Non-alcoholic beer: lots of flavour without the booze

Posted on: November 30, 2017

Brian Preston
The Travelling Sommelier

In my October column, I talked about dealcoholized wine and described a couple of the methods used to extract alcohol from wine. These same methods apply to beer. Non-alcoholic beer (or NA beer, as it’s sometimes called) starts its life as a normal beer. In fact it goes through almost the full process, ie,  a mash, boiling the wort, adding hops, and fermenting. But then non-alcoholic beer has to have its alcohol removed.

Non-alcoholic beer first started popping up in the U.S. in 1919. Why? Prohibition. It was decided that the strongest a beverage could be is 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (abv) and this still applies today. A wide variety of these products are available in most grocery stores across Eastern Ontario, and they are Canadian, US or European in origin depending upon the brand.

Budweiser Prohibition Brew
Let’s start with a Prohibition inspired American beer from Anheuser Busch of St. Louis, Missouri, inspired by the Volstead Act in 1919 and made by Labatts and produced under license across Canada. It comes in at 0.0% abv, with 160 calories and 2 grams of sugar per 473 ml can. Unlike the label on regular Budweiser that says it was made using beechwood chips, this one says it includes rice but that isn’t listed on the ingredients list on the back of the can. It poured a good head that lasted longer than PC Blonde and had a lovely golden colour with malt aromas and sweetness (from the rice?). It was quite smooth and tasty. $1.99 per 473 ml can.

PC Blonde Brew
This is a lager style dealcoholized beer made by Brick Brewing Co. in Waterloo, Ont. for Loblaws. It comes in at less than .5% abv, with 50 calories and 3 grams of sugar per 355ml can. It is pale clear yellow that pours a nice head with decent carbinated bubbles released. This all dissipates faster than with a regular beer (common to all dealcoholized beers) but there is that familiar pleasant malty, cereal aroma with the body of a light beer.

It is a bit watery in body and mouthfeel, which is also common in dealcoholized beers, but it tastes refreshing and has a clean finish. Other North American produced light beers like O’Doul’s are similar.

This beer is imported from Bremen, Germany and comes in a six pack of 330ml bottles listed at 0.0% abv, with 50 calories and zero sugar! Like all beers, the ingredients were water, malted barley, and hops according to the traditional Bavarian Law for brewing beer.

The North American beers also included additional combinations of extracts and natural flavour, yeast, sulphites, corn syrup or caramel colour. Beck’s poured a golden colour with a full head that lasted several minutes. It had that European aroma that I love (dry, clean with a touch of bitter steely character) which was indiscernible from a regular Beck’s. It was medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel and a dry, pleasantly hopped taste with a less sweet profile common to North American beers. This one was my favourite. While $8.99 for a six pack, it is worth it!

To finish I thought I would include PC Radler-Lemonade which I found on the shelf on sale now that summer is over. It was under $3.00 for a twelve pack at Independent in Smiths Falls.

I’m not sure if they have more stock but even at the regular price it is a refreshing drink (half non alcoholic beer and half lemonade) which, not surprisingly, tastes like a real Radler given that it is half juice. The lemonade is not overpowering but blends well with the beer base and comes in at less than .5% abv. There are 130 calories and 29 grams of sugar though in a 355ml can.

This article was first published in the November issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our November issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer or read our digital version.