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I know, I know, I’d sort of promised myself I’d give up on alcohol free beers, but the recent appearance of a vast beer belly has made me reconsider… Plus a bunch of new ones turned up in the supermarkets. Before proceeding with this trial we should briefly reacquaint ourselves with the top and bottom of the 0.0% scale. The best I’ve found, the 10+ is unquestionably Erdinger Weissbrau Alcohol Free, which actually tastes like a drink and is delicious. The other end, somewhere around -10 is the baffling, hangover-inducing filth that is Beck’s Blue, more horrible than accidentally licking your cat’s arse.
Innis & None Pale Ale
I love Innis & Gunn’s more recent ‘seasonal’ brews, like Toasted Oak IPA and Irish Whiskey Finish, so I was keen to try this out.
Innis & None is odd. It looks like a proper beer, I’ll give it that, but a taste quickly disabuses that notion. To me it seems like there’s an extra flavour floating on top, which might be the trace of actual beer. It certainly lingers in the roof of your mouth and distracts me from the highly metallic tang it drifts in on. I’ve made an effort, and have tried this several times, pouring it out into glasses and leaving it for a while, but it still tastes like chewing cutlery. I’m not sure if it’s the result of their curious mixes, producing a combination in which neither source is discernible or if it just isn’t that good. Maybe it’s the ginseng, guarana and vitamin C they’ve added, in silly pretence of it being a health drink.
£1.30 per 330ml can.
Verdict: Coypu. Not as interesting as you expect.
Ah, Heineken. Absurdly possessed of confidence in the ‘premium quality’ of their lagers, despite all the evidence pointing to a tasteless, but hopefully cold drink. And in exactly the same way that ‘real’ Heineken both fails and succeeds, Heineken 0.0 smells (like its alcoholic cousin) like a rinsed out beer bottle, and tastes of absolutely nothing – there’s a bit of a fizz, but otherwise it’s like drinking oddly coloured air.
That said, get it good and cold and it’s very refreshing, despite having even less impact than cold water. I’m torn in how to recommend it… if you don’t really want a drink, dislike flavour, but feel you ought to hold something, then this is not a bad choice.
£4 for 6 330ml cans / £3 for 4 330ml bottles
Verdict: Hamster. The least interesting of pets, offering neither comfort or interest.
Maybe it’s only the Germans who understand that a drink can be worth drinking and alcohol-free. While everyone else is cashing in on the minuscule alcohol-free market with the laziest possible piss-soft drinks, the Germans have taken it seriously and are making drinks for people who aren’t bald, check-shirt-wearing thugs pretending they haven’t been drinking all Sunday.
And they’ve done it again: Franziskaner Alkoholfrei is a rich, wheaty beer with a thick creamy taste which is genuinely present in your mouth and is pleasant afterwards. It’s in stark contrast to the crappy end of the scale, so this one’s right up there with the Erdinger. Highly recommended. It also comes in a 500ml bottle which turns it into a proper drink.
£1.30 per 500ml bottle.
Verdict: Manta Ray. It glides down your throat with the greatest of ease.