In January, I looked at some of the best alcohol-free ales on offer and his month, I thought it was time to look at the best low alcohol lagers.
Long gone are the days where the only alcohol-free lagers available were bland copies of big brands alcoholic lagers. There’s now a growing number of alcohol-free brewers that have turned brewing alcohol-free lager into an art form.
As we head into 2021, the number of low alcohol lagers is already high. That will no doubt grow as the year progresses and more are released. I’ve picked my eight favourites to review and share my thoughts with you.
Drynks Unlimited are alcohol-free specialists with a range of beers and ciders. They brew all their drinks as a traditional alcoholic drinks then use the UK’s first cool vacuum distillation to gently remove the alcohol without affecting any of the flavours.
The Smashed Lager pours with a good head that only fades a small amount while I fumble around trying to get a good photo.
There’s no hiding it’s a lager with its pale gold colour and strong aroma. There’s a slight sweetness hidden in among the hoppy, floral bitterness and these aromas are carried through into the flavours.
There’s a biscuity maltiness to the beer that has a subtle honey flavour giving a hint of sweetness. Then the hops come charging in with a wonderful floral bitterness that compliments the malt to give a fantastic and rich flavour. This slowly fades into a floral bitter after tastes.
This is a great lager to kick off this review. It screams lager at me from the moment it’s poured. With a wonderful aroma and great flavours packed in, any lager lover will enjoy this crisp and refreshing beer.
West Berkshire Brewery are the only brewers on our list with their background in alcoholic beer. Established 25 years ago, they’ve grown rapidly thanks to a strong range of great beers. In 2020, they used their knowledge and expanded into the alcohol-free market with their Solo range.
All my student years as a barman fail me in dramatic style as I pour the WBB Solo Pilsner into a glass and end up with a massive head on the beer. Expecting it to quickly fade, I rush to get a photo, but am pleasantly surprised that it only slowly fades and leaves a generous, creamy head atop the pale gold beer.
The aroma is very subtle with hints of a floral hoppiness within the beer hidden by that thick layer of bubbles.
The beer is very smooth to drink and has a wonderfully soft feeling on the tongue. On drinking you get a brief glimpse of the biscuity malt, before a sharp floral bitterness from the hops that comes through almost immediately. The two combined wonderfully to give a rich compliment of flavours.
There’s no hint of fruits in the flavours. It’s a beer that’s all about the biscuity malt and floral hoppiness that work together wonderfully to make a superb pilsner.
The Freestar is different to the other beers here as it’s blended rather than brewed and Freestar don’t necessarily market it as a lager. However, to me a lager is the beer I reach for when going for maximum refreshment and Freestar certainly delivers on that, so I thought I’d include it in this review.
It pours with a thin head, but sadly this fades very quickly – too quickly for me to get a decent photo. Without a layer of bubbles, I can look down on the crystal clear pale gold beer as I enjoy the distinct aroma of citrus and perle hops.
I know the original recipe for Freestar featured bergamot and other citrus fruits quite heavily, but they’ve since changed this. Whilst they now only list “other natural ingredients” on their bottles, the strong citrus aromas suggest that these citrus fruits must be some of the natural ingredients they’re talking about.
These flavours come through drinking the beer. The hops give a wonderful bitterness, but these are offset by the fruit, that have an almost sweet edge. This combined nicely with the slightly lighter body of the beer to deliver a very crisp and refreshing beer.
Is it a lager? Maybe not. Is it a great tasting and refreshing beer that I’d reach instead of a lager – definitely.
Drop Bear Beer Co. exploded into the alcohol-free beer market in 2019 with two cracking beers. They’ve since gone on to add two more beers in 2020 to round off their range so there’s something for all tastes. The New World Lager was the second of these new beers and was released as the first alcohol-free Indian Pale Lager (IPL) to be part of a core range.
The New World Lager pours with a thin head that fades quite quickly leaving a thin film of bubbles sitting atop a pale gold beer.
Straight away the strong aroma hits me and draw me in. There’s a rich caramel that comes through that is also accompanied by a fruity edge. I can’t help but take a few moments to stop and appreciate its unique aroma and try to identify the fruits. My best guess is passion fruit along with stone fruits like mango, apricot and peach.
If I thought the aromas were packed in, it’s got nothing on the flavours hidden within this beer. There’s an initial caramel maltiness which is accompanied by the passion fruit and stoned fruits that were hinted at in the aroma. Finally, there’s the floral bitterness delivered by the hops and carried through into the aftertaste.
With so much flavour going on in this lager that I can’t help myself going back for more. Drop Bear Beer have delivered a standout beer yet again.
Launched in 2017, the Nirvana Brewery is an independent family run business that specialises in brewing alcohol-free beers. In their four years, they’ve built a wide range of beers that now includes a stout, IPA, three pale ales and this, their Bavarian Helles Lager.
Picking up the bottle and pouring into the glass, it has a decent head that refuses to fade, hiding the pale gold beer. The aroma on the Nirvana is much softer than I was expecting. This forces me to take my time to appreciate the subtle floral hues hidden within before moving onto take a sip.
The first thing that strikes me is the smoothness of the beer, both in the mouth feel and the way it delivers the flavour to my palate. There’s an initial malty richness with hints of caramel, but this smoothly progresses to the bitterness of the hops which deliver sharpness to the flavours with a soft floral hint. The flavours slowly fades into an aftertastes of the lingering floral bitterness from the hops.
There’s no subtle hints of fruit within these flavours, this is all about the caramelly malt and the floral bitterness. Together they make a silky smooth flavour combination.
Lucky Saint was is a beer developed from a love of great beer, a desire for alcohol-free and a detemination to succeed when other would have given up. It was a journey that took its founder Luke Boase across Europe, then a full years development until he ended up with his perfect beer.
Picking up the short stubby bottle that’s a bit of a signature of Lucky Saint, I pour the pale gold beer into a glass. There’s a decent head on the beer when first poured, but that fades fairly quickly.
It’s the first of those tried that isn’t crystal clear. Instead, there’s a slight haze to the beer which I should have expected given it’s an unfiltered lager.
There’s a floral aroma coming from the hops, but there’s also a slightly herbal edge taking away any sweetness in the scent. With the two combined, I can almost smell the hoppy bitterness in the lager and it draws me into trying the beer.
I take a first sip and it’s a smooth beer with a good body. The malts come through with a slight caramel edge then the sharpness of the hops comes arrives delivering a slightly citrus edge to the floral bitterness that flows through into the aftertaste.
This really is an excellent lager. The smooth delivery of all those flavours will keep me coming back time and again.
UNLTD first hit the shelves in 2020 and was launched by its founder, Johnny Johnson after he went alcohol-free, but still wanted to enjoy beer. Unhappy with what already available, he set out on developing his own high flavour, low calorie alcohol-free lager.
Picking up that good looking bottle (that’s won design awards) and pouring it into the glass, the first thing that gets me is the large head that sits atop the beer. I give it a moment to see if it fades and am pleasantly surprised that it stays.
Taking a second to enjoy the pale golden colour, I also notice this is another lager with a haze to the beer. I move onto sampling the aroma which has a floral bitterness to it accompanied by a hint of citrus.
It’s a lighter bodied beer to drink, but still packed with flavours. The bitterness of the hops is slightly herbal which is then followed by a citrus edge. Combined these deliver a crisp freshness to the beer that makes it very moreish.
It’s hard to believe that all this flavour and refreshment is packed into a beer that’s only 23 calories. I can see this being a beer that’s reached for on many hot days in the future.
Since launching back in 2016, Big Drop have taken the alcohol-free world by storm. They’ve released a wide range of alcohol-free beers into their core range then started their World Collaboration series in 2020. Along the way they’ve racked up a number of awards, including a European Double Gold in 2019 for this, their Uptown Craft Lager.
Looking at the beer, it’s clear from the outset this will be different. Whereas all the other beers tested here are variations on the classic pale gold colour of a traditional lager, this is deeper colour that’s more amber than gold.
It pours with a thin head that fades very quickly – too quick for me to even get a photo. I move onto trying the aroma which is very understated. There’s definitely some floral hops there with a slight herbal edge, but again it doesn’t make me think of a classic lager.
The divergence from classic lager is far more striking in the flavour. The maltiness of the beer has a richer, more fruity flavour than I was expecting with strong hints of orange. Overlayed with that are the flavours coming through from the hops, delivering an almost earthy herbal bitterness.
After drinking so many great beers that have that classic lager taste, the Big Drop is something very different. The fruit from the malts and lack of sharp bitterness in the hops makes me think more of an ale than a lager.
That said, it’s great to see someone branching out and exploring to deliver a flavoursome beer that unique and refreshing.
One of the great benefits of going alcohol-free is the lower calorie content compared to their alcoholic relatives. This means you can drink more without risk of the traditional lager lovers beer belly haunting you.
I’ve pulled together the nutritional information for the beers reviewed in the table below. You can also compare these against other alcohol-free drinks in our full nutritional table.
of which sugars (g)
|Big Drop Uptown Craft Lager||11.8||1.4||0.1|
|Drop Bear Beer Co. New World Lager||7.5||0.4||0.1|
|Drynks Unlimited Smashed Lager||23.0||3.1||3.1|
|Lucky Saint Unfiltered Lager||16.0||3.5||<0.1|
|Nirvana Brewery Bavarian Helles Lager||20.0||4.1||1.1|
All values shown per 100ml.
The West Berkshire Brewery Solo Pilsner does not show nutritional information on their packaging so cannot be listed here.
When I decided to write this blog, I was slightly concerned that I was going to end up writing about eight lagers that when compared, were very similar in taste. How would I put into words the subtle differences between each beer?
I needn’t have worried. Each beer has it’s own distinct aroma and flavour. Taking the time to stop and appreciate each one has been a fun experience and reminded me just how great these beers are.
Mindful drinking lager lovers can happy. There’s no reason to suffer a bland alcohol free lager from the big brands again.
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