungent aroma escapes. I once discovered a mouldy cabbage which was accidentally left in a rucksack for three weeks. It’s like that. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.
The beer pours clear & golden, with a long-lasting, tight head. My first discovery: It’s certainly difficult if nigh impossible to tell if a beer is alcoholic just from looking at it.
However, the taste is like a cross between a pub’s day-old drip tray dregs and the cheap bottles of supermarket shandy my grandad used to buy for me when a teenager.
It was a good job I was thirsty when I opened this. Avoid.
29. Cobra Zero
Cobra Zero is a very pale, light gold and has a similar aroma of stale beer.
I find the taste too artificial, but it does have some crispness, and does evoke some distant memory of drinking Cobras in an Essex curry house.
It tastes like it has been made with poor quality ingredients and adjuncts, and in fact, the label states that it contains ‘modified hop products‘.
There’s a distinct lack of character here. Impossibly smooth? Impossibly shit, more like.
Unfortunately, like many on this list I had to get a four-pack just to try it. Damn.
- Buy: 365 Drinks (£29.95 for 24)
28. Friesisches Brauhaus zu Jever – Jever Fun
My Dad tried one of these and the review was quite glowing. Years of Bud/Miller/Coors Light have clearly addled his taste buds.
The only ‘fun’ you’ll have here is when once it’s over with.
Bland, and for me, nothing special.
- Where to buy: Beerhawk, £0.99
27. Big Drop Lager
Big Drop are a new UK microbrewery who specialise in non-alcoholic beer. The brewery has a range of of beers, and I was able to get hold of five of them to try.
All the beers have excellent, enticing artwork which certainly marks them out as craft in the Macro world of Non-alcoholic beers.
However, despite the promise, I was disappointed with this lager. It’s so dry it’s just not pleasurable to drink. There’s none of the cereal flavours you would want the beer to have.
It’s also too expensive when you can get better tasting lager which you’ll find elsewhere on this list for next to nothing.
Back to the drawing board with this one I think, although they could probably stick to the more interesting styles, and get more success due to the sheer ubiquity of 0% industrial lager out there.
- Where to buy: Dry Drinker (£11.35 for 6)
26. Swinkels Family Brewers Bavaria 0,0
This is bland. It’s just not very ‘beery’. It’s like a shandy but without the good bits, such as bubbles and well, flavour.
I could write more but I don’t want to. I also need to rinse my mouth with fairy liquid.
25. Big Drop Sour
I can enjoy a sour beer now and then, especially if there is at least some nuance and balance.
This does not have that. It’s insipid, light and slightly sour. It’s like slightly sour water with not any redeeming qualities of note.
But, at least Big Drop produce such niche options as a Sour.
- Where to buy: Beerhawk £1.89
24. Brasserie Piedboef Jupiler 0,0
It states on Untappd that this beer was launched at the Belgium Vs Estonia game in November 2016.
Whilst this match may have finished 8-1 in Belgium’s favour, the #1 beer of Belgium fares less well.
The bottles are bloody tiny for some insane reason. It’s not like this is a 13% Belgian monster so it makes no sense to me.
Interesting to see the Belgians on the list but you can do better elsewhere.
- Where to buy: Beerhawk £0.99
23. Budweiser Prohibition Brew
Despite the can, this seemed to have lower carbonation than many of the other beers on this list. It still has the similar Bud flavour, so if you like Bud, then you could probably drink this and you’d not even know.
I think I could even prefer this to a standard Budweiser.
Although I cannot stand the company or what it produces, I do quite admire the branding, name and their marketing angle (please don’t hit me).
So far, I’ve only seen this in Tesco. It’s £2.40 for 4 cans.
- Buy: Tesco (£3 for 4)
22. Clausthaler Original / Premium
The Clausthaler bottle actually looks good – not many would realise it was alcohol free. I had high hopes, only for them to be dashed.
It is thin, sweet and metallic. There is some distant hop character, but overall the beer is unbalanced. I had a four pack and it did not really improve.
One of those some will like, but most will want to pour down the drain.
So, you could do a lot worse. But only just.
- Buy: deliciousdrinkship.co.uk (£1.05 ea.)
21. Heineken 0.0
The words ‘hop extract’ and ‘natural flavourings’ on the bottle are enough to make most beer drinkers shudder, but I’m prepared to take one for the team.
Again, this has a Blue label, which must mean something somewhere in month-long marketing meetings. Are the big macro brands all agreed on blue? It seems like it.
It pours light gold, clear and does actually taste like Heineken. Oddly, I don’t mind the sweet and artificial tasting Heineken, especially compared to Becks, which I despise (you may have realised this by now).
So, it’s no surprise that I find this ‘ok’. If you don’t mind Heineken, you’ll likely be fine with it.
But, it’s still not great. It’s very thin and has a strange, artificial aftertaste.
20. San Miguel 0,0
Obviously, this is similar to the previous macro lagers, even down to the blue label.
But, I can still tell that the base beer is San Miguel.
I found that this did make a fairly good substitute for normal beer, and they did not last long. I even found it provided welcome refreshment alongside a mildly spicy thai green curry.
I was 12 days in when I got these, so perhaps I was starting to get used to beer sans-alcohol.
Still pongs though.
19. Free Damm
This feels similar to San Miguel and in 2019 it seems to be everywhere with the new catchy branding on cans.
The design is very ‘craft beer’ and this is an OK effort which is very cheap and does not take up much room in the fridge.
It has a deeper colour than many and had good carbonation.
It’s not got the mouthfeel of your real lager, but it is not too far off Estrella Damm.
- Where to buy: Morrisons £4 for 6
A bit safe and a pale imitation of the real deal, but it is still a bit better than most of the industrial lagers on offer.
It’s brewed in Bavaria but details are not available who that may be.
This shouts hard about its credentials as a healthier alternative, with just 66 calories per bottle.
- Where to buy: Amazon – £25.99 for 12
17. Carlsberg 0,0
One of the beers I actually drank in a pub, and it was fine.
It actually looked and tasted like a slightly thin Carlsberg, which depending on your point of view, could be a bad or a good thing.
It’s OK and at least some pubs have different alcohol free beers these days.
- Buy: Ocado (£3 for 4)
16. Schneider Weisse TAP3
Aha, this is an unusual one. It’s reddish brown with a slightly sweet fragrance. The carbonation is excellent with a lasting head. It seems very well made.
With a spicy malt character it’s unlike the other wheat beers in this list where the banana flavours tend to dominate.
I am not sure it’s something I’d have regularly, but I could develop a taste for, especially paired with food.
If you are looking for a beer that bit different, then this could be it.
15. Marks & Spencer Low Alcohol Czech Lager
I like it – has a distinctive amount of bitterness and a rather pleasant aroma. It’s no Pilsner Urquell, but if you like Czech pilsner, then this could be the one for you.
- Buy: Marks & Spencer
This golden beauty seems to have at least some life in it, with a long lasting head.
Similar in recipe to the standard Warsteiner, but with the alcohol removed after the maturation period.
It’s light in body and a good substitute if you fancy a lager.
- Where to buy: Ocado – £3.50 for 4
13. Erdinger Alkoholfrei
Wheat beer is a style that works well when it is alcohol free.
This has a distinctive banana and clove flavour which comes from the yeast, although it is turned down to 2 instead of 10.
Of course, the bottle has the blue label to denote you as a non-drinker and rather unusually seems to come in mighty 500ml bottles. Steady on!
One which would great for summer, and should stop you getting bored with lager if you are off the sauce, I suspect.
12. Big Drop Stout
Big Drop should be applauded by even attempting to create a non-alcoholic stout, and is the reason the brewery exists in the first place.
It is their flagship beer, and it shows. Many would not even realise that this is a light, non alcoholic beer. If you are a dark beer lover this is certainly one to try if you are driving or not drinking – it has the same character, even if it is thinner than what I’d like.
More of the flavour will come through the warmer you serve it – I drank too cold initially.
Fairly pricey at £2.50 a bottle compared to most of the others here, but it is worth it, and you’ll be supporting a small UK brewery, and not an ‘evil’ global corporation. Buy in bulk to save!
11. St. Peter’s Without Gold
St. Peter’s are a brewery well known for their distinctive bottles of traditional real ale.
This golden ale has rich tea fingers on the palate, with a pleasant rounded taste.
A good choice if you like standard golden ales in an English style.
10. Franziskaner Weissbier Alkoholfrei
If you are off the booze then low alcohol German wheat beers seem to be an excellent summer substitute.
This is an excellent beer in boozy form, and this 0.5% version has the same fantastic banana and bubblegum flavours.
It’s produced by the huge Spaten-Franziskaner-Lowenbrau Group in Munich and I’d happily drink this if driving or cutting back on alcohol, especially in the sunshine.
- Buy: Ocado (£1.30 / bottle for 500ml)
9. Big Drop Pale Ale
Big drop have a bright future if they continue on this path, and leave the lagers alone.
I’ll certainly keep an eye on them, as it is only a young brewery and these beers could get better and better as they hone their craft.
This is dry, bitter, and American hops come through. Not as good as the real thing, but a worthy substitute.
This year I revisited it and liked it even more than last year.
- Buy: Beerhawk (£1.89 ea.)
8. Nanny State, Brewdog
Brewdog are not messing about with Nanny State – there’s 5 different hops and 8 different malts in this brew – and it shows.
The amount and variety of malts has resulted in a lovely darker, deep brown colour and a surprising amount of body.
The lashings of American hops bring fruit and a bag load of bitterness – an impressive 45 IBUs in fact.
The downside of this is that the flavour of Nanny State can result in a craving for a beer like a hardcore IPA!
This beer became popular with the running group I was with – with many opting for it after a run. And not that he is an authority on beer, but even my Dad has accepted the greatness of Nanny State – I’ve spotted it in his fridge.
After I was pummelled into submission by Brewdog’s investment advertising, I finally gave in and became an equity punk. I took my shiny new equity punks discount card into a Brewdog bar, and a few glasses of draught Nanny State cemented its position in the top 10.
7. Thornbridge Brewery Big Easy
This is a very good effort, with lots of floral notes being apparent after a good sniff.
Hops! Finally some more hops. This is promising in terms of flavour and dryness.
Sadly it’s just a bit too thin and needs more carbonation. I may have got a slightly duff version, so I’ll have to try again soon.
- Where to buy: Ocado (1 for £1.79)
6. St. Peter’s Without
As you can see from the image, this is a very different beer from the Without Gold.
It is a bit like an English bitter. It pours a clear reddish-brown and smells fairly earthy in a wet dog way.
It is sweet and malty with a surprisingly thick mouthfeel.
There’s a mild bitter aftertaste which turns into yesterday’s sock. I like!
If you prefer hops look elsewhere, but an ancient real ale aficionado may be able to live with it.
- Rating: 2/5
- Buy: Beerhawk (£1.89 ea.)
5. Big Drop Brewing Co Brown Ale
This is more like it. This smells like plums and raisins, but has caramel, spice and an impressive level of maltiness which sits in balance.
This traditional ale would be great with Sunday roast beef.
The best Big Drop have produced in my opinion.
- Rating: 2/5
- Buy: Beerhawk (£1.89 ea.)
4 Brewdog Raspberry Blitz
Don’t let the bright pink colour put you off – this is an excellent non-alcoholic sour from Brewdog. They’ve clearly spent time getting this right – the recipe is based on their Berliner Weisse Raspberry Blitz, and they used Raspberry Popsicle Parade as a testing ground to dial it in.
I found the fruit balanced the sourness well, but it’s not everyone – my wife though it tasted like ‘sour water’.
- Buy: Beerhawk (£1.89 ea.)
3. Brauerei Gebr. Maisel – Maisel’s Weisse Alkoholfrei
Maisel Weisse hails from the small brewing town of Bayreuth in Bavaria. They make a range of beers, but are perhaps well known in recent times for their wheat beers.
There’s enough here to satisfy thirst with a lovely mouthfeel and notes of banana and cloves. I cannot compare to standard Maisel Weisse, but this seems to be of a very good quality, with plenty of flavour.
I happily drunk this on a warm, sunny spring day and did not miss the alcohol at all – great stuff! Another tick for non alcoholic weissbier, but this takes the crown at the top.
- Where to buy: Beerhawk (1 for £1.49)
2. Infinite Session Pale
Infinite Session, like Big Drop, are a specialist creator of non-alcoholic beers.
The current range consists of a Lager, American Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale.
I managed to get hold of the American Pale Ale and was suitably impressed.
This has intense aromas of citrus. A thick body also coats the palate leaving with a lasting impression of bitterness.
1. Adnams Ghost Ship Alcohol Free
This non-alcoholic version of Adnams Ghost Ship ale pulled into port in June 2018, and it has been worth the wait.
There’s not too many options for ale lovers out there, especially when it comes to alcohol free versions of existing favourites. So this beer a welcome arrival.
The bottle is different to the existing Ghost Ship design using updated branding, with a pleasing sunset instead of the blue, old style label found on standard bottles.
The beer is made by reverse osmosis, a process in which the alcohol is removed from standard brews of Ghost Ship. Adnams invested in a new plant to be able to do this.
This beer is aromatic, balanced and full of flavour. I had no qualms about ordering another at a pub Sunday Lunch, not even feeling in any way jealous of all the other beers on offer.
With the Ghost Ship is a wildly popular bottle and cask pale ale, this could easily see the same level of success for those who are abstaining.
- Where to buy: Beerhawk (£2.39 for 1)
It’s clear that a greater non-alcoholic beer range than ever is available both online and in stores, some with enough flavour that drinkers may actively choose to drink them.
Overall, it’s not been as bad, or as hard as I first thought it would be to go dry.
However, if my experience this month is anything to go by, many pubs could do a much better job. How about improving the range beyond the either zero or one beer available?
Top Non Alcoholic and Alcohol Free Beers
|Position 2019||Name||Brewery||Untappd Avg. Rating||Bacchanalian Avg. Rating|
|1||Ghost Ship Alcohol Free||Adnams||3.01/5||3.75/5|
|2||Miasel's Weisse Alkoholfrei||Brauerei Gebr. Maisel||3.15/5||3.50/5|
|5||Brown Ale||Big Drop Brewing Co||2.82/5||3.25/5|
|7||Big Easy||Thornbridge Brewery||2.98/5||3.00/5|
|8||Pale Ale||Big Drop Brewing Co||2.74/5||2.75/5|
|11||Without Gold||St. Peter's||2.17/5||2.75/5|
|12||Stout||Big Drop Brewing Co||2.63/5||2.50/5|
|14||Warsteiner Premium Fresh Alcoholfree||Warsteiner||2.25/5||2.44/5|
|15||Low Alcohol Czech Lager||Marks & Spencer||2.27/5||2.25/5|
|16||Schneider Weisse Mein Alkoholfrei (TAP3)||Schneider Weisse G. Schneider & Sohn||2.82/5||2.25/5|
|17||Carlsberg Non Alcoholic||Carlsberg Group||2.25/5||2.00/5|
|19||Free Damm||Grupo Damm||2.12/5||2.00/5|
|20||San Miguel 0,0 (Sin)||Grupo Mahou-San Miguel||2.05/5||2.00/5|
|22||Clausthaler Original / Premium||Radeberger Gruppe||2.37/5||1.50/5|
|23||Budweiser Prohibition Brew||Anheuser-Busch||1.91/5||1.25/5|
|24||Jupiler 0,0||Brasserie Piedboef||2.17/5||1.25/5|
|25||Sour||Big Drop Brewing co||1.95/5||1.00/5|
|26||Bavaria 0,0||Swinkels Family Brewers||1.97/5||1.00/5|
|27||Lager||Big Drop Brewing Co||2.48/5||0.75/5|
|28||Jever Fun||Friesisches Brauhaus zu Jever||2.45/5||0.75/5|
|29||Cobra Zero||Molson Coors (UK)||1.73/5||0.75/5|
|30||Beck's Blue||Brauerei Beck||0.75/5||0.25/5|