WHY ALCOHOL FREE & LOW alcohol beers?
With January in full flow, it’s time when we all reflect and begin to make positive changes to our lives. One of the common challenges is the good old ‘Dry January’ where we force ourselves to give up the booze for one whole month! What does this mean for beer drinking though? Well, the good news is your beer drinking doesn’t have to come to an abrupt halt. there are now some really great alcohol-free and low alcohol beers available.
Gone are the days of the watery Kaliber’s of the ’90s, it seems all the major brands have some caught up with the trend. It’s always a good option to have a few low alcohol beers on hand for those occasions like when you are designated driver and don’t want to stand there with tonic water or for some or something like when you are training for a marathon! The other good thing about them is most are around half the calories of a normal beer too with around 70-80 per 330ml bottle.
what's the difference between low ALCOHOL & alcohol free?
In our list, we’ve only given options up to 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Now technically a drink that does contain 0.5% does contain a minimal amount of alcohol in it. However, according to UK law, drinks at 0.5% ABV and under aren’t restricted by booze licensing. This basically means they are classed as ‘alcohol-free.’
One other thing to consider is that some foods like ripe bananas, rye bread and burger rolls can contain up to about 0.4% ABV in the form of ethanol.
Alcohol in bread you say?! That’s right, so in this context having a low alcohol beer could be no different to eating a ripe banana in terms of alcohol intake.
Also, it’s pretty impossible to get drunk on 0.5% beer given the volume you would need to drink, so in our view, 0.5% or below is classed as alcohol-free. However, if there’s a real moral dilemma for you go ahead and just stick to those 0% ones
THE DRY JAN HIT LIST
After taking the plunge and doing Dry January for the first time i thought i would try a decent amount of non-alcoholic beers on offer. Now one thing i’ve discovered is not all alcohol free beers are made equal. Peroni Libera for example is not simply Peroni without the alcohol.
Anyway, after a good try of all the major brands here’s the ones that in my opinion are the top picks for non-alcoholic beers widely available in the UK right now.
# 10 PERONI LIBERA 0%
One of my real Italian favourites Peroni have entered the non-alcoholic market with their malty-sweet ‘Libera’ brand. Peroni Nastro Azzuro is a top beer of mine with its crisp bitterness and a subtle citrus twinge so I had real high hopes for Libera. Sadly I have to say I was a little disappointed. There is a real maltiness as you first sip but for me, there is a distinct lack of hoppy taste and too much sweetness and citrus flavours. It definitely was still an enjoyable drink but for me I think there are better ones on the market.
# 9 SAN MIGUEL 0%
If someone asked you to name a Spanish beer, chances are San Miguel would be the first words out of your mouth. Although technically originating from the Philippines it’s a real Spanish staple nowadays. San Miguel’s attempt is not a bad one, a nice malty smell and taste. I did get a mild aftertaste of wholemeal/cornflake from somewhere which really solidified that this was a 0% beer. San Miguel 0% is still an ok choice if you are short on options.
# 8 BIRRA MORETTI ZERO
Another malty-fruity Italian favourite, Birra Moretti Zero is their alcohol-free attempt launched in early 2019. The smell from the bottle has some similarity to standard Moretti except with more of a fruity twang to it. The taste is also a bit fruity but it has a real proper Italian beer texture to it which was lacking in Peroni Libera. A solid option if there isn’t much better you can get hold of.
# 7 BITBURGER DRIVE ALCOHOL FREE
There isn’t much quite like a proper German pilsner and now there’s an alcohol-free version in Bitburger Drive. Bitburger brew this one like their regular pils and then remove the alcohol at a later stage. This means taste-wise it’s like a pilsner but perhaps a bit less gassy and more sour but if you like your German beers this is probably the one for you.
# 6 HEINEKEN 0%
One of Holland’s finest Heineken rolled out their 0% pale lager back in 2017 in an attempt to make ‘alcohol-free beer cool.’ It’s been mentioned that people can’t tell the difference between the regular 5% version and this one. I have to agree, the smell and taste are definitely like regular Heineken although it just seems to be missing a bit of bite and sharpness of the 5% version. 0% is a solid alcoholic option especially if you like a Heineken. The other good thing is they even have Blade Kegs of it so you can get in on draught too.
# 5 BREWDOG PUNK AF 0.5%
Brewdog produces great beers…it’s a fact. You will be very familiar with Brewdog’s Punk IPA and this is the reduced alcohol version of the classic 5.6% one. Although Punk AF isn’t as complex as their Nanny State hoppy ale, it’s certainly spot on in terms of recreating the flavour of original Punk which is its main reason for ranking high. It lacks the alcoholic punch and feels less carbonated than the original version but that’s to be expected at 0.5%. If you like punk and are looking for a great craft option with limited choice available then Punk AF is the one to go for.
# 4 FREE DAM 0%
From the producers of Estrella, the Damm Brewery launched their Free Damm non-alcoholic beer back in 2018. The beer has a strong amber colour to it and tastes light and malty with good strength like a regular alcoholic beer. It also has a slight sweetness to it, reminiscent of regular Estrella. In my opinion, Free Dam is a very solid option and probably the best of the larger, mass-producing breweries.
# 3 BREWDOG NANNY STATE 0.5%
Taking the bronze medal is Brewdog’s hoppy ale Nanny State. Nanny State was its first attempt in the realm of low alcohol beers in 2009 before it was on a lot of other breweries radars. Nanny State is a malty, plummy pale ale and with a slight redness in colour. Taste-wise for me this is a malty, hoppy, citrusy bitter delight and for me has an edge to it which makes it feel like a regular beer. It’s also one of the least calorific coming in at just 26 calories per 330ml can and is one of the real good low alcohol beers, especially if you like your modern ales.
# 2 INFINITE SESSION 'PALE' 0.5%
Infinite Session only make craft alcohol-free beers so it’s unsurprisingly that their low alcohol ‘Pale’ comes in at the number 2 spot. It’s definitely worth checking out their other beers namely their IPA and Lager but Pale is our the favourite of the three. Sessions brew their beers in a similar way to normal beers except with a few tweaks, they don’t simply just remove the alcohol. Pale is similar to Brewdog’s Nanny State in terms of colour and edge. The range of American hops that are used gives it the taste of a real alcoholic American pale too. In our opinion, it’s more flavourful and rich than Nanny State and feels slightly more like a regular beer. Pale is definitely one of the best around that’s widely-available, get hold of this if you are after an alcohol-free delight.
# 1 LUCKY SAINT 0.5%
It’s no surprise that the low alcohol beers are at the top end of the list and it’s Lucky Saint 0.5% which claims the top spot. Branded as ‘Superior Unfiltered Alcohol-Free Lager’ Lucky Saint makes a bold claim but it certainly lives up to expectations. The beers founder spent a year in Germany under a process of trial and error to get the beer right and he’s done a great job. Lucky Saint tastes close to a regular beer with a nice balance of maltiness, hoppyness and fizz. Although it lacks a little something than your regular 4-5% lager, in our opinion it tastes a lot better than a lot of the light 3-3.5% brand beers on the market. If you are looking for an alcohol-free beer to change your opinion on alcohol-free beers, this is the one. Lucky Saint is well deserving of the top spot!