If you live in the US, you’ve heard the argument by young vets. Our kids can work at 12, drive at 16, and join the military at 18 … but they have to wait till 21 to legally buy booze. So if your alcohol-free beer is an age thing (as opposed to an allergy thing), you want to be sure there’s no booze in your blood at all. But you may also have heard that soft drinks have a little spirit.
These alcoholic ingredients are trace amounts – often less than 0%. And this alcohol comes from preservatives and carbonation – the alcohol helps with the fizzy bubbles. In Europe, anything under 0.5% alcohol is considered alcohol-free. But some alcohol-removed brands go as low as 0.05%. So what’s the best alcohol-free beer? Let’s check out a few top options.
The Best Non-alcoholic beer List
1. Run Wild
In the past, beer was a substitute for both food and water. There were no sanitation plants back then, so beer was safer than water and less likely to make you sick. It was also dense and heavy enough to keep you full if you had to skip a meal. Today’s beer-drinker might be more weight-conscious, so they want their beer high in taste but low in alcohol and calories.
Run Wild targets athletes so it only has 70 calories and less than 0.5% alcohol. It follows the Athletic Brewing tradition of powering your workout without growing a gut. And the proof is in the slim, trim physique of its founders Bill Shufelt and John Walker. Their session IPA has won several craft beer awards with its reliable malty mix of five North Western hops.
For a lot of Americans, it’s not beer if it’s not Bud. A few may stray into tequila territory, but the average American doesn’t get the hype of beer imports. Unless of course, you’ve toured the breweries of Europe – you’re probably free spirits already have that craft beer aesthetic. So if you’ve bitten the bug, pun intended, try this German brew, available on Amazon.
The ‘Drive’ in its name confirms it’s far below the legal limit so you can safely operate heavy machinery after a few bottles. This pilsner is compatible with reinheitsgebot, the ‘purity law’ that defines German beer. It’s a bright, bottom-fermented, 0.05% ABV golden beer with 5.1g carbs and 0.5g protein. Its nose is honey, gingerbread, ripe grains, and bitter-sweet herbs.
It makes sense for New York to be a craft brewing capital. ‘I’m from New York’ implies cosmopolitan aesthetics and artisanal tastes. But New York is also part of Nova Belgica (New Netherland), an informal hub of hops plantations and breweries set up by Dutch colonists. They started this business back in the 1600s because the weather was suitable and similar.
Brooklyn Breweries is from the newer crop though – revived in 1984 after a historic start in 1884. Their goal was to ‘bring brewing back to Brooklyn’. The brand’s 2020 SFX Series includes an IPA (bright fruity citrus) and a lager (peeled grapefruit zest). Both have high hops and ABVs below 0.5%. Garett Oliver is their award-winning resident brewmaster.
Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it – it’s harsher on your tongue than your palate. This hefe is impressive. And considering Germany is the home of Oktoberfest, you may doubt their non-alcoholic options. Look at it this way – they know beer better than anyone, so they’re your best bet for retaining the flavor while straining out the alcohol. (It’s 0.5%)
Plus, this brewery has been around since 1040AD with roots traced back to 725 AD. So it’s ‘the world’s oldest brewery’. This beer has an IBU of 14 and just 75 calories in every half-liter (roughly 17 fluid oz.). The beer has several brewing awards (gold, silver, and two bronze since 2014). It has a banana nose and its tasting notes include lemon, hey, and cloves.
Big Drop is a brewery based in Chicago and celebrated globally. Their award-winning line of non-alcoholic beers includes Galactic Extra Dark Stout, Pine Trail Pale Ale, and Paradiso IPA. Let’s talk about the pale ale. Like its siblings, it has an ABV under 0.5%. We consider it the best non-alcoholic beer in the Pale Ale class, and the World Beer Awards agreed. Twice!
The beer has a rosy nose and a milky base, which isn’t unusual in artisanal pale ales. Pine Trail is brewed with barley, wheat, hops (Mosaic, Magnum, Amarillo), and yeast. It has 78 calories but unlike other non-alcoholic beers, it does have fat (0.7g) in addition to protein (1.4g). It’s a tad heavy on the carbs (16.5g) with a citrusy lime finish inside that bold blue can.
6. Nanny State
Prohibition may have kept people on the wagon … but it drove way more people to moonshine and bootleg profiteering. Luckily, you can now enjoy safely brewed non-boozy beer without feeling like a wuss. The cheekily named Nanny State has an ABV below 0.5% (it’s listed as 0.48%) and an IBU of 45. It’s a heady, well-balanced mix with 8 malts and 5 hops.
The hops used here are Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, Columbus, and Centennial. They’re dry-hopped into the brew which has a minuscule calorie count of 21 per can. The malts mashed into this beer are (both light and), Dark Crystal, Chocolate, Rye, Munich, Caramalt, Wheat, and Amber. It has a decent head and its nose has hints of caramel, molasses, and orange.
7. Enough Said
In many parts of America (and the world), booze is legal but weed is not. So when you’re looking for no-alcohol beers, you may need to check it’s not substituted with other … party favors. This here is the perfect example. It’s a cannabinier (cannabis-infused-beer) with an ABV of 0.5%, 70 calories, and 5mg of THC. You will get munchies though, so heads-up.
Two Roots uses nano-emulsion technology so you’ll lose the high within 90 minutes of finishing your beer. (Blood and pee tests may show otherwise.) This micro-dosing beer is brewed in Helles style so it’s yellow with a thin head. It has a sweet, grassy aroma and a dry finish thanks to its Hallertau hops and Pilsner malt. And yes, there’s a weed-free version.
You may be averse to alcohol but you still want a beer with a kick. So if the sticky sweetness of root beer isn’t for you, reach for the ginger. This Aussie drink is mostly used as a mixer but you can drink it solo (and buy it on Amazon). It’s a truly global brew bottled in Australia with African ginger varieties from Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Kochi. It has no hops or gluten.
This beer has no preservatives or added flavors – just ginger. So it’s truly a zero-booze beer. This ginger is good for indigestion and inflammation so consider sipping this as a smarter alternative to hair of the dog. The Kochi ginger gives the beer a lemongrass aroma with 9.2g carbs (7.9g from sugar) and 37 calories for every 100ml. It’s a warming beer, inside and out.
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø taught math and physics before redirecting his skills into home brewing. He started in his Copenhagen kitchen and now the Danish brewer has a large-scale export unit. He also has a San Diego branch in Little Italy (and lots of other countries), so his beers are easy to find. His non-alcoholic treasure has both summer and winter modes.
For hot and humid days, try Drink’in the Sun. And for wintry weather, opt for Drink’in the Snow. The ‘duality’ might be because he’s a twin (his brother Jeppe owns a beer shop). ‘Sun’ is a wheat-based brew brewed ‘in the American style’. It has an ABV of 0.3%. ‘Snow’ is a darker beer with winter-warming seasonal spices. They closed the New York branch in 2020.
10. Heineken Zero
Some dismiss Heineken, claiming it tastes like water. But if you enjoy this Dutch beer’s intrinsic taste, you could check out its non-alcoholic beer. It boasts the full flavor of the original Heineken minus the booze. The process begins with the standard Heineken – in-house A-yeast, hops extract, and barley malt. At that point, it has 5.1% ABV and 142 calories.
The booze is then removed by evaporating the brew over a vacuum. This cuts the calorie count down to 69 and the beer profile to 0.0% ABV. The head is thick and the scent is ‘just like real Heineken’. The taste mimics boozy beer as well, but it fades much faster. Its ultra-light mouth-feel makes the finish ‘disappear’ too soon so you’ll drink a lot more of it.
11. Coors Edge
As you introduce your boys (and girls) to game night – whether you’re into pucks or hoops r tailgates – they may feel a little left out. They’ll easily keep score and dig into the chips and dip. But if you want your minors to truly bond, share a can of Coors Edge. Its ABV is under 0.5% and it’s clearly labeled ‘non-alcoholic’ so they can’t ‘accidentally’ grab the wrong one.
Coors Edge has 41 calories, 1g of protein, and 8g of carbs. Ingredients include malt barley, barley extract, maltose corn syrup, hops, and hop extract. By combining whole fermentables with extracts, the flavor of the beer is intensified. But before you serve this to your teens, check in with the other adults in their lives. You don’t want them calling 1-800-CPS …
12. Imperial Kvass
Estonia has been in the news lately. Thanks to Latif Nasser, we now know it’s the world’s first fully digitized nation. So they could probably find a way to get the beer to you – if you ask Alexa nicely. Imperial Kvass is a dark non-alcoholic stout with an ABV of 0.5%. It’s high in carbs (8.8g including 8.2g sugar) but low in protein (0.25g). It has no fat or fiber.
Their secret ingredient is proprietary kvass concentrate, a fermentation mixture based on wheat. The beer also has rye, barley, yeast, and a syrupy mix of glucose and fructose. The beer has a thick ‘sparkly’ head and is suitably fizzy. It’s a traditional brew so you may have to acquire the taste. Nose notes are bready and with background hints of herbs and flowers.
13. Cobra Zero
If you’re an army brat or enjoy military shows, you probably think of cobras as elite seals. If you’re more eat-pray-love (meditation and crystal chakras), you might associate the great serpent with snake charmers and belly-dancing. But the cobra we’re talking about here is a non-alcoholic brew from the UK. It has the same smooth profile as its boozy elder sibling.
The brewery uses 13 tonnes of malt per batch for all its Cobras, boozy or virgin. This pale gold beer is almost blonde and its fizziness gives it an extremely light mouth-feel. The beer has a sweet, malty nose with a zesty finish and a lingering aftertaste. They lock out the booze by ‘freezing fermentation’ before the alcohol accumulates. It stops almost immediately.
14. Surreal Kolsch
We’re heading to the West Coast for this next one. The brewery is based in California and is owned by a teetotaling couple, Donna and Tammer. They’ve only been in the craft brewing scene for a few years, but they already have several awards for their near-beers. The Kolsch has two gold medals from 2019. This gluten-reduced beer only has 17 calories per can.
It has zero sugars or fats and just 2.8g of carbs. But it’s not too bitter since the beer is sweetened with honeydew melon, retaining that fruity vinous quality kolsches are known for. It’s surreal that you can draw so much enjoyment from a beer that’s good for you – no beer gut and no hangovers! This nature-loving brew only uses organic and non-GMO ingredients.
We’ll close with another California favorite. It beautifully mimics Guinness in its smoothness and flavor profile. And the dark, stylish can hints at the pitch-black goodness inside. The beer has an ABV of 0.5% and won silver in 2019. (Their Bravus Bourbon won the bronze.) It’s a sweet, malty drink flavored with mild oats, 100calories, and a satisfying nutty flavor.
Bravus was the first American brewery dedicated to non-alcoholic beer. This one has notes of chocolate, caramel, cocoa, and roasted coffee. The beer has a smoky quality and its gluten levels are reduced to well under 10ppm. They won’t share their reduction secrets but their beer makes a great winter warmer when you want all the fun and none of the consequences.
What’s your best alcohol-free beer? If it’s not on our list, reach out in the comments. Tell us what you love about it and we just might add it to the list!