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  • Writer's pictureLushmuddled

Get On The (Non Alcoholic) Beers

I've been known to enjoy to a non-alcoholic beer. Well, enjoy could be the wrong word. By and large, I find them thin and without body. They also seem to lose their head quite quickly, which starts an instinctive panic attack about drinking flat beer. There have only been a handful which have impressed me and, by and large, I'd always rather have a mid-strength or light beer when it comes to issues of moderation and sobriety. Over the last few years, though, the number of non alcoholic beers has surged and this, I've been told, has brought increased quality.


This probably has a lot to do with a change in brewing techniques. Back in the day, the vast majority of non alcoholic beer was made by reverse osmosis. Very basically, a brewer would make a full strength beer and then feed it back through a filtering system. This separates the smaller compounds - alcohol and water - from everything else. The water solution is then distilled, removing the alcohol, and added back to the beer. It's a brutal process. A lot of drinkers and beer nerds agree that the heat from distillation and entire filtering process strips flavour and character.


This technology is expensive and decades old. Maybe even outdated. Thankfully, times have changed. There other ways to create non-alcoholic beer. One way is to use different yeast strains which produce less alcohol. Having less fermentable sugars at the start of the brewing process, like making a light or mid-strength beer, is another. Both of these preserve the more delicate flavours and aromas so your end up with a beer which is more, well, beery.


One thing I noticed throughout the entire tasting is that, after a few weeks without alcohol, my palate has shifted. I had a Heaps Normal on Day 2 of Dry July and was unimpressed. This time around, I enjoyed it a lot. The lack of body I mentioned before wasn't as obvious and I picked up on a lot more flavours. Think of it as the control of the group.


Big Drop Brewing 'Uptown' Craft Lager, 0.5%abv

Big Drop use 'lazy yeasts,' which can't ferment maltose, and a higher fermentation temperature to get a naturally lower alcohol content. They also advertise that the flavour is rounded out by using more than 20 different grains. We'll see. The head is is pretty good as it pours but it disappears quite quickly (damn). It has a deep, amber/brown colour and the smell of a clean lager. A bit of sweetness coming from the grains too. The taste is bang on - a little bit biscuity, a little bit malty. It reminds me of an English bitter. I'd like a bit more of an aftertaste, but that's about it really. It's clean and fresh, like a lager is supposed to be. It ain't half bad for a non-alcoholic beer. At all.

Rating: ★★★★


Hawkesbury Brewing Co 'Prohibition' Pale Ale, less than 0.2%abv

The website is pretty vague on what process they've used. It looks like it's a trade secret they are looking to protect. Given the quality of the beer, I can see why. The first thing that impressed me - the head doesn't instantly disappear. I don't know why I care so much about this, but it is clearly a bugbear of mine. It has the appearance of a clear and clean pale ale and, people, this smells like a pale ale too, with that citrus, floral and tropical fruit thing going on. I'm actually excited now. It foams and fills the mouth, which is a good thing, I reckon. It means you can't just drink it. You have to take your time and approach it like a beer. The finish and aftertaste is all bitter hop and dried grass, and it absolutely sings. This is seriously impressive for a 0.2% drink. ★★★★☆


Heaps Normal Quiet XPA, 0.5%abv

All the rage at the moment . All the cool kids are drinking it, and the company is doing good things to encourage 'mindful drinking' - that is, being conscious of why you drink and how much you're drinking. This is hazier than the other two beers, but absolutely the colour you'd expect from an XPA. The head vanishes quickly, maybe too quickly, but I will survive. Really fresh on the nose, with lemon skin, white stone fruits and herbs. It has the flavour, all right, with citrus straight off the bat and some grassy hop flavour. It's light and clean, but doesn't have a lot of drive to it. But, then again, it is a 'quiet' XPA. ★★★☆


Upflow New World IPA, 0.5%abv

Okay. Wow. That poured like a soft drink. It fizzed up and than quickly vanished. But let's not get caught up on that. I was expecting a darker colour, but this is quite yellow, and cloudy. Aroma wise, I can't really distinguish it from the Heaps Normal initially - citrus, stone fruit and straw. It has a pleasant and zippy citrus taste. A slight, foamy texture, but this is a session style, really. Easy. Approachable. It has a friendly hoppiness to it and tropical flavours of the pine-lime and coconut variety. It has some strong, summery 'just-getting-out-of-the-surf' vibes. ★★★☆


Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout, 0.5%abv

Ha. A pun. All things 'galaxy' come from the Greek word for milk, which is why we have the Milky Way. So this would be the Milky Milk Stout. It pours nice and dark, as all stouts should, but no head to speak of, sadly. Delicate aromas of cocoa, coffee, roasted nuts and dark grains. The flavours are exactly what you'd expect, but they aren't really supported by the light mouthfeel. You expect a bit more substance to a stout, really. But that, when I think about it, would come with a higher alcohol percentage. I like this, but I don't love it. ★★★

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