Best non-alcoholic and low alcohol beers
Keen to dodge the dreaded hangover? Keep a clear head with these brews
Lowlander 0.00% Wit
Once a pallid, disappointing impersonation of the real thing, alcohol-free beers are growing in character and confidence. Lowlander’s contribution is a case in point - its 0.00% Wit is a sharp-sour blond brew with a distinctly zesty edge. The Dutch brewery responsible derives the lemon and orange peel used in the recipe from juice-makers, who would otherwise discard the unwanted skin. The resulting ale pairs beautifully with prawns, grilled fish and spicy summer dishes.
Leeds Brewery 0PA
To hear them describe it, Leeds Brewery’s enjoyably named “0PA” (with a zero) is “specially crafted to create a well-rounded, full flavoured, traditionally styled beer”. As The i notes, it “smells worryingly like opening a can of malt extract from a home brewing kit” upon opening, but “thankfully it’s avoided those raw flavours from dominating and have kept the sweetness to a minimum, so by the time the dry, bitter finish kicks in you do get the feeling you’ve been drinking beer”.
Big Drop Brewing Co.
Berkshire-based Big Drop has a six different types of non-alcoholic beer in its portfolio, including an excellent milk stout and sour. If you can’t decide which beer to choose from, a mixed case includes Big Drop’s light beers, darker beers or a bit of both. bigdropbrew.com
Smashed 0% Drynks
British alcohol-free craft brewer Drynks Unlimited has a number of products in its Smashed range of 0% beers, lagers, ales and ciders. Varieties include the Smashed Pale and Smashed Berry Cider.
San Miguel 0,0
Most alcohol-free offerings from major names turned out to be pretty disappointing, but San Miguel is an exception. Its 0,0 beer is light and convincing - one of the strongest offerings from an international brewery out there.
Budweiser is the sort of light, fizzy lager that works well without alcohol, and the boozeless Bud has the same carbonated bite as the original - along with a sweet maltiness and a hint of banana. A great choice with Indian, Thai or other spicy food.
St Peter’s Without
Suffolk-based brewery St Peter’s spent almost £1m developing this non-alcoholic beer. It was money well spent. It’s delicious - sweet, bitter and complex - with an incredibly low alcohol content, reportedly just 0.009%. There’s more alcohol in the average glass of orange juice.
Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5%
Suffolk brewer Adnams works with a clever process of reverse osmosis to make this low-alcohol version of its highly popular 0.5% Ghost Ship ale. The end result is a light, citrussy and thoroughly tasty pale ale, a little more restrained than the super-hoppy IPAs en vogue right now.
Pistonhead Flat Tire 0.5%
Not to be confused with Pistonhead’s 4.5% lager of the same name. The naming strategy may have been a mistake, but the two beers certainly are extraordinarily similar. While the 0.5% version is a tad sweeter, the sweetness soon gives way to a refreshing citrus edge. Best enjoyed in the garden on a warm, sunny day.
Morland Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol
The low-alcohol version of Greene King’s Old Speckled Hen is astonishingly similar in taste to its standard counterpart. This 0.5% golden-coloured ale is as malty and toffee-like as its packaging suggests - a little out of fashion, but a thirst-quenching choice on a summer’s day.
Bavarian company Erdinger makes an unusual claim for the low-alcohol version of its wheat beer: it also works as an isotonic recovery drink. You’ll certainly find plenty of folic acid and vitamin B12 in each 500ml bottle, along with 26.5g of carbs. More importantly, this 0.5% beer is a great-tasting drink.
HonestBrew x Thornbridge Fresh Start IPA 0.5%
Responding to the huge demand for low and no-alcohol beverages, the partnership between HonestBrew and Thornbridge presents a limited edition ultra-low alcohol IPA.
BrewDog Nanny State
One of the best-known drinks on this list, the 0.5% Nanny State is what BrewDog came up with after being criticised for making too many strong beers. Made from eight different malts and five hops, this is distinctly hoppy ale that still feels like an authentic ‘craft’ beer - despite BrewDog now being an international company worth more than £1bn.
Lucky Saint earns its place on the list with a flavour to match some of its full-fat competitors. Luke Boase, the British man behind the brand, worked with four different brewers before producing something to his taste. The effort has paid off: Lucky Saint’s 0.5% unfiltered lager is malty and round - a pleasing contrast to the thinness of many low-alcohol rivals.
Shandy Shack IPA Shandy and Elderflower Lager Top
Shandy, that 1970s favourite, is “poised to make a revival” with the trend for no- or low-alcohol beer “fuelling a thirst for the traditional tipple”, The Guardian said. One brand leading the revival is Shandy Shack, which has three craft versions for sale: IPA Shandy (2.8%), Elderflower Lager Top (2.5%) and Pale & Ginger (2.2%).
The Shandy Shack varieties we tasted – the IPA Shandy and Elderflower Lager Top – were delicious and as well as being low alcohol, which means no dreaded hangover, they are also vegan, gluten-free and all-natural. For the health-conscious – and taste-conscious – Shandy Shack is a welcome addition to the drinks menu.