In the name of science, fitness and Christmas weight gain I often go dry for the whole of 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 can fill the void.
Here are my thoughts on booze-free beers available, from the worst to best.
15. Becks Blue
This is probably the most widespread non-alcoholic beer seen in the UK.
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.
- Rating: 0.25/5
- Buy: Amazon (£7 for 15)
14. 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.
- Rating: 0.50/5
- Buy: Ocado (£4 for 8)
13. 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.
- Rating 0.5/5
- Buy: Alcoholfree.co.uk (£21.99 for 24)
12. Big Drop Lager
Big Drop are a new UK micro brewery who specialise in non-alcoholic beer. The brewery has a range of four beers, and I was able to get hold of 3 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.
- Rating 0.75/5
- Where to buy: Dry Drinker (£11.35 for 6)
11. 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.
- Rating 1.25/5
- Buy: Tesco (£3 for 4)
10. 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 here. Are the big macro brands all agreed on blue? It seems like it in many cases.
This beer pours light gold, clear and does actually taste like Heineken. Oddly, I ‘quite’ like 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’. However, it’s very thin and has a strange, artificial after taste.
- Rating 1.25/5
- Buy: Asda (£4 for 6)
9. 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.
However, 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.
- Rating: 1.50/5
- Buy: deliciousdrinkship.co.uk (£1.05 ea.)
8. 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 thCarlsberg, which depending on your point of view, could be a bad or a good thing.
- Rating: 2/5
- Buy: alcoholfree.co.uk (21.49 for 24)
7. San Miguel 0,0
Perhaps 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 these did make a fairly good substitute for normal beer, and they did not last long. I even found it provided at 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.
- Rating: 2/5
- Buy: Waitrose & Partners (£3 for 4)
6. Big Drop Pale Ale
This brewery could 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 you do get American hops coming through. Not as good as the real thing, but a worthy substitute.
- Rating: 2/5
- Buy: Beerhawk (£1.89 ea.)
5. Marks & Spencer Low Alcohol Czech Lager
This beer is brewed by Staropramen in Prague and claims it has a load of the famous Czech Zatec hops in each bottle.
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 one for you.
- Rating 2.25/5
- Buy: Marks & Spencer
4. Erdinger Alkoholfrei
First and only wheat beer of the test, and I can see why this style usually comes out well.
There still is the distinctive banana flavour, although it is turned down to 2 instead of 10.
Of course, it has the usual 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.
- Rating: 2.50/5
- Buy: Morrison’s (£1.30)
3. 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 character there, 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.
- Rating: 2.5/5
- Buy: Amazon (£32.99 for 12)
2. 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.
- Rating: 2.75/5
- Buy: Ocado (£1.30 / bottle for 500ml)
1. 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 has resulted in a craving for a beer like a hardcore IPA!
This beer became popular with the running group I’m with – with many opting for it after a run. And not that he is an authority on beer, but even my Dad has even accepted 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 this month. I took my shiny new equity punks discount card into a Brewdog bar, and a few glasses of draught Nanny State confirmed it’s position at the top of charts.
- Bottle: 2.5/5
- Draught: 3/5
But really, for a non-alcoholic beer, this is a 5/5!
Buy: Brewdog (£1.30 ea.)
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?