Alcohol free beer is like the holy grail with beer drinkers. How do you achieve the flavour and feel that makes beer so great, but without the calories and the hangover?
As someone who’s been drinking craft beer for years, I can tell you that not a lot of non-alcoholic beers meet the mark. However, there are some that come really close, and that’s what I’ll be recommending to you today.
I’ll also talk about how to choose the right craft beer for your tastes by looking at the style.
The Best Alcohol Free Beer 2020
- Format: 12 x 330 ml cans
- Calories: 39 kcal
- Style: IPA (also available in Pale Ale, Craft Lager, and Stay Home IPA variants)
- Flavour Profile: citrus and piney, with crisp notes, light caramel
Infinite Sessions is a UK craft brewery that focuses exclusively on alcohol-free beers, and one of their runaway hits is the IPA. If you’ve ever tried an IPA before or are a big fan, this is the one for you.
This has the exact flavour profiles you would expect from an IPA – citrusy, piney, and fruity with a decidedly crisp bitterness. The body isn’t too light (which a lot of alcohol free beers suffer from), nor is it too sweet. It’s not too cloying and supports the fruity finish quite nicely.
But what’s great about the Infinite Sessions IPA is that it doesn’t taste like an alcohol free beer. The flavour profile is full, and so is the mouthfeel.
If you’re not too keen on the bitterness of an IPA, you’ll be glad to know that Infinite Sessions is available in other varieties as well. Notably, if you prefer a lighter and more drinkable beer, you can go with their Pils craft lager. For a middle ground, I recommend the Pale Ale.
You also might be put off by the 0.5% alcohol content, thinking that this isn’t true non-alcoholic stuff, but don’t worry. Anything below 0.5% is too small an amount to do any lasting harm.
With that said, it’s not cheap, as it’s one of the pricier variants out there. But for something that tastes pretty close to the real thing, I’d say Infinite Sessions is a good pick if you miss the flavour but can’t have the alcohol.
Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
- Format: 12 x 330 ml bottles
- Calories: 53 kcal
- Style: Pilsner
- Flavour Profile: light caramel and biscuit, bready, citrus notes, moderate bitterness
Lucky Saint is an unfiltered Pilsner-style lager. It’s brewed in one of the lager centres of the world – Bavaria, Germany. Nevertheless, Lucky Saint is a 100% British brand.
Being unfiltered, it’s a big departure from the usual crystal clear beer that you’re used to. Now, before you get put off by the slightly murky look of the beer, you should know that unfiltered beer has its merits. Filtering removes much of the body, flavour, and mouthfeel of a beer, something that Lucky Saint retains. You get a good dose of bready malt with a light biscuit note, plus a very refreshing citrus and floral edge.
This is a craft lager that’s leagues ahead in terms of flavour compared to the usual commercial beer like Becks or Heineken. There’s no metallic aftertaste that you would usually associate with such brands. It’s smooth and flavourful while keeping itself very drinkable.
Lucky Saint is a fantastic example of a non-alcoholic beer, and it might even replace the regular Stella Artois you’re used to drinking. Yes, it’s that good.
Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
- Format: 24 x 330 ml cans
- Style: Dry-hopped Lager
- Flavour Profile: rich bread, biscuit, tropical fruits
Pistonhead Flat Tire marries the best of both worlds. It combines the lightness and smooth malt base of a good Pils lager, with the fruity forward flavours of an IPA via the dry-hopping process.
What you’ll notice with this beer is that it’s amazingly aromatic. It’s a complex mix of floral with sweet tropical fruits reminiscent of mango and passionfruit. This all comes from the hop used in this brew, Mosaic, a prized variety among craft brewers.
The flavour is the same as the nose, and you get the same tropical fruit notes. The sweetness comes through as a light caramel biscuit note. It really feels like you’re drinking fruit juice more than anything. It’s juicy and refreshing, without overwhelming your palate.
Overall, Pistonhead Flat Tire is a fantastic non-alcoholic brew. It’s perfect if you want to explore what the IPA style has to offer but are put off by the bitterness. The price per can isn’t too bad either, so you can make this your go-to non alcoholic brew.
Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
- Format: 24 x 330 ml cans
- Style: American Lager
- Flavour Profile: floral notes, light, refreshing body, slight bready note
If you enjoy the original Budweiser, the Prohibition tastes exactly like that minus the alcohol. This is the beer for those who want a straightforward tipple without any strong flavours or quirky aromas to get in the way.
Compared to most commercial beers going the non-alcoholic route, Budweiser actually nailed it right with Prohibition. It has a floral and fruity note to it, and the body is just what you would expect from a regular beer. The mark of a good alcohol-free beer is if the drinker can’t tell it’s non-alcoholic. Using that criteria, Budweiser scores high marks.
Personally, I don’t prefer the lack of any interesting flavour with the Prohibition, but that’s just preference. A Budweiser does have a place in any drinker’s lineup. It’s great if you want something light and drinkable at the end of a long day.
Overall, Budweiser Prohibition is a non-alcoholic beer that will appeal to a wide variety of people, beer drinker or not. It’s one of the few NA brews that can actually stand up as a drink on its own.
Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
- Format: 12 x 330 ml cans
- Calories: 91
- Style: Milk Stout
- Flavour Profile: sweet, roasty coffee, chocolate
Milk stouts are an unusual style for a non-alcoholic beer, but it’s certainly one of the most delicious. Big Drop’s version can live up to the milk stout of any craft brewer worth its salt.
This is a rich, jet black brew that tastes more like a decadent chocolate cake than a dessert. The addition of lactose (milk sugars) adds an upfront sweetness to the palate. This is then balanced by roasty coffee flavours and warm chocolate note. The mouthfeel is very silky and luscious, like coffee with cream.
This is the perfect beer if you have a sweet tooth and want a different experience with your non-alcoholic beer. The only downside of this beer is that it can be too rich; indeed, this is a brew that’s meant to be sipped and enjoyed slowly, rather than downed by the six-pack. Overall, a lovely dessert beer.
Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
- Format: 12 x 500 ml cans
- Style: German Wheat Beer
- Flavour Profile: dominant ripe banana and clove, white bread, hints of citrus
Erdinger is one of the world’s beloved products of Hefe-Weissbier, the legendary wheat beers from the Bavaria region of Germany brewed in strict accordance to the Beer Purity Law. It’s such an iconic beer full of complex flavours that would seem hard to replicate in an alcohol-free beer. Fortunately, the brewers have largely succeeded in this.
The alcohol-free version of Erdinger Hefe-Weissbier features the same traditional flavours of banana and clove that are the hallmarks of the style. The wheaty and milkshake-like mouthfeel is also there, which lends overall juiciness to the beer. Yet it’s still light enough not to be cloying or overwhelming to the palate.
The beer isn’t the cheapest, but the 500 ml format is perfect for lasting you through the night. Hefe-Weissbier is a style that’s great for introducing you or a friend to the other wonderful flavours that beer can offer.
Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
- Format: 24 x 330 ml cans
- Style: Euro / Light Lager
- Flavour Profile: a hint of citrus, clean, refreshing malt
Bavaria is a commercial ‘big beer’ brand that has its own alcohol-free version, dubbed the 0.0%. The reason for the name is that, unlike other non-alcohol beers that have 0.5% alcohol content, Bavaria is truly alcohol free. This is due to their unique process that prevents any alcohol from ever forming.
What you get is a very clean tasting product. It’s not the most flavorful non-alcoholic beer in this list, not by a long shot! However, it makes up for it by being very drinkable and refreshing, and not to mention easy on the wallet.
It does have a slight caramel sweet malt body, with hints of biscuit. This is followed by a subtle citrus and floral edge, ending in a snappy aftertaste. The bitterness isn’t too overwhelming and is just enough to keep you asking for more.
Overall, Bavaria 0.0% is a non-alcoholic beer that’s difficult to find fault with, for the reason that it’s very simple and straightforward. For an every day non-alcoholic beer, the price on this brew is perfect. But if you’re looking for a more flavourful beer, look elsewhere.
Rating: 4.3 / 5.0
- Format: 6 x 330 ml bottles
- Calories: 25 kcal
- Style: Pale Ale (also available in Stout and IPA varieties)
- Flavour Profile: citrus and lemony, sweet caramel, tangy
Drop Bear Beer’s Yuzu Pale Ale is a refreshing non-alcoholic beer that’s full of flavour.
This brew is a big fruit bomb. Apart from the topical fruit and piney flavours imparted by the hops, the brewers also added yuzu fruit, a type of citrus fruit commonly found in Asia. Although similar to lemon, yuzu has a more grapefruit and orange flavour tone, a profile that’s perfect for a bitter beer like a pale ale.
On the malt side, it has a base of rich biscuit that’s layered with a hint of caramel sweetness. It has a medium body, which supports the different fruity and bready flavours quite nicely.
This is a pale ale that tastes and feels just like a real craft beer. And the reason is that it’s brewed just like one, with the recipe tweaked and adjusted to allow minimal alcohol production. So the added fermentation character really adds to the fantastic taste of this brew.
If you want a fruity and zesty juice bomb in your non-alcoholic beer, try this Drop Bear Yuzu Pale Ale out.
Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
- Format: 24 x 500 ml cans
- Style: Shandy (German Wheat Beer + grapefruit juice)
- Flavour Profile: light bready, grapefruit, tart bitterness
Schofferhofer is a refreshing shandy, a mix of 50% beer and 50% juice. Traditionally made with lemonade, this instead uses grapefruit juice, and it claims to be the first of its kind in the world. Whether that’s true or not, the end result is still a very delicious beer cocktail.
Using wheat beer as the base of this drink was a wise decision. It lends a substantial body to this drink, making it more akin to a thicker smoothie than a thin commercial juice.
The hoppiness and iconic banana and clove profile of a wheat beer, however, is lost in this mix. This is grapefruit, front and centre. It does make it very juicy and refreshing more than your average non-alcoholic brew, but if you’re looking for that distinct beer taste, you might be disappointed with this one.
Nevertheless, Schofferhofer still occupies a space in my fridge. It’s a great summer drink and perfect for those who prefer cocktails over beer, ironically so.
Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
- Format: 12 x 330 ml cans
- Calories: 62 kcal
- Style: Light Lager
- Flavour Profile: subtle citrus and light malt
Free Star Alcohol Free beer is just what it says it is – a drink made with 0.0% alcohol content. Unlike other non-alcoholic beers that try to control fermentation, this beer doesn’t go through this process at all, so there’s no risk of it ever forming. Apart from malt and hops, it also uses fruit and botanicals to create a brew that’s more complex than it looks.
Despite the lack of fermentation, Free Star still manages to taste like real beer, albeit a light version of it. The good news is that it’s more flavourful than your typical light lager, with a pleasant and interesting citrus / lemony note that adds to its elegant and delicate profile.
Overall, Free Star is a surprisingly flavourful light non-alcoholic beer, which hides complexity and nuance with every sip. It’s also one of the more perfectly balanced alcohol free beers we’ve tried.
Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
Why Drink Alcohol Free Beer?
One of the hallmark ingredients of beer is alcohol. It provides a warming sensation and adds its own flavour characters to the brew. Not to mention, it makes you much more confident and fun at parties!
So why on Earth would anyone want to drink an alcohol-free beer? There’s a handful of reasons, apparently:
Alcohol free beer is actually a healthier alternative to other fizzy drinks like sodas. Non-alcoholic beers are naturally sugar-free and are low in calories (25 – 65 on average). They also don’t contain any additives and preservatives that are so common in soft drinks.
It’s also a good option for those suffering from illnesses and health conditions that prohibit alcohol, such as liver problems. Women who are pregnant can also indulge in a little beer without the dangers alcohol can cause their baby.
There’s no risk of getting drunk.
Non-alcoholic beers are a fantastic option for those who are so used to having a pint every night but can’t get drunk for whatever reason. Designated drivers, machinery operators, and even dads taking care of their kids at home are prime examples. Alcohol free beer is a fantastic crutch for recovering alcoholics to help ease them into sobriety.
For these people, non-alcoholic beers give the same flavour they miss without the unpleasant side effects.
And even if you’re out drinking for real, slipping in non-alcoholic beers in between can help slow down alcohol consumption. You’ll get drunk less and avoid a potentially devastating hangover the next day.
It’s naturally low-calorie
Non-alcoholic beer is a low-calorie drink, even lower than that of sodas and juices. It’s also healthier than diet sodas, which contain artificial sweeteners with unknown impacts on your health. Alcohol free beer is, therefore, the perfect drink for people who want to lose some weight.
Furthermore, alcohol free beer is a fantastic way to rehydrate. It’s increasingly becoming a regular tipple for athletes after a game or training session.
How to Pick Alcohol Free Beer
A common misconception is that alcohol free beer is inferior to the real thing, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, you’ll find some beers to have the same bold hoppy and fruity flavours as their high alcohol counterparts.
Alcohol free beer follows some of the same styles as regular beers. Knowing a little about styles will tell you in advance what that particular beer will taste like. Will it be hoppy and bitter, or sweet and roasty? You can then better fit your mood and preference for the beer that you want to buy.
Here are some styles you need to know:
The Euro Lager style encompasses a wide variety of light beers. They mostly come from Germany and the Czech Republic, two countries where lager dominates. The vast majority of alcohol free beers will be of this style.
This style is similar to the regular commercial beer you’re used to such as Heineken or Budweiser. Expect a light, refreshing body with a hint of hoppy (citrus/floral notes) towards the end. Bitterness is usually light and subdued, which further emphasizes its drinkability.
Lager styles are your ‘every day beer’ that fit almost any occasion. They are fantastic for casual drinkers who are not used to more flavourful variants, or for drinkers who just want something refreshing and down to earth.
Pilsner / Pils
Pilsner is a subset of lager that’s more flavourful and bitter than usual. It’s made with a specific type of hop called Saaz, which imparts herbal and earthy notes to the beer (in a good way, of course!). Pilsner also has a much more sweet caramel note. However, it does still retain the crisp and refreshing quality of a good lager.
Pilsner is a great alcohol-free style if you want more flavour than a Euro Lager, but don’t want something that’s as in-your-face as an IPA. Despite the added bitterness, it’s still an acceptable entry-level style for beginners, albeit if said beginners want something a bit ‘stronger’.
India Pale Ale (IPA)
India Pale Ale, or IPA, represents the other end of the spectrum. Whereas lagers are light and refreshing, IPAs are flavourful and bracingly bitter. They are, however, a cult favourite. It’s because of the many wonderful fruity and floral flavours that an IPA can give. Plus, they have some of the best aromas in the beer world.
IPA is a sort of an acquired taste but is something that you’ll never forget once you’ve fallen in love with it. If you’re feeling adventurous or want something more substantial, there are a number of great alcohol free IPAs on the market.
Also, you’ll discover that most IPAs have the name of the hop front and centre in the marketing and label of the beer. Like fine coffee, these different hop varieties will impart specific flavour profiles to the beer. You can check craft beer sites for the common hops and their corresponding flavours, but the best way is to just try them out!
Pale Ales are the tamer brothers of the IPA, but they still register high on the flavour scale. They also emphasize hoppiness in their flavour profile but are less extreme than IPAs. Expect citrus, floral, and piney notes with this kind of beer. Some pale ales will also have sweet or caramel notes from the use of lightly roasted grains in their recipe.
In the craft beer world, pale ales are considered a gateway beer for craft newbies. They’re certainly much more accessible and are a step up from the blandness of some lagers. If you’d like to try something a bit different, you can’t go wrong with a pale ale.
In contrast to the golden light hue of lagers and IPAs, stouts are a style that’s rich and dark. They are made with a generous helping of roasted grains, giving them a flavour profile that’s closer to dark chocolate or coffee. Expect the mouthfeel to be on the heavier side as well, like drinking a slightly thick milkshake.
Stouts are fantastic if you want something a bit more substantial. They’re also much more accessible to people (especially women!) who appreciate the sweet notes and similarities to chocolate. There are lots of alcohol-free stouts you can try but do try a milk stout if you find one. Made with lactose (milk sugars), they have a definite sweetness that’s great as a low-calorie dessert beer.
German Wheat Beers
German wheat beers are a departure from the regular beer people know. They are hazy and much heavier on the palate thanks to the use of wheat. However, their distinctive difference is the complex flavour profile of bananas and clove, which are a by-product of the unique properties of the yeast strain used in its brewing.
Wheat beers have a fruity profile that’s a hit with ladies and younger drinkers. The most popular non-alcoholic variant of German wheat beer is Erdinger, and people report it has the same profile as the original version.
Shandy is a popular mix of beer and lemonade, usually in a 50/50 ratio. It’s a great way to dress up a beer with flavour while lowering its alcoholic content at the same time. No wonder it’s a common style used in non-alcoholic beer.
A shandy tastes like a cocktail more than anything else, as the fruit juice component tends to shine through more. Nevertheless, you’ll feel the beer’s mouthfeel and bitterness in the background. Shandy is a good non-alcoholic beer style to offer to someone who isn’t into beer.
Alcohol Free Beer Tips and Terms
Why do alcohol free beers still contain alcohol?
If you look closely at the label of a non-alcoholic beer, you might be surprised to know that it still has an alcohol content of usually around 0.5%. If you have a health condition that expressly forbids alcohol, you might be worried about its impact on you. Or maybe you’re thinking that these beer manufacturers are actually deceiving you by declaring something to be ‘non-alcoholic’.
The truth is that 0.5% is a very minuscule amount of alcohol that’s perfectly fine in an alcoholic beer. In fact, according to EU law, 0.5% is the limit on what can be called alcohol-free beer.
The reason is that small amounts of alcohol are quickly metabolised by your body that it doesn’t affect you at all. Suffice to say, you won’t get drunk on 0.5% alcohol beer no matter how much you drink.
And if you’re still worried, here’s a little comparison – a piece of ripe fruit does have an alcohol content of 0.4%. So there you go.
What are hops?
Hops are the cone or flowers of the Humulus Lupulus plant and are the primary flavouring agent of beer, where it gets most of its flavour and all of its bitterness. If you ever tasted citrusy or fruity notes in a beer, that mostly comes from hops.
There are dozens of hop varieties, each with their own flavour profiles. European varieties tend to be herbal and earthy, while American varieties tend to be fruity and citrusy. British hops tend to be more on the floral side, and are often described as subdued and elegant.
Why do you need to know this? Well aside from sounding knowledgeable next time you’re at the bar, you’ll have a general idea on the beer’s flavour profile before you even taste it. German beers will often use German hops, so expect the herbal and earthy tones. If it comes from the UK, then you know that it will be floral.
What’s ‘dry hopping’?
You might find the term ‘dry hopping’ when buying non-alcoholic beer, especially IPAs.
Dry hopping is a beer brewing technique where whole hops are left in the finished beer to steep (as opposed to the standard procedure of boiling them in the brewing process). This allows fresher and fruitier flavours and aromas to shine through.
If you love a very fragrant and floral/fruity forward beer, then look for ones that are dry-hopped.
That’s all for this review, but if you’re feeling a bit fruity, why not check out our guide to the best non-alcoholic wines?