The last few years have seen a big increase in the range of alcohol-free beers available on the market and most of the major players in the brewing industry now have their own non-alcoholic offerings. Long gone are the days when Kaliber was the only player in the field.

The quality of these products had also improved rapidly, with some of them now almost indistinguishable in taste from their alcoholic counterparts. Teetotal beer enthusiasts have never had it so good.

Personally I’ve moved over to drinking more and more of them since having children made the prospect of a hangover even less desirable, and never knowing when you might suddenly need to run one of them into A&E makes being over the drink-driving limit impractical.

As somebody who is striving to keep fit and keep the weight off in middle age, it’s an added bonus that many non-alcoholic beers also count as fairly healthy, low-calorie drinks, especially compared to some of the sugary alternatives usually available to to non-drinkers in pubs and bars. And it’s much easier to actually get out of bed and exercise in the morning if you haven’t been drinking the night before.

Here’s a ranking of some of my favourites amongst the brands widely available in UK shops.

Hoegaarden 0,0

I’ve always had a fondness for wheat beers and Hoegaarden has been one of my favourites since I first encountered it on a school trip to Belgium back in the mid 1990s, so I was excited when their alcohol-free version hit the shelves of my local supermarket.

Strictly speaking the small print has it as not more than 0.05% alcohol by volume, although it’s marketed as 0.0. It seems to be reasonably priced, but it’s one of the more calorific low-alcohol beers that I’ve reviewed, at 27 kcal per 100ml, so it may not be one for the slimmers.

The ingredients list is certainly a lot longer than for most of the other non-alcoholic beers I’ve sampled, so that probably goes some way towards explaining the higher calorie count. It reads like an experimental fruit salad recipe, with orange, apple, hops and coriander all involved. There are certainly many levels of flavour to it, and it may be a bit fruity for some tastes, but I loved it and found it to be a fairly faithful reproduction of the classic Hoegaarden flavour.

Score: 90%
Ingredients: Water, barley malt, wheat, sugar, flavours, citric acid, coriander seeds, orange peel, hops, apple extract.
Calories: 27 kcal per 100ml
Price: £4.00 for 4x330ml cans (Tesco, 02/03/2021)

Birra Moretti Zero

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite non-alcoholic beers. It’s deliciously refreshing, very pleasant to taste, with slightly fruity and citrusy notes and leaves me wanting more each time I drink it. I find it preferable to the alcoholic version of Moretti and it’s very reasonably priced too. The Moretti website describes it as being soft with floral sensations and as going well with mozzarella, steamed fish or summer picnics.

Score: 85%
Ingredients: Water, Barley Malt, Hops, Hop Extract, Natural Flavouring
Calories: 20 kcal per 100ml
Price: £0.80 for 1 330ml bottle (Tesco, 28/07/2020)

Erdinger Alkoholfrei

The Bavarian brewery is clearly pushing the healthy credentials of this wheat beer, with the words ‘isotonic’, ‘reduced calories’ and ‘contains vitamins’ featuring prominently on the bottle. On the back label they claim that the ‘purely natural ingredients supply the body with important nutrients’, the beer will ‘help reduce tiredness and promote the normal functioning of the body’s immune system and energy metabolism’ (thanks to its vitamin B9 & B12 content). They recommend drinking a bottle a day to contribute to a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

I’d certainly be happy enough to drink a bottle a day of it as I’ve always liked Erdinger’s alcoholic wheat beer and this version looks, feels and tastes quite like the real thing. It pours with more of a head than most of the beers reviewed here, but is not overly carbonated, and has a smooth velvety feel on the palate. It’s refreshing enough to compete against sports drinks such as Lucozade for your post workout refuel and I’ll be making it one of my regular alcohol-free beer choices.

Score: 84%
Ingredients: Water, Wheat Malt, Barley Malt, Hops, Yeast, Carbon Dioxide.
Calories: 25 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.30 for 1 500ml bottle (18/09/2020)

Peroni Libera

This is a very drinkable, very refreshing lager that’s a great choice for a sunny afternoon outside or to accompany al fresco dining. It’s every bit as good as Peroni’s alcoholic version, albeit with a very different, more citrus taste, and I could happily drink a few of these without getting tired of it. For me, it’s definitely one of the nicest options on the market, although it is also one of the most expensive.

Score: 83%
Ingredients: Water, Barley Malt, Italian Maize, Hops, Natural Flavourings
Calories: 22 kcal per 100ml
Price: £4.50 for 4x330ml bottles (Tesco, 11/08/2020)

Pistonhead Flat Tire

This 0.5% alcohol lager from the Swedish Brutal Brewing company is made with Centennial and Mosaic hops imported from America. It is refreshing and very drinkable, packing a lot more flavour than many of its competitors.

The blurb describes it as having hints of tropical fruit and citrus and an aromatic, balanced, pleasant bitterness. I think that’s a fair description of what I tasted and I’ll definitely be coming back for more. It’s reasonably priced too.

Score: 82%
Ingredients: Water, Barley Malt, Hops
Calories: 20 kcal per 100ml
Price: £3.50 for 4x330ml cans (Tesco, 15/09/2020)

Shipyard Low Tide

This is a golden yellow pale ale from Portland, Maine in the USA (although the one I bought was brewed and bottled by Marston’s in Wolverhampton). It comes in at 0.5% ABV and I found it to be a tasty and refreshing beverage.

The first impression on the palate was of tropical and citrus fruit and, as noted on the bottle, there is a distinct aroma of mango. There’s a definite bitterness to the aftertaste and a medium level of effervescence. All in all, I found it to be very drinkable.

Score: 82%
Ingredients: Water, Barley, Hops, Lactose, Yeast
Calories: 17 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.30 for 1 500ml bottle (Tesco, 14/10/2020)

Lucky Saint

This is a 0.5% alcohol, unfiltered, pilsner style lager that is brewed in Germany for Not Another Beer Co Ltd. The blurb on the bottle describes it as ‘biscuity malts’ with a ‘smooth citrus hop finish’. It’s light in colour and not overly effervescent, but does have a small head on pouring.

I found it to be amongst my favourite low-alcohol lagers. It’s refreshing and went well with my curry, as all good lagers should do. I would definitely consider buying it again.

Score: 82%
Ingredients: Water, Barley, Yeast, Hops
Calories: 16 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.50 for 1 330ml bottle (Tesco, 14/12/2020)

Heineken 0.0

To me, this tastes more or less how I would expect a half-decent lager to taste, and I even prefer it to the alcoholic version of Heineken. It’s crisp, refreshing, and not overly fizzy. It’s not that dissimilar to the Peroni version, but slightly less fruity and considerably cheaper. It’s one that I’ll definitely be buying again.

Score: 80%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Hop Extract, Natural Flavourings
Calories: 21 kcal per 100ml
Price: £4.50 for 6x330ml cans (Tesco, 21/07/2020)

Nanny State

If you prefer an ale to a lager, which I often do, then Brewdog’s Nanny State is a good option. It has all the flavour of many of their regular ales whilst coming in at less than 0.5% ABV, which qualifies it as ‘alcohol-free’ under UK legislation. It’s bitter and hoppy with a medium-dark amber hue and I really like the taste. Also counting in it’s favour is the extremely low calorie count, so it won’t damage your waistline.

Score: 80%
Ingredients: Water, malted barley, rye, wheat, hops, yeast
Calories: 8 kcal per 100ml
Price: £4.00 for 4x330ml cans (Sainsbury’s, 23/08/2020)

Leffe Blond 0,0

Leffe is a venerable Belgian brewing brand and I’ve always liked their alcoholic range of beers so I had high expectations of their entry into the non-alcoholic end of the market. However, I didn’t feel that this one quite comes up to the standard set by their other offerings.

It was nice enough, and not too fizzy, making it perfectly drinkable, but the flavour wasn’t quite to my taste. The label promises ‘subtle notes of vanilla and cloves’, but try as I might, I couldn’t pick out either of them. Perhaps my palate just isn’t refined enough.

It’s not unreasonably priced, although I’m not particularly fond of the 250ml bottle size as it doesn’t make for a very substantial drink. What it lacks in volume, it makes up for in calorific content. With a count of 40 kcal/100ml it’s 50% higher than most of its rivals and more than double many of them.

Score: 79%
Ingredients: Water, Barley Malt, Maize, Barley, Sugar, Hops, Natural Aromas.
Calories: 40 kcal per 100ml
Price: £4.50 for 6 x 250ml bottles (Tesco, 28/02/2021)

Doom Bar Zero

Sharp’s Brewery from Rock in Cornwall have produced an alcohol free version of their popular Doom Bar amber ale.

They describe the aroma as spicy resinous hop and sweet roasted malts, and the taste is said to be succulent dried fruit and lightly toasted malts.

It has a very low calorie count and is decent value for money. I liked it, but not quite as much as I liked the Nanny State ale above, hence the slightly lower score.

Score: 78%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Sugar, Oats, Hops & Hop Extracts, Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid, Natural Flavours.
Calories: 13 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.30 for 1 x 500ml bottle (Tesco, 18/09/2020)

St Peter’s Without

This is the first non-alcoholic beer that I have tried without having ever previously tasted one of the brewer’s alcoholic beverages. I was unfamiliar with the St Peter’s brewery from Suffolk until I saw this intriguingly shaped 500ml bottle on the shelves of Tesco.

This 0.0%, full bodied, dark amber ale comes in a vessel that has the appearance of an old fashioned medicine bottle, but the taste is far from medicinal. It describes itself as ‘rich and malty’, ending with a ‘delicate bitterness’ and that proved to be an accurate claim.

It took a while to grow on me, as the first few mouthfuls did seem overly bitter for my taste, but by the end of the bottle my palate was signalling its approval. It’s definitely one of the most flavoursome alcohol-free brews that I have tried and I’ll be coming back for more.

Score: 77%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Rye, Hops, Yeast
Calories: 29 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.30 for 1 x 500ml bottles (Tesco, 08/10/2020)

Adnams Ghost Ship

The Adnams brewery from Southwold in Suffolk produces this low-alcohol version of their Ghost Ship citrus pale ale, which registers at 0.5% ABV rather than the 4.5% of the standard version. The 0.5% brew actually starts life as the standard version but they then use a ‘de-alcoholiser’ to remove most of the alcohol and leave a drink that tastes the same but will keep you sober.

I liked it and found it to be just as full of flavour as the brewery suggests, although the citrus kick was slightly too pronounced for my taste, so I haven’t scored it quite as highly as some of the other ales here. It’s definitely very drinkable though.

Score: 76%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Malted Rye, Hops, Yeast.
Calories: 23 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.30 for 1 x 500ml bottle (Tesco, 18/09/2020)

A Ship Full of IPA

This is another offering from the Brutal Brewing company based in Vårby, Sweden, which also produces the Pistonhead lager featured above. It’s a 0.0% alcohol India Pale Ale that sometimes pops up in my local supermarket.

I liked it, although it was probably slightly too bitter for my taste, so it’s not quite up there amongst my favourite alcohol-free ales.

Score: 72%
Ingredients: Water, Barley, Malt, Hops.
Calories: 20 kcal per 100ml
Price: £1.50 for 1 x 330ml bottle (Tesco, 08/11/2020)

Bavaria

Despite the name, Bavaria is a Dutch brand and has been brewing beers under that label for almost a century, with non-alcoholic varieties for over 40 years. I was unsure about this one at first, but it gradually grew on me over time. It has a smooth, slightly viscous feel on the palate and is not too effervescent, leaving behind a mildly sweet aftertaste. It’s nothing special, but it’s perfectly drinkable and its main competitive advantage is its price. Coming in considerably cheaper than most of its rivals, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a cheap night and value for money.

Score: 72%
Ingredients: Natural Mineral Water, Barley Malt, Wheat, Hops
Calories: 24 kcal per 100ml
Price: £4.00 for 8x330ml cans (Tesco, 06/07/2020)

San Miguel 0,0

On first taste my initial reaction wasn’t particularly positive, although it did grow on me as I drank more. It feels a bit heavier than some of the other offerings here, with more depth of flavour and has a slightly amber hue. It doesn’t seem as refreshing as some of the others, and it wouldn’t be my go-to choice to cool down on a sunny afternoon. Maybe it’s better suited to a cold winter’s night.

Score: 65%
Ingredients: Water, Barley Malt, Hops, Flavourings
Calories: 24 kcal per 100ml
Price: £3.49 for 4x330ml bottles (Tesco, 11/08/2020)

Budweiser Zero

I found Budweiser’s zero alcohol offering to be fairly bland when compared to some of the competition, so in that respect it’s a bit like their standard alcoholic version. There’s not much substance to it and it’s a bit too carbonated for my liking. The low calorie count means you can drink a few of them without piling on too much weight, but that’s about all it has in its favour.

Score: 50%
Ingredients: Water, Barley Malt, Rice, Hops, Natural Flavours
Calories: 14 kcal per 100ml
Price: £3.00 for 4x330ml cans (Sainsbury’s, 11/08/2020)

Stella Artois

The first two times I tried to buy Stella Artois’ alcohol free lager in my supermarket home delivery order, it failed to turn up, which suggests it’s either extremely popular and sells out quickly or there are supply chain issues. It was third time lucky and by then I was eagerly anticipating my first taste of Stella’s entry into this market. However, I was disappointed as it failed to live up to my expectations.

It’s heavily carbonated and simply too gassy for my liking. So much so that I couldn’t drink it regularly. It tastes not unlike the standard version of Stella, and is not the worst offering out there, but it doesn’t stand up to comparisons with my favourite non-alcoholic lagers and I doubt I’ll be buying it again, especially as it’s slightly more expensive that some of the competition.

Score: 49%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Hops, Sugar, Natural Flavours
Calories: 18 kcal per 100ml
Price: £3.50 for 4x330ml bottles (Tesco, 08/09/2020)

Beck’s Blue

Beck’s Blue is one of the most widely available alcohol-free beers in shops and bars in the UK and has been one of the market leaders for a while now, but I personally don’t particularly like the taste of it. It’s far more bitter than most of its competitors and leaves a strong after taste on the palate. I find the occasional one is OK if there’s nothing else on offer, but I wouldn’t want to drink many of them. The low calorie count does mean that it’s not bad for your waistline.

Score: 35%
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast
Calories: 14 kcal per 100ml
Price: £3.50 for 6x275ml bottles (Tesco, 11/08/2020)

Sainte Etienne

This is a typical budget French lager that is exclusive to Aldi. It’s cheap and it tastes cheap. It’s also far too sharply effervescent. I didn’t like it and I’m unlikely to buy it again unless there’s absolutely nothing else available.

Score: 21%
Ingredients: Water, Barley malt, Hop extract, flavouring, citric acid.
Calories: 23 kcal per 100ml
Price: £0.89 for 1x500ml bottle (Aldi, 11/12/2020)

Conclusion

As with regular beers, the range of alcohol-free beers varies greatly in quality, although this is very much subjective to individual taste and preference. However, there is now a wide enough selection of products available that most people could probably find one that meets their approval. Personally I find that my favourite non-alcoholic beers are every bit as good as any alcoholic versions – the only noticeable difference being that they don’t get you drunk.

Therefore, it seems to me that the only remaining reason for drinking alcoholic beer is if you’re drinking specifically to get drunk. If you’re just having one or two beers in an evening then you wouldn’t be getting drunk anyway so you might as well stick to the healthier, non-alcoholic option. Given the recent studies that have concluded there is no safe level of alcohol to have in your diet, I’m happy to convert to alcohol-free beer for the foreseeable future and limit my alcohol intake to the occasional wine or whisky until they develop alcohol-free versions of wines and spirits that are as good a the real thing.