In the spirit of Oktoberfests and tailgating parties, and for the sake pregnant women everywhere, Aron and I did our best to judge some commonly found non-alcoholic beers.
The contenders: Kaliber (Ireland, from the brewers of Guinness), St. Pauli (Germany), Clausthaler (Germany), Beck’s (Germany), Buckler (Holland), and O’Douls (U.S., Anheuser-Busch). We had hoped to add Paulaner Hefe-Weizen to the list, as I recall theirs being good, but not a lot of liquor stores stock more than one non-alcoholic option (shocker). However, we did find—for you locals here in Davis—that University of Beer carries non-alcoholic Erdinger Weissbier, another German Hefe-Weizen.
I did a quick Google search for some beer-tasting pointers (Head? Smell? Color? First impression? Mouthfeel? Lingering flavor?), and set up a tasting station for us. I couldn’t keep the taste-test entirely blind (someone had to pour the beers), but I used my best “pregnancy brain” to quickly forget which beer was in which glass. And that worked pretty well! Every beer but the Kaliber had the same light amber color, so all but that one seemed indistinguishable to me once we began.
With that, and with there being narry a head of foam in the bunch, we went straight to smell and starting taking notes:
Aron noted that beer #1 (which turned out to be Beck’s) was malty with light bubbles and I noted that it tasted like any generic light beer–pleasant enough for a hot day by a pool when your envious of others’ Coronas, but nothing special.
#2 (Kaliber) was a big disappointment to Aron who thought the overly sweet, wheaty beer was coasting on its affiliation with Guinness (“the only thing good about this beer is that it says Guinness on the bottle”). I found it less offensive and thought it deserved some points for being the most distinct of the bunch, with toasted coffee on the nose.
As for #3 (St. Pauli), I wasn’t a fan of its bitter aftertaste. However this should be offered with the disclaimer that I don’t care for hoppy beers. Aron remarked that this one brought him back to the Oakland Coliseum where he’d watch A’s games, and to that lingering smell of Bud Light. He enjoyed it enough and ranked it second.
#4 (Clausthaler) got high marks from both of us: the smell is slightly sweet–like honey–and the first taste is fruity, but the finish had more hops. In other words, this one actually had range!
#5 (Buckler) was, like Beck’s, pleasant enough and gave one a sense of drinking something akin to a Heineken. It was generally light with a bit of grain: non-offensive. (What a ringing endorsement, right?)
#6 (O’Doul’s), we both agreed, was the closest approximation to water (“PBR?” I asked. “No, that would be better than this.” “Natty light?” “Yep, more like it.” “Yeah, this is prime frat party drinking game material.”)
The unanimous winner (of this bunch): horse number 4, Clausthaler! (But seriously, keep your eye out for the Paulaner or the Erdinger.)
Though I think fans of craft brews (or dark beers or Belgians) will be sorely disappointed, it should do you well for barbecues and fall football games (or getting you through that first-trimester un-detected at a party).