From ‘weird’ to ‘smelly’: the non-alcoholic beer taste test | Beer

Australians voted Get on the beers to number 12 of the Triple J Hottest 100, but if the figures are anything to go by, those beers don’t need to be alcoholic.

Non-alcoholic beer sales have more than doubled in the past year at liquor chains like Dan Murphy’s and BWS, according to the AFR . Research group IWSR Drinks Market Analysis showed increasing consumption of no-alcohol and low-alcohol beer in most countries, with Australia’s volume forecast to grow about 16% by 2024, as part of what the group identified as “moderation and wellness trends”.

Ben Holdstock, head brewer of non-alcoholic beer Heaps Normal, says often “you forget why you’re drinking in the first place, it just becomes a bit of a habit. It’s good to be a bit more mindful.”

Heaps Normal say it gets lots of feedback from pregnant women who love the product. Holdstock says its brew “isn’t specifically tailored towards people who don’t drink, it’s definitely tailored towards people who do … if you’re having a night out, you’re doing rounds with your mates, you can definitely throw one of these in a round.”

Late last year, the National Health and Medical Research Council altered its advice, telling adults to drop their alcohol consumption from 14 to 10 standard drinks a week. The promise of non-alcoholic beer is that it offers people a drink that has the same optics as beer without the side effects. It allows you to cut back without feeling as though you’re missing out.

The process of brewing non-alcoholic beer is actually the same as regular beer. Sometimes removing or lowering the alcohol content is an extra step at the end of the brewing process, through techniques like exposing the beer to heat, or using reverse osmosis.

However, Holdstock found these processes often stripped the flavour, so at Heaps Normal he opted to brew with a non-traditional yeast that did not create as much alcohol in the fermentation process, which he likens to brewing kombucha.

Much like kombucha, even zero alcohol beers may still have a trace of alcohol in them – products are considered non-alcoholic when they have an ABV of less than 0.5%.

As non-alcoholic beer sales increase, so too has the offering, with craft brewers, specialty brands and big name brands all pouring into the category. We asked BWS and specialty craft retailer Killjoy Drinks for its best selling non-alcoholic beers, and enlisted five tasters for a blind test of their offerings.

We asked the tasters to rate the drinks on taste, smell, aftertaste and a slightly esoteric “cracking” scale. Then we tabulated the results to give each a score out of 100.

The “cracking scale” – tasters were asked to assume “the boys” are gender-neutral.
The ‘cracking’ scale – tasters were asked to assume ‘the boys’ are gender-neutral. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Two tasters described themselves as regular beer drinkers, another two said they chose to drink beer on social occasions like…

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