Beer drinkers treat non-alcoholic beer the same way students treat a substitute teacher: with a lack of respect. But if you actually give them a chance, they might remind you of the real thing. Not the teacher, the beer. The substitute just wants you to keep watching that movie while she reads Us Weekly.
We stopped by one of the best beer bars in the country, Euclid Hall, and had their knowledgeable beer nerds taste six popular domestic and imported non-alcoholic beers to see if any might be worth drinking. Oh, and a real beer, too. Let's see what they found:
The non-alcoholic beers we tested were (from L to R): O'Doul's Premium, Clausthaler, Beck's N.A., Guinness Kaliber, Coors N.A. (formerly Coors Cutter), and St. Pauli N.A.
Yes, there's also a Keystone Light. Let us explain.
Judging N.A. beer like real beer
We felt the best way to get our beer experts to critique N.A. beer exactly how they would a real beer was to force them to consider that they might actually be drinking real beer, and to judge it as such. And we chose Keystone Light because it's a mass-produced beer: It's one that wouldn't stand out like, say, a craft IPA. They judged the beer on aromas, flavor, and on whether they thought it was a real beer.
We conducted a double-blind test, where a third-party poured all the beers into taster glasses out of sight from the testers. Each beer was scored by each judge on a scale from 1-10, and then all scores were averaged, which resulted in the rankings you see below. Off to the tasting!
Aromas: Molasses, malts Flavors: Pilsner-like, but no overwhelming flavors "This doesn't taste like much of anything."
Did anyone think this was the real beer? No.
Aromas: Toasted, burnt malts Flavors: Very sweet, like Apple Jacks "This tastes like honey oatmeal, or overdone toffee."