7 June 2014

Which alcohol free beers taste the best?

I haven't been drinking for about five months now (I'll let you draw your own conclusions). And the question I most frequently get asked is whether I miss alcohol.

What do you think? I write a blog on wine and travel, OF COURSE I miss alcohol. I miss drinking a nice gin and tonic on a Friday night or having a glass of wine with a meal. I miss Pimms in the sunshine, frankly, I miss it and haven't really found any soft drinks that have quite filled that place in my life where booze used to live.

So, I found myself trying some alcohol free lagers and ciders. I never thought I'd bother with these as I've always been of the opinion of you're not "drinking" then, what's the point? In the past few months, I've tried quite a few, if only as an attempt to fill the sad, pathetic gap booze has left in my life.

A glass of Bitburger Drive. Nearly like the real thing

The first thing I realised is that most alcohol free drinks are not technically alcohol free. It seems that, in the UK, there can be a small amount of alcohol in drinks and they can still be labelled alcohol free. So I guess if you were being truly strict about cutting out all alcohol then you should probably not drink them. And, if you went on a proper binge, you could probably get caught out by the breathalyser test. But you would have to drink a lot!

The tipple I've most commonly found in pubs and bars is Becks Blue. By all accounts, it is brewed in the same way as Becks (and to the same high German standards) but the alcohol is removed at the end of the fermentation process. This means that it is supposed to taste the same as its alcoholic counterpart. Even though it is apparently the UK's number one alcohol free lager, it's certainly not my favourite. It has quite a metallic taste and is so fizzy that it's hard to stomach more than one bottle of the stuff.

I also found Cobra Zero pretty disappointing. There's nothing like a glass of Cobra with a hot curry, but the alcohol free version is much sweeter and has a strong, buttery taste to it. I couldn't even finish the bottle.

Bitburger Drive has got to be one of my favourites. Again, the alcohol is removed at the end of the fermentation process which is designed to preserve the taste. It has less of a metallic taste that some of the reduced alcohol lagers have and it has only 26 calories per 100ml. Unfortunately, I've never found it in a pub or bar and have only purchased it in Tescos, which I think is a real shame.

Kopparberg cider - a bit too sweet for me

My other favourite is Erdinger Alkohol-Frei. Although this is a wheat beer it isn't too strong, heavy or citric. Apparently brewed in strict accordance with Bavarian Purity Laws, it is crisp and refreshing and seriously drinkable. Plus, as it is a wheat beer, it isn't too fizzy and contains around 25 calories per 100ml. I've found this in a few pubs and bars, so maybe Britain is catching on. 

To be honest, I'm not a massive fan of cider, so I'm not sure why I thought I'd like alchohol free cider. However, I thought I would try the Kopparberg ones as I thought they would be refreshing in the summer. They make an alcohol free pear cider and an alcohol free mixed fruit cider. Well, sweet is not the word! It is like drinking a melted ice lolly! For me, it's not like experiencing alcohol and so doesn't fill the gap that I'm looking for. But if you like sweet drinks, then knock yourself out. 

So I found a couple of German beers that pretty much hit the spot. And I also found this great UK-based website which promotes alchohol free drinks called www.alcoholfree.co.uk and you can also purchase online from there. They even have some wines and spirits which I might give a go. 

I still look forward to opening a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir and drinking two or five glasses with a plate of nibbles. Sigh, aren't I pathetic? 

Happier days!

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