I admit that I approached the business of low (less than 0.5%) or no alcohol beers from a bad place. It’s not my choice, but the doc, in his infinite wisdom has decreed/proposed/suggested a month of not drinking. It sounded horrific. It is proving (at a week and a half in) to be… not so horrific. That said, last night I was at the most excellent The Exeter Arms in Derby. It’s a Dancing Duck Brewery pub and they have just won two CAMRA awards – best pub in Derby and something else; I forget. They were handing out free half pint of beer tokens in celebration. I gritted my teeth and enjoyed my Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade. It’s a great lemonade – but free beer? FREE BEER? I am strong in my resolution.
Finding and Trying
Few pubs seem to stock a low/no alc beer, and generally I’m completely with them – what’s the point? Why not just have a soft drink than some emasculated ale? There’s a texture and taste to beer that I actually like. I don’t drink to get drunk (although I do like that too); I find it a refreshing and pleasant mild narcotic. It’s a low drug dose (usually) and quite manageable without trashing one’s faculties.
I realised that fruit juice or tea just don’t have the same quality for drinking of an evening and I don’t want something with half a pound of sugar in it (you can shove your diet sodas where the sun don’t shine pal, they’re unilaterally vile).
The four beers below are the only ones I’ve found and tried so far. It’s a start right? Read on for Nanny State, Czech Pilsner Lager, Erdinger Alcohol Free and Beck’s Blue. I’m using an animal rating solely because it amuses me – and I’m rating them against each other, not against ‘normal’ ABV beers. Just in case you care. I think you’ll be able to figure out which ones I liked.
BrewDog Nanny State
My sympathetic friend David acquired these for me at the Nottingham BrewDog. They are pricey – £3 for 330ml. Amusingly, the seriously strong punk brewers only produced Nanny State to mock the media response to their irresponsibly strong beers a few years ago. As ever, the media were being twats.
They describe it as an “insanely hopped imperial mild“, which I find appealing as a description. It certainly is hoppy, and I find that many of BrewDog’s lighter coloured beers are intensely hoppy, which is great if you like that sort of thing. Personally I prefer their darker 5am Saint, but I’m generally a fan of IPA-type beers. Nanny State has very tasty dry, fruity flavour and went down very smoothly. Pretty damn good.
Sainsbury’s Czech Low Alcohol Pilsner Lager
Sainsbury’s had half a dozen different low/no alc beers – most of them are awful miniature bottles of French biere pisswaters so I ignored those. I’ve always like the cleanness of Czech and Polish lagers; they’re a world away from the inconceivably awful Fosters and Carling that sports fans use to deaden their senses.
This is actually brewed in the Staropramen brewery (and bottled by Marstons) and is the low-alc version of the already quite acceptable standard strength lager Sainsbury’s sell. I like it. It’s smooth, clean-tasting and very refreshing. For £1.20 for 500ml I felt very happy with it.
While it certainly doesn’t have the richness (I don’t know, a folded silver and gold flavour!) of Staropramen, or Zywiec I shall certainly drink it again. I mean, I’ve got two and a half weeks to go.
Rating: Albino crow
Erdinger Weissbrau Alcohol Free
Apparently our German pals have been brewing splendid low alcohol wheat beers for ages and tout their isotonic and vitamin-rich health benefits. At least that’s what it says on the label. I do like their regular versions, especially the darker Erdinger, and was pleased to find it in Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Without question this is the best of the bunch – it’s texture is delightful: rich and just the right kind of cloudy on the tongue. It goes down a treat and, y’know what, I feel isonicised by it. It really gives the qualitative feel of drinking beer, and since it’s low calorie as well as isotonisch and vitaminhaltig I do believe I’ll have another.
I’m seriously considering having Erdinger Alcohol Free as a regular drink even when I’m back on the booze – I could drink it at work in the Summer! YES. It does seem like the ideal chilled after-sport drink. So much tastier than Lucozade. £1.59 for a 500ml bottle (Lucozade’s new ‘Dual Fuel’ is £1.50 for 500ml! I guess that ain’t bad for gas and electric).
Beck’s Blue Alcohol Free Corpse Juice
I’m only including this one in the interests of balance. The supermarket had this next to Skol which probably says it all. Dismayingly this is the only low/no alc beer I’ve found in pubs yet. Presumably the manufacturers have tested the beverage on customers and correctly settled on 275ml, which is a just barely tolerable volume to suffer through. It’s sold for between £3-4 for six bottles, or about £3 a bottle in the pub (it does take up three quid’s worth of space).
This is a relentlessly foul shaken-donkey-jizzing in your mouth experience. Incredibly they have made a drink which makes regular Beck’s (already a worthless stain on a bar) into a drink you might consume if you found yourself prostrate in a desert, but if possible I’d hack open a camel with my teeth and suckle its hump butter instead. I would rather drink salt water until I vomit than drink Becks Blue again. The very touch of this bilious carbonated poison almost broke my doctor’s prohibition.
Becks Blue is awful. Presumably if you already consider Beck’s lager to be drinkable you are so lost that you might be able to drink this.
Rating: Sea Slug Choking A Mudskipper