“Drinking a non-alcoholic beer is a flavorful, fulfilling and refreshing alternative to tossing back a cold one,” said no one ever. But what are the options for pregnant women, recovering alcoholics and designated drivers to enjoy a frosty beverage, especially in social situations? There are some decent near beers out there, but they aren’t all trying to emulate their alcohol-fueled cousins. In fact, some of the best ones are proudly different. The extra cooking and extra water required in the process of making alcohol-free beer usually equates to lesser taste, but these exceptions are downright drinkable.
This brew is less like a beer, and more like what an “oat soda” really ought to taste like, if you think about it. The carbonation is more like that of a bottle of pop, and the taste is like sweet, toasted cereal. It can be tough to find in the U.S., but it’s better than many light American macrobrews.
Clausthaler has a whole line of low-alcohol beers, but the golden amber stands out as the most “beer-like” of the bunch. It’s got the color, malt, and aroma of a German beer. Where it is lacking, like many other N/A beers, is the carbonation, which is much like that of a home brew. Clausthaler is widely available, which makes it easier to get used to.
Dark color is the first thing noticed from this IPA-like brew out of Scotland. Upon first sip, it can almost be considered a viable beer alternative—the smell of hops hits hard, but then quickly fades away. One drink won’t convert a beer drinker to the world of near beer, but it’s a viable alternative when situations dictate.
The main knock on this is sweetness, but if you can get past that it’s actually not bad. This comes from Guinness, and has nice head and other beer-like qualities. It has a light pour and is malty, bready, and pretty close to a real beer. It’s suggested this widely available beer be served “ice cold,” which might help mellow some interesting or unusual aromas.
Another German brew makes the list, what a surprise. This one and its hefeweizen cousin are made with flavor in mind. Notes of banana are prominent, with only an underlying hint of metallic or earthy flavor abundant in lesser beers of the style. It might be hard to find in the U.S., but it’s worth a shot.