11 Points

11 Non-Alcoholic Beers, Taste Tested
written by Sam Greenspan

My friend Rachel is pregnant. And a few weeks back, she was describing how she drinks non-alcoholic beer when she goes out or when she watches football. I never really understood the market for non-alcoholic beer before (obviously) -- but the concept of directing it at pregnant women made a whole lot of sense.

So we decided to do a taste test to find the non-alcoholic beer she, and the others who follow her down this road, should drink.

I went to a store called BevMo and was thrilled at their selection of non-alcoholic beers. I thought it would be hard to find 11 choices... they had 16. I picked the 11 that seemed the most common, leaving a few variations (like O'Doul's Amber and some random German beers) on the shelf.

(In case you're wondering, I spent $89 on non-alcoholic beer. You can't just buy them loose. Just adding that receipt to the pile of "extraordinarily random tax write-offs I get from doing 11 Points." Also, Rachel got to keep the leftovers for the rest of her pregnancy -- at least until even drinking tiny trace amounts of alcohol is out.)

Before the test begins, Rachel poses with all of our candidates.

Then we had a raucous good time as Rachel, her husband Jay, my girlfriend Angie and I all sat around taste testing these non-alcoholic beers. Here are the results of our non-alcoholic beer taste test. Don't know that this will EVER be relevant to you... but if it is one day, how grateful will you be for this!?

Rachel's comments are most prominently featured, since she's the pregnant one who actually drinks this stuff. Also, you'll notice that in our taste testing comments, the last comment is always something much dumber and more random than the previous comments. Those are my personal contributions to the taste test.
  1. Coors N/A (average score: 3.25/11) - I was immediately skeptical of the Coors N/A when I realized the bottles don't have indicators of coldness -- what, non-alcoholic beer drinkers don't care about the transition from cold to super cold? THAT'S super cold of you, Canadians who now own Coors.

    Rachel, smiling because she hasn't tried the Coors N/A yet.

    Comments: "Lighter than ultra light, but smells strong"... "If I was blindfolded, I wouldn't think it was beer, I'd think it was stale water"... "Not hard to drink, just no flavor"... "What's the point?"..."It smells like zucchini bread. Which sounds bad, only I love zucchini bread."

  2. St. Pauli Girl N/A (average score: 4/11) - When we cracked these, we were overwhelmed by the smell. And not in a good way. Whenever you have to flip a beer over -- even a beer that contains no alcohol -- to check its bottling date, that's a bad sign. Basically, you'd have to be drunk to ignore St. Pauli Girl N/A's scent -- and that creates an irreconcilable paradox.

    The comments: "Smells like you're cleaning your house the day after a party"... "Doesn't taste good either"... "I'm tasting what I smell"... "I don't mind it out of the bottle, but don't pour it into a glass and let it breathe"... "The St. Pauli Girl would make DJ Assault want to give her soap and water."

  3. Clausthaler Pilsner Alcohol Free (average score: 5/11) - This was one of the (surprisingly large selection of) imports available. It's also pretty highly respected and other reviews seemed to really like it. So we were surprised when it tasted like a mix of beer and Jolly Ranchers.

    The Clausthaler is not a big hit.

    Comments: "Too MUCH flavor"... "It's like Froot Loops"... "It tastes like the Coke that's made with Mexican sugar"... "Too strange to drink a lot of these"... "You know when you get your Diet Coke out of a fountain soda machine that also serves, like, grape soda or Hi-C, and the tubes somehow seem crossed so you can clearly tell the fruity, sugary drink is polluting your soda? It almost feels like this came from a brewery suffering from that syndrome."

  4. Sharp's (by Miller) (average score: 5.75/11) - Sharp's is Miller's entry into the non-alcoholic beer world. It was also the last one we tested so everyone was fairly fatigued on non-alcoholic beer. We weren't drunk... more like slightly dehydrated and completely unfulfilled.

    Rachel really enjoys a Sharp's. I think.

    Comments: "Less watery than Coors N/A"... "Reminds me of the other American ones, but not as good"... "You'll get sick of the flavor if you drink a lot of them"... "Perfect mix of watery but flavorful to be a great chaser for a shot -- even if you're doing non-alcoholic shots of strawberry smoothie or something."

  5. O'Doul's (by Budweiser) (average score: 6.75/11) - This is the iconic non-alcoholic beer, created by Budweiser and used as the punchline of jokes for generations. It's also surprisingly decent.

    Comments: "Not too strong of a smell and a pretty decent taste"... "A little bit of a metallic aftertaste but otherwise good"... "It feels like drinking a beer, just with less taste"... "Other beers on the list might taste better, but if I was going to drink, like, 12 in a night, I'd go for this"... "Last time I drank O'Doul's was during a chugging contest (long story), and it was served so cold that chugging it made it hard for me to breathe for the next two days. This experience was way better."

  6. Old Milwaukee N/A (average score: 7/11) - We were a bit prejudiced against this one going in since (1) it's Old Milwaukee (2) it only came in cans, not bottles and (3) again, it's Old Milwaukee. So the fact that it was actually pretty good was the undisputed upset of the night. Also taught us to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and not to judge a beer by the reputation of its can but by the content of its character. (Not the alcohol content, obviously.)

    Comments: "Wow, I don't hate it"... "People will judge the brand but it's even a little better than O'Doul's"... "It has a hint of a taste and smell of apple juice, in a good way"... "True dark horse, and worth buying"... "Even though it turned out to be decent, we still need to take a photo of Rachel holding a can while barefoot and pregnant."

    Barefoot and pregnant.

  7. Beck's Non-Alcoholic (average score: 7.25/11) - I'm not sure which came first, Beck's N/A or Beck's Ultra Super Duper Light, but they are very, very similar. There are a whole lot of German beers that dominate this particular market segment. And, like everything the Germans do, somehow that makes me suspicious.

    Jay assesses the Beck's. And yes, others in the past have pointed out Jay and Rachel should really go as Jon and Kate for Halloween.

    Comments: "Wait... there's a Beck's that's alcoholic too? I thought they only made non-alcoholic beer"... "I don't normally like 'green bottle beers' but this one is pretty good"... "A huge difference from St. Pauli"... "Maybe a little bitter"... "I would've kept on drinking it and finished a whole bottle if there was a point to doing that. Which there truly is not."

  8. Bitburger Drive N/A (average score: 8/11) - I like real Bitburger and had pretty high hopes. According to their packaging this is brewed exactly the same way as regular Bitburger -- then the alcohol is, quote, "gently removed," as opposed to having the fermenting process stopped prematurely. And the taste definitely showed up.

    Comments: "I like how it's 0.0% alcohol, the others have tiny traces, this doesn't, so I know I could drink 50 of them and it would be ok"... "Definitely closest to the real flavor"... "Very drinkable"... "A little metallic for me" ... "I'd highly recommend this as a gift to your more discerning non-alcoholic beer snob. (Which, if it exists, would be a painfully unbearable subset of beer snobs.)"

  9. Buckler Alcohol Free (by Heineken) (average score: 8.5/11) - Heineken definitely doesn't go shouting from the mountains (windmills?) about Buckler. It's kind of their hidden bastard child. Apparently it's not even sold in the Netherlands anymore because it's so scorned. Which is a shame, because for a bastard child, it's really not bad. So let's call it the STEVE HOLT! of non-alcoholic beers.

    Now that's one for the new family scrapbook, right?

    Comments: "Light but not annoyingly light"... "It's approachable"... "Has an aftertaste like beer, in a good way"... "Tastes better than O'Doul's, is lighter than Bitburger"... "It's a shame that the Dutch are embarrassed of their own creation here because this seems more natural and embraceable than wearing wooden shoes."

  10. Kaliber (by Guinness) (average score: 9.75/11) - Kaliber isn't as thick as Guinness... to make a non-alcoholic beer that thick you'd probably need to take it to Jamba Juice and have them add all kinds of their base... and isn't as dark. Stereotypes about the Irish being wildly unqualified to make non-alcoholic beer -- and saying things like "that's like Colombians manufacturing baking soda" -- proved untrue. Kaliber made a fantastic showing and finished just a tiny step out of first place.

    Angie tests out the Kaliber.

    Comments: "Very different than all the other beers we tried"... "Has a definite coffee aftertaste"... "Extremely flavorful"... "Almost like they started with Guinness then scaled back"... "Like Guinness you can't drink them forever, I'd start with this, then move on to O'Doul's"... "I want them to make a 'Kaliber Book of World Records' to give awards to people who do amazing things but something's a little off, like the 'world's tallest man on stilts' or 'most expensive non-alcoholic beer purchase.'"

  11. Erdinger Weissbier N/A (average score: 10.5/11) - Our winner was made by Erdinger and was the only beer to get a perfect 11 out of 11 from our pregnant judge. (Grading on a curve, obviously. 11 out of 11 in the realm of non-alcoholic beer only.) I'm a big fan of Erdinger Real, and wasn't surprised to find Erdinger N/A performed so well. We didn't put an orange in it. I feel like putting fruit in a non-alcoholic beer is even less wholesome than putting fruit in an alcoholic beer. Or you've got to go over-the-top with it, and put, like, a slice of mango in your O'Doul's.

    The Erdinger surprises all with its taste.

    Comments: "Nice caramel taste"... "The least bitter beer we've tried"... "Perfect balance of thickness and flavor, but not so thick that you couldn't drink a few of them"... "Has some bite"... "Light, but with a lot of flavor"... "I could definitely see someone giving me one of these, telling me it was full alcohol, and then me being fooled and stumbling around for no real reason."

This post was originally published on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 09:00:00 AM under the category Food & Drink.

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