02 June 2010

Road-testing the unleaded

An unusual turn of events saw me out one evening last week while in possession of motorised transportation. Of course, my drinking options for the evening were manifold, but I decided I may as well use it as an excuse to try out some of the alcohol-free beers available. Y'know, the ones I wouldn't normally dream of touching with a barge pole (unless I were actually piloting a barge, of course; then they might be appropriate).

The original intention was just to get the Erdinger and Paulaner ones, but it turns out that there's a much bigger range out there, much of which was carried by a local off-licence (I got the Paulaner in Superquinn where, oddly, the automated checkout still made sure to card me).

I lined them up for a mugshot before sticking them in the boot and off to my destination (Séan's gaff; fabulous 8% ABV stout on tap; untempted; look at me the responsible adult). First out of the traps was Cobra Zero, and I liked this, but not for any of the reasons I like Cobra. Cobra Zero makes more-or-less no attempt to be a beer. Though my bottle was rather lightstruck, what came out most on tasting was a very sweet and malty wort flavour -- porridge with loads of sugar. It reminded me a lot of the dark non-alcoholic malt drinks you get in Africa and the Caribbean, and which I really rather like. I don't know that I could drink much of this, but I did enjoy the bottle.

Beck's Non-Alcoholic didn't work so well. It's sort-of faithful to the Beck's recipe, in that it's quite sharp and hoppy. The worty sweetness is there again, mostly on the nose, but this translates to an unpleasant soapy flavour which, coupled with the thinness, does not make for a pleasant drinking experience.

I figured the Germans would be better propositions altogether and, while this broadly turned out to be true, the two beers were as different in quality as their real-beer counterparts. The Paulaner Alkoholfrei was my favourite of the lot. Yes, there's that unfermented sugar, but it's buried under a hefty dollop of fruity banana esters. It's very drinkable and is distinctively a weissbier. I'd go for it again. Not so the Erdinger Alkoholfrei which tried to do all the same things but comes out weak (well, you know what I mean) and lacking in character.

Was it worth it? No, not really. If I wasn't a ticker I'd probably have settled for drinking non-beer, and will likely do so in the future. Unless I can find some Baltika 0 or alcohol-free Bavaria, of course...

17 comments:

  1. Cherry Vimto is the key to an evening off the pop.

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  2. I did a post about the Erdinger one a while back, and thought it was pretty good. I still have a bottle left so will have to try it head to head with the Paulaner verstion!

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  3. Sadly not available here, Cookie. Not even in the ethnic supermarkets down in Englishtown.

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  4. Don't forget the African malt drinks as a real beer replacement.

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  5. Absolutely. With a bit more forward planning that's what I'd have got.

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  6. Anonymous10:08 a.m.

    Agree that Paulaner is the most drinkable. Schneider also have an Alcohol free "Tap 3" (available in Drinkstore)

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  7. I tried the Cobra Zero before, maybe 2 years or so ago, and it was just about the most disgusting thing I've tasted in years - the only discernible flavour in it was MUSHROOM! 2 of us had a bottle each, and we both got mushroom. Now I'm a big fan of mushrooms, don't get me wrong, but just not in beer.

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  8. I drank a few Paulaner alcohol free while visiting my sister's for a gathering last Christmas. It certainly was drinkable, but what I found was that while one or two are okay; the taste loses appeal thereafter. I struggled with the third one.

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  9. I did too, but put it down to the rarity of me drinking three of the same beer in a row.

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  10. Anon, Schneider is one of the few breweries that could tempt me back to this market segment. We'll see...

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  11. BrotherLogic6:24 p.m.

    I have drunk 4 bottles of Nanny State in the past two weeks - I still can't decide if I really like it or it's just rank. I'm veering towards the middle ground though...

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  12. Well, German consumer protection body Stiftung Warentest have a test of Alcohol-Free Weizens in their lates magazine : SHort version of the table here : http://www.test.de/themen/essen-trinken/test/Alkoholfreies-Weizenbier-Durstloescher-mit-wenig-Kalorien-4098199-4098210/

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  13. I had an alcohol free wheat beer in Wuerzburg last year (can't remember why -- I wasn't driving -- perhaps I was just 'beered out'). I decided I would rather have had a Diet Coke. It just tasted... empty.

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  14. The last alcohol-free beer I drank before last week was Tennent's LA in about 1999 (and I was driving, your honour). I remember that it tasted empty too. So I was expecting these to be empty rather than worty, but they weren't. Different de-alcoholisation methods?

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  15. Anonymous9:57 a.m.

    I think Tennent's LA was 1% so not really true to "style".

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  16. For shame!

    On mature recollection, it might have been Kaliber. Possibly the only time I've had canned beer served to me in an Irish pub.

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  17. Struggling to remember, but if memory serves, it was the Weihenstephaner Original Alkoholfrei that was the most drinkable of the alcohol-free beers that I've tried. That said, though, I was drinking Kaliber and Buckler before I came of age (possibly also Becks - don't recall when it came on the market!), and still find at least Kaliber and Becks drinkable. But I'd rather Mi-Wadi.

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