As a country, we are drinking less often, so now seems like a perfect time to look at alcohol-free alternatives to beer. Some of these products really impressed.
Low-alcohol beers can be made in two ways: some are brewed using special yeasts and low-sugar malt to produce very little alcohol, whereas others have the alcohol removed.
Alcohol doesn’t just affect you physically, it also acts as a vehicle for flavour and provides texture. To compensate for the lack of mouthfeel in alcohol-free drinks, brewers can add sweetness – some of the big brand 0% lagers taste of popcorn – or turn up the hops.
The latter can work to an extent, but bitter hops without the warmth of alcohol can quickly get too much. Read our review of the best non-alcoholic spirits and pre-mixed drinks for more booze-free inspiration, plus discover our pick of the best low- and no-alcohol wines. For plenty more round-ups, guides to going alcohol-free and inspiring mocktail recipes, visit our alcohol-free drinks hub.
The best non-alcoholic beer taste-tested
Ilkley Brewery Nowt Mary Milk Stout 0.5% Low Alcohol Beer
Milk stout is a beer style sweetened with lactose that lends itself brilliantly to zero alcohol versions. The lactose provides the body you lose from not having any alcohol. This Yorkshire version is brewed with actual coffee and ground cacao nibs for big sweet flavour.
Skippers Wet Hopped Pilsner 0.5%
Another astonishingly good lager, this time from Germany. The name comes from the practice of adding hops after fermentation. This gives it a proper bitter bite. Combine that with a full malty body and you have a totally convincing zero ABV pilsner.
Brewdog Nanny State 0.5%
A long time stalwart on the zero ABV beer scene, this is still able to hold its own thanks to lots of hoppy pine-like bitterness. It’s lacking a bit in texture compared with the very best but once well-chilled it is hard to resist its bold flavours.
The long-awaited zero ABV version of one of the world’s great beers is finally here and… it’s pretty tasty. It tastes recognisably like the alcoholic original with a coffee-like bitterness and a sweet milky finish. The famous Guinness head isn’t quite there but this is enjoyable nonetheless.
Beavertown Lazer Crush IPA 0.3%
Wow, this is not short on flavour. It’s stacked with pink grapefruit and passionfruit and tastes more like a delicious soda than a beer. Probably not one for your real ale-loving dad, but Beavertown fans are going to lap this up.
Funky Fluid Point Five Hazy IPA 0.5%
Made in Poland with Galaxy, Azacca and Citra hops, if you love the style of big tropical fruit-laden American IPAs, then you’ll love this. It’s not just about hops, though, there’s some proper body here too. And it comes in a 500ml can!
Two Roots Enough Said Helles 0.5%
All the way from San Diego, California, comes this award-winning lager. It has it all: tang, hoppiness, malty body and some length. In fact, it’s so good that I don’t think I’d guess this was non-alcoholic.
Brulo Dry Hopped Stout 0.0%
If you’re looking for a Guinness substitute, this stout from Edinburgh is unbeatable. There’s a lovely chocolate sweetness to it, balanced with some big bitterness. This brewery makes a range of zero alcohol beers which are all worth trying.
Wild beer IPA soda 0.5%
And now for something completely different. This modern take on the shandy combines pale ale blended with bitter grapefruit and white grape to create a super-fruity concoction. Not strictly speaking beer, but this would be amazing on a hot day.
Bristol Beer Factory Clearhead 0.5%
This superbly balanced IPA-style beer not only tastes delicious but does good too as 5% of profits go to mental health charity Talk Club. It also comes in a half-litre can so you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck.
Athletic Upside Dawn Golden Ale 0.5%
Another American brew, this time from Connecticut. This mixes Vienna malt, English and American hops to create a beer with lovely balance and an understated charm. Athletic Brewing Co. is a zero-alcohol beer specialist and its Wild IPA is also excellent.
Big Drop Pine Pale Ale 0.0%
The brewery is a pioneer of high quality British zero alcohol beers. It’s worth exploring the range but I particularly enjoyed the big hoppy flavours of this refreshing pale ale. It easily passes the big test, did I finish the can? Yes, very quickly.
This was a real surprise – it’s fresh and clean, with no sweetness or strange flavours and tastes very much like the alcoholic version. It contains about 1g sugar per 100ml, which is less than some full-strength lagers. It’s the best of the big brands and I’d buy again.
Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5%
This has a great malt character on the nose, something like digestive biscuits, then is citrussy and grassy on the palate. It actually tastes like an Adnams pale ale. I gave this to a friend, who didn’t realise it was alcohol-free.
Erdinger alkoholfrei 0.5%
This has that characteristic banana smell that you get in a wheat beer. It’s certainly sweet but carries the sugar really well, especially when served over ice with a slice of lemon. Erdinger is widely available, so it’s a good friend if you’re driving to the pub.
500ml bottles available from:
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This review was last updated in February 2022. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at [email protected]
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