Three non-alcoholic beers worth checking out

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 12, 2016

The most common request I get from people around Westman is that I should review Bud Light. Most of the time people say it in a jokingly manner as it’s the top selling beer in the region. A recent request I’ve been getting from a few people was that I should do a review of a non-alcoholic beer. Non-alcoholic beers are likely going to be the next trend with the big multinational breweries ever since Labatt introduced Budweiser Prohibition earlier this summer (See my original review HERE). At your local grocery store or Liquor Mart, there’s already between two and eight non-alcoholic beers at any given time, but the problem is that they taste horrible. The problem with non-alcoholic beer is that sure they’re brewed to have a very low alcohol content, but in most cases - it tastes pretty bad. So when you go to the grocery store, you always see those two fours of Molson Exel collecting dust because nobody’s wanting to spend money on beer that tastes worse than Minhas Boxer Lager. Even in the craft beer scene, breweries are constantly coming out and experimenting with low alcoholic beers while seeing if they can keep the product flavourful and comparable to the full alcohol brews they make, with this we have a category of beers called “Session beers” which top out at generally 4 to 4.5% ABV.. which is still pretty far from being low alcohol. Then there’s the popular summertime treat - the Radler, a 50/50 combination of wheat ale and grapefruit juice which ends up topping out around 2.5 to 3.5% on average, making it closer to low alcohol content. How about non-alcoholic beer that tastes like beer? Well, it’s my duty to go out and see if I can find any non-alcoholic beers that actually taste like beer!

Budweiser Prohibition - While I’m not going to review Bud Light, I’m trying out Budweiser Prohibition because this beer has single handedly rejuvenated the non-alcoholic/low alcohol beer market to the point that it’s only a matter of time until we see the beer on tap at local pubs from seeing how well it’s selling out at Liquor Marts around Brandon. Budweiser Prohibition is rated at 0.0% ABV containing de-alcoholized beer, malt extract, natural flavours, hop extract, phosphoric acid and hop extract. The thought of extract being used rather than the real ingredients kind of annoys me but considering how big of a scale Labatt brews their beer in each facility, they have to keep the product as consistent as possible. Prohibition pours a light straw yellow with a good amount of carbonation, reminiscent to your typical Budweiser. The aroma gives off sweet creamed corn, hint of rice, typical light sweet and grainy prairie barley malt aroma you see in most North American lagers, hints of grass from the hops and bubble gum. The flavour has a bit of a cracker/frozen pizza crust taste to it, quite a bit of sweetness from the malt extract, creamed corn, light metallic aftertaste, a hint of rice and a hint of bubble gum. The flavour isn’t as crisp as your typical Budweiser but does it taste like it could be a Budweiser product? Yep. It has a lot of the same characteristics as your typical Bud but without any alcohol. Very easy to drink but priced higher than most non-alcoholic beers with it being around $2.65 per 473mL can at Liquor Marts around Manitoba and between $9.60 to $13.00 for 6-341mL bottles at Liquor Marts, beer vendors and grocery stores.. so it's incredibly accessible. While I’m not a fan of Budweiser, Labatt deserves serious props for making a non-alcoholic beer taste consistent with their main brand. 2.5/5 Pints

Krombacher Radler Alkoholfrei - A few Liquor Mart employees recommended this beer to me when I was asking how well the sales of Budweiser Prohibition was doing. I rarely ever say no to a beer recommendation, except for the time when someone suggested that I’d love Bud Light Lime.. no thanks. The first thing I noticed about this beer is that there’s no English translation on the label, which means that Manitoba may be one of the only markets outside of Germany that currently gets this beer. The radler pours light golden straw, incredibly fizzy/carbonated like a soda. There’s a thick amount of white head that quickly yet gradually fizzes away. The aroma has sweet grapefruit with a hint of something herbal that appears to be either ginger or green tea. I’m not noticing any beer-like aromas such as bready or grass aromas from the wheat/barley used. The taste is sweet and mild grapefruit, a bit sugary, hint of lemongrass and a hint of beer somewheres.. mostly in the aftertaste, which gives off a grainy bitterness. Krombacher Radler Alkoholfrei tops out at no more than 0.5% ABV and can be found at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Roblin, Swan River and Virden for a whopping $1.49 per 330mL bottle. 3.5/5 Pints

Erdinger Alkoholfrei - Another non-alcoholic beer out of Germany. Many of you are likely familiar with Erdinger’s beers already as their Erdinger Weissbier is one of the top selling German beers in Manitoba. Their alkoholfrei pours a cloudy golden wheat ale with a very thick amount of fluffy white foam on top that gradually goes down. The aroma is sweet, citrusy with a bit of a skunkiness meets a light grapefruit vibe to it, light grassy hops and a bit of an aroma that can only be described as the smell of being in a brewery on a hot summer day. The taste starts off with a strange roasted, almost coffee-like maltiness that’s more common with darker ales, has a bit of a skunkiness to it as well as a light grapefruit sweetness, light lemongrass flavour and the taste of saltine crackers at the end. Unfortunately it’s pretty disappointing considering that Erdinger generally makes pretty decent beers. The beer tops out at no more than 0.4% ABV and can be found at Liquor Marts for $2.79 per 500mL bottle. 2/5 Pints

It’s only a matter of time until breweries like Molson will introduce a new generation of non-alcoholic beers and I can already predict the future with Molson Canadian .0067, which wouldn’t be that hard for them to do seeing that their regular Molson Canadian 67 is only 3.0% ABV already. That being said, I can’t really see smaller craft breweries getting into the non-alcoholic trend as smaller breweries tend to stay away from those sort of trends.. just like how most craft breweries stayed away from the caffeinated beer trend of 2005, the lime beer trend of 2009 and the malt based fruit cooler trend of 2015.

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Unknown said...

Your right..bud did a good job..i dont like bud but this wasnt bad..for a non alc european brew i recomend the warfsteiner.

Unknown said...

I have been an Excel drinker for years, (which was around years before Bud prohab)and contrary to this blog, they can't keep it on the shelves! I am constantly going to several stores to find it. At $16. for a 24, I can see why! It is a fairly neutral tasting, well carbonated drink that is like the first time you had a was awful, but in time it's easy to acquire a taste, and when cold, you can enjoy one with lunch and go back to work. I find Bud to be fruity and arrogantly priced.