There are plenty of reasons for people to avoid alcohol. Being pregnant, being the designated driver, religious beliefs, childcare duty, weight or other health concerns, addiction, etc.
For those who abstain from alcohol but still enjoy a cool, refreshing beer, there are non-alcoholic (NA) beers – the problem, though, is that the flavour track record for these is spotty at best.
Much like decaf coffee, good non-alcoholic beer is hard to find. It’s as though brewers have collectively decided that consumers are so used to god-awful non-alcoholic beers that they don’t even have to try to make them palatable. It’s a shame, really. If you’re persistent and stubborn enough to sample your way through the worst – often thin, overly sweet “beers” that taste, if you’re lucky, like wet, sugary shredded wheat – you can occasionally stumble upon something that resembles beer.
To be plain about this, I’ve never had a non-alcoholic beer that tastes as good as a competent with-alcohol beer of the same style, so expecting miracles will lead to disappointment. But I certainly have tasted non-alcoholic beers that are better than some of the cruddy cheap-o brews favoured by frugal frat types.
This non-alcoholic beer from Grolsch is worth seeking out – and relatively easy to find – if you’re looking for a reasonably decent beer without the buzz.
The Pitch: “A perfectly balanced non alcoholic beer enjoyed today all over the world.” “Contains less than .5% alcohol.”
The Look: The standard Grolsch logo and branding, but with “Non Alcoholic” in red type above the logo. Pours golden with a decent head. If someone saw it in a pint glass on the bar, they’d never know it was a NA beer.
The Taste: A little bit weak in flavour but still palatable, this one might appeal to those used to drinking light beers in the Budweiser vein. There’s a subtle beer aroma, but very little to entice. It’s mostly dry with grassy notes, and a lightly bitter aftertaste. Carbonation is adequate but not particularly bubbly. There’s still that wet shredded wheat taste of a typical NA beer, but it’s not as pronounced as in other NA specimens.
The Taste (compared to regular Grolsch): Sigh. The moment of truth yields the expected result. The regular Grolsch is far superior, even though you can tell that the beers are related. Side by side, the NA version feels limp and incomplete. It lacks the pop and round, mouth-filling flavour of the regular version. The original also has a touch more malty sweetness to it that wouldn’t have worked well in the “perfectly balanced” NA version.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $6.99 for a four-pack for 500 mL cans at my local Safeway in Calgary.
Value for cash money: Not bad, but not great. Considering a four-pack of similarly sized cans of with-alcohol import beer can be had for around $11-12 at liquor stores in Alberta, this NA beer seems overpriced.
Availability: Safeway carries it in Alberta. Look for it with the other NA beers.
Calories: 90 per 500 mL can.
The verdict: While anyone with a palate can tell this beer is non-alcoholic, it’s still drinkable and thirst-quenching, especially when served ice cold. It’s a nice substitute for folks who want a beer, but don’t want the alcohol that comes with it. Just keep your expectations reasonable.