After a December of indulgence, January sees a trend of people opting to go dry. In 2018, it has been estimated 6 million Brits will ditch the booze as part of Dry January. To help support our beer industry throughout January, Tryanuary was created four years ago. The campaign looks to encourage people to visit pubs and drink beer, whilst raising money for charity.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article on low/no alcohol beer, which received some great feedback. I decided at the time I’d like to explore these more and write a follow-up article. Then, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to combine Tryanuary with Dry January! So, a couple of months ago I bought a selection of low/zero alcohol beers from specialist online retailer Dry Drinker. Taking one for the team, I spent a couple of days over Christmas off of the high ABV, so I could share my experiences with you in early January.
When I originally published my article about alcohol free beers, Dry Drinker were one of the first to respond. I hadn’t heard of them before, but after a little bit of research, I found out they were a specialist online retailer for alcohol free beer. This probably conjures up images of Becks Blue and Kaliber. However, as popularity for low alcohol beer has surged, a lot of breweries have jumped on the bandwagon too. Now, you can pick up beers from the likes of Mikkeller and Innis and Gunn. There’s even breweries that specialise in only alcohol free beers, such as Big Drop and Nirvana.
For £21.99, I was able to hand pick a case of twelve alcohol free beers to try. So, what did I have, and what did I think?
The Style Evolution
First of all, I deliberately chose the beers I thought would be the most interesting and probably flavoursome to try. Lager style has tended to dominate the low alcohol market, but I was delighted to see available a cherry beer, a dry-hopped lager, a spiced ale, a hefeweizen; so many different styles!
I kicked off the tasting with ‘Half Cheeky’, collaborated on by Pressure Drop. Ok, a little bit of a cheat as this isn’t a low alcohol brewed beer, rather a shandy collaboration with Square Root Soda. Created with Pressure Drop’s ‘Cheeky’ beer, this one was like drinking a fruit soda. Lots of tropical, lemon flavours and very refreshing. A good start, but not really beer I would say!
Although it was a shandy that started me on my low alcohol journey, the remaining drinks were definitely beers. It was interesting to see so many that were brewed in other countries. So as I continued the session, I ticked off ‘Paulaner Münchner Hell Alkoholfrei’ by Paulaner Brauerei, ‘Innis and None’ by Innis and Gunn, ‘Cheers Preta Sem Alcool’ by Unicer Bebidas, ‘Stary Melnik Bezalkogolnoe’ by Moscow-Efes Brewery and ‘S Čistou Hlavou Jantar’ by Bernard. They were all good, easy drinkers, generally fresh and well flavoured. But, it was the other six that really showcased how much the alcohol free beer scene is evolving.
The Stand Out Beers
Let’s kick off the remaining beers with one perfect for the season, Big Drop’s ‘Spiced Ale’. Flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg, this has a spiced and slightly smoked quality to it, and a little warming due to the spice. A really well flavoured beer, and a great addition to Big Drop’s portfolio.
Next up, not one, but two beers from Mikkeller. Anything brewed by Mikkeller immediately peaks interest, so these were the first two I added to my shopping basket. ‘Drink’in the Snow’ is like a brown ale, sweet, malty and with a hint of winter spice to add more flavour. ‘Drink’in the Sun’ is a pale ale with zesty lemon hop flavour, sweet with a bitter finish. Both of these were good, although my preference is ‘Drink’in the Sun’ due to how hop forward it is.
‘S Čistou Hlavou Višeň (Free Cherry)’ by Bernard added a really fruity option to my selection. Packed with sweet cherry flavours, other than no alcohol, this is very similar to Samuel Smith’s Organic Cherry. Excellent flavour!
Arguably the beer that was closest to its style and was difficult to notice the lack of alcohol was ‘Tannenzäpfle Alkoholfrei’ by Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus. This hefeweizen is packed with the sweet banana you’d expect from the style.
A strong candidate for my favourite beer of the selection, though, is ‘Pistonhead Flat Tire’ dry hopped lager by Brutal Brewing. This tastes like a dry hopped pale, using Mosaic hops which are really prominent and well used in the beer. Light, clean, hoppy and fresh, this tastes great.
A Bonus Beer
I actually had an additional beer on top of the twelve I bought. This was one I picked up a while ago and was holding on to especially for this article; Big Drop’s ‘Pale Ale’. This one, for me, is the low alcohol beer that sets the standard all others should be aiming for. This could easily pass as a regular pale ale; fresh, hoppy, light, citrus and really well balanced with the biscuit malt. Add on a light bitter finish and you have yourself a very tasty drink. Great stuff!
In summary, I’m really glad I revisited low alcohol beers again. Even in just the few months since my previous article, it feels like these beers have evolved and are not too far behind their flavour-laden higher ABV beers. It’s well worth exploring low alcohol beers and, with Tryanuary and Dry January a few days in, I don’t think there’s a more suitable time to give them a go!If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.