Less of the alchol, less of the taste?

A low and no alcohol beer review roundup, February 2019

With an increasing number of attempts to convince people to give up something every January, Dry January has been going for some time, with a view that you would give up beer entirely. But what if you were to only give up alcohol and go for a low or non alcolholic version? And of course, if you were the designated driver but still fancied a drinkable beer, what options would you have that actually taste decent and not like a watered down version of your favourite beer or ale? In this review, I'll be putting several of the low and no alcohol beers and ales to the test, to see if any of them cut the mustard and actually are drinkable in their own right, or if they're ones to avoid. Your mileage will vary, so here goes..

St Peter's Without Original Ale, 0.0%, 500ml
This is one of now three St Peter's ales in the Without range (they do a Golden and an Organic one too) and I've had this in a pub as well as being able to buy it in supermarkets. It certainly looks the part with an amber colour and a nice head when you pour from the bottle. The one thing that does hit you a lot though is the malt in here - it smells strongly and it definitely tastes massively of malt. Some of you may like this, but some of you might find it a bit tiresome after a while. I think it's one of those you have to be in the right mood for, but definitely is one worth considering if you can get past that malt. Rating - 6

St Peter's Without Golden Ale, 0.0%, 500ml
I managed to get the Golden ale, and the colour is definitely more of a golden colour than the original, and similarly the head does its bit. The bottle claims that there's some citrus notes to taste when you drink it, along with a familiar malt taste that's just as malty as the original version. In fact it was perhaps a little more disappointing because of the fact that the citrus taste wasn't there but the malty one was, and in abundance. Again, similar to the original, if you like the malty taste you'll be fine, but definitely again you'd also find it tiresome. The lack of citrus though is a bit of a fib, hence the lower rating. Rating - 5

Big Drop Milk Stout, 0.5%, 330ml
The Big Drop range recently has become available in some branches of Tesco. It's won a World Beer silver award and I'd say that's with a very good reason. It looks very black in colour with a solid head, and definitely tastes spot on like a stout would do, without perhaps some of the heaviness that some stouts have. It also feels a little smoother on the palette as well, and as a result goes down really nicely, especially if you are a fan of the dark beers and stouts anyway. Their motto is to drink, not to be drunk, and it's a very drinkable beer indeed. My only regret was not getting more than one of them. Rating - 9

Footnote: If you do track it down in a Tesco store, at the time of writing it's on offer for a mere £1. Absolute bargain for such a cracking stout.

Budweiser Prohibition, 0.0%, 330ml
I'm not the biggest fan of Budweiser I grant you, but it does its job if you do drink it. The Prohibition is effectively a beer that dates back to the American prohibition era, and it's now back in fashion to give the consumer a choice. However, if the taste of this is anything to go by, no wonder prohibition ended eventually. There's an overpowering taste of rice in there, and it just feels rather weak because of that - almost like a rice drink with some additional barley and hops. Not worth the purchase even if on offer. Rating - 1

Brewdog Nanny State, 0.5%, 330ml
From the extremes of Sink The Bismarck to this at the other end. Nanny State, they say on the bottle, is a hoppy ale, and to be fair, that's a pretty accurate description. It does have a nice hoppy tang to it on taste, it pours well with a gentle head, and always seems to be solid as a rock in the taste department. Some may not like the hoppiness, but the balance seems pretty good to me to be honest. I had a pint of this with friends, and all of them said they didn't believe it was 0.5%, which says it all about its taste too. Rating - 8

Footnote: This often ends up in reduced to clear aisles in some Sainsburys branches. The one near me had it a few weeks back for a mere 78p a bottle, so snagged a fair few.

Adnams Ghost Ship Low Alcohol, 0.5%, 500ml
The original Ghost Ship was always a pretty solid ale choice, with the malty bitterness being combined nicely with the citrus aroma of lemon and lime, in conjunction with its hops. What's surprising to some is that the low alcohol version pours pretty well, with a nice pale ale colour and good head, and pretty much tastes the same as the regular version. That in itself is pretty worthy of praise of course, but it's also worth noting that their reverse osmosis method might be one for other brewers to also have a go of. Well worth it - and it's in Wetherspoons too so a good "with drink" choice for a change. Rating - 8

Footnote: It actually counts as a soft drink in the "with drink" choices which mean you pay the lower combined price for the meal. Epic win!

Pistonhead Dry Tire Lager, 0.5%, 330ml
A dry hopped lager was always one to try out, and at first the head looked promising as this was poured out, but then vanished. I've had the original full alcohol version of this which was half decent, and at first the dry hopped method did mean that it tasted a little hoppy too. It definitely though got a little worse the more I drank of it though, and didn't seem to retain the original taste all too well. However, it was more than passable and I think that some might like it less hoppy as it goes down. One I think that may divide the critics I think. Rating - 6

In short, if you see any of the Big Drop ales, get them while you can. They seem to have mastered the art of actually making a tasty ale but without much of the alcohol at all. I was also surprised at how good the Brewdog Nanny State still is too - definitely a solid choice, as is the low alcohol version of Adnams' Ghost Ship is as well. Out of all the ones I tried, it'd be those three in that order. The rest may be an acquired taste, but avoid like the plague the Budweiser Prohibition - it is downright rank.