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A short guide to non-alcoholic beer – plus five of the best

By Tom Hallett on

Whether it's a couple of cans of beer in front of the TV or a few pints down the pub with friends on a weekend, it's the rituals associated with booze many moderate drinkers miss the most when they reduce their alcohol intake.

And while many pubs, bars and restaurants have been slow to take advantage of the non-alcoholic beer revolution (the market grew 39% in 2018 alone), your choices are no longer limited to a dusty bottle that's been lingering for years on the back shelf behind the bar.

The situation away from pubs, bars and restaurants is even more rosy. Supermarkets and off-licences have upped their non-alcoholic beer game significantly, while there are dozens of online stores that specialise in non-alcoholic drinks. 

Why non-alcoholic beer?

One of the reasons non-alcoholic beer has gained popularity in recent years is improvements in quality, with many rivalling full-strength beer in terms of body and flavour.  

Non-alcoholic beer has health benefits too – it can reduce your risk of heart disease; help you sleep and reduce your risk of getting illnesses like the common cold. And it's full of vitamins and minerals including folic acid, potassium, iron and zinc. In essence, it’s everything you'd expect from a natural product usually only made with water, grains, hops and yeast.

Importantly, drinking non-alcoholic beer when you’re taking a break from booze allows you to continue supporting the brewing and hospitality industries at a time when both need our support more than ever.

Trace amounts of alcohol

One thing to be aware of is many non-alcoholic beers do contain a little alcohol – the law in the UK allows drinks up to 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) to be sold without a licence and this is the maximum alcohol content in most non-alcoholic beers.

This is about the same ABV as a ripe banana and won’t make you drunk no matter how much you drink. So drinking a non-alcoholic beer won't break your no alcohol streak.

Five of the best widely available non-alcoholic beers

Here are five of my favourite widely available non-alcoholic beers: 

Brewdog Nanny State (0.5%) pale ale

First launched in 2009 as a 1.1% ABV beer, Nanny State relaunched as a 0.5% brew in 2010, arguably kicking off the non-alcoholic beer revolution.

Nanny State is packed with five varieties of hops and eight types of malt. Expect tropical aromas, a plummy flavour and a decent body for an ultra-low-alcohol beer.

Free Damm (0%) lager

Non-alcoholic beer has been a popular choice for non-drinkers in Spain for donkey's years. This one is by Barcelona's Damm brewery, famous for its "Estrella" full-strength lager.  

Its clean malty flavour, citrus aromas and smooth body make it a pretty good replacement for those easy drinking European-style pale lagers, if that's your usual tipple.

Big Drop Paradiso (0.5%) IPA

Big Drop’s “Paradiso” India pale ale is worth highlighting simply because of its availability on tap across most Brewhouse and Kitchen pubs.

Packed with Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe, Citra and Columbus hops, the aroma is dominated by mango and grapefruit with caramelised orange and more mango in the flavour, plus a satisfying hit of bitterness.

Lucky Saint (0.5%) lager

Brewed in Germany, Lucky Saint is unfiltered in the traditional style, giving it a hazy amber colour and a thick head of foam.

Flavour-wise, it's complex with citrus fruit and biscuit contributing to the aroma and taste.  

Adnam's Ghost Ship (0.5%)  

Adnam's was one of the first of the UK's biggish regional brewers to take a punt on brewing a non-alcoholic beer back in 2018.

Ghost Ship 0.5% exhibits many of the characteristics of its 4.5% ABV sibling – including topical aromas and a pleasantly dry finish – just without the alcohol.

Tom Hallett is a blogger and beer writer based in Hampshire. He reviews alcohol-free beer and writes about the non-alcoholic beer industry at Follow him on Twitter @steadydrinker.