Non-Alcoholic Beer Taste Test
Cheapism

Taste Test: 15 Non-Alcoholic Beers to Get You Through 'Dry January'

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Non-Alcoholic Beer Taste Test
Cheapism

Brews Without Booze

After eating, drinking, and partying from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, is it any wonder that the average American puts on a few pounds during the holiday season? Maybe you've decided to observe "Dry January" and give your body a chance to recover from all that excess. Or perhaps you don't drink alcohol at all, yet you enjoy the taste of a fine malt beverage. Believe it or not, the tiny sliver of a market for non-alcoholic beer in the U.S. is growing: Coors just introduced a new brew in November, and even craft brewers are getting in on the act. Cheapism rounded up a sampling of 15 non-alcoholic beers — all of which contain 0.5% or less alcohol by volume (ABV) — from grocery and liquor stores in Austin, Texas, and tasted them to see how they compare to a bottle of Budweiser, which for the record has 145 calories and contains 5% ABV. Cheers!

Related: Don't Believe These 19 Myths About Alcohol

Coors Edge
Amazon

Coors Edge

Calories: 48 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Piney, almost citrusy hop notes followed by banana-like hints of malt on the tongue with a toasty-sweet aftertaste. A good choice if you're looking for maximum flavor with a minimum of calories.

Kaliber Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage
Total Wine

Kaliber Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage

Calories: 66 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Amber ale-like in appearance with a cloying, malty nose and whiffs of molasses. Bitter hops give way to a syrupy-sweet malty base that our tasters found overpowering, something that (thankfully) doesn't linger for long on the palate.

Athletic Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA
Total Wine

Athletic Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA

Calories: 70 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Slightly cloudy, golden appearance. Hints of toasty malt on the nose. Pronounced bite of hops on the tongue with a piney, lemony finish that lingers pleasantly. Tastes more like a pale ale in our opinion; quite drinkable and won't hit you over the head like a boozy IPA can.

St. Pauli Girl NA
Walmart

St. Pauli Girl N.A.

Calories: 88 | ABV: 0.15%
Tasting Notes: Traditional golden yellow complexion with a pronounced aroma of skunky hops. Toasty and hoppy on the tongue with spicy, nutty malt notes and a syrupy finish that lingers. Notably sweeter than most of the other brews we sampled.

O'Doul's
Walmart

O'Doul's

Calories: 65 | ABV: 0.4%
Tasting Notes: A slightly paler version of Budweiser in appearance with subdued effervescence. Fairly balanced mix of hops and malt, with a slightly bitter, hoppy finish. Reminiscent of a lighter, less citrusy version of Bud.

Weihenstephaner Non-Alcoholic
Weihenstephaner

Weihenstephaner Non-Alcoholic

Calories: 80 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Slightly cloudy, golden appearance. Funky hints of nutmeg on the nose with citrus-dominant hops and a honeyed malty finish. Less depth of flavor than the other German pilsner-style brews we sampled.

Surreal Brewing Co. 17 Mile Porter
Total Wine

Surreal Brewing Co. 17 Mile Porter

Calories: 50 | ABV: 0.4%
Tasting Notes: More like a cola or brown ale than a porter in appearance and color density. Lots of cocoa and cola on the nose. Chocolatey malty spice on the tongue that could pass as a light porter marred only by a burnt coffee aftertaste that creeps up on you.

Sharp's
Total Wine

Sharp's

Calories: 58 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Notably lighter in color than other American near-beers we sampled. Hints of mild hops and slightly roasted malt on the palate with a surprisingly bitter citrusy finish for an otherwise bland brew.

Beck's Non-Alcoholic
Target

Beck's Non-Alcoholic

Calories: 57 | ABV: 0.05%
Tasting Notes: Powerful, almost cloying malt aroma on the nose. Strong bite of skunky hops, followed by slightly sweet undertones. Less pronounced than the other German and Dutch brews in our comparison, but a good compromise between flavor and super-low alcohol content.

Bravus Non-Alcoholic Amber Ale
Total Wine

Bravus Non-Alcoholic Amber Ale

Calories: 107 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Appealingly cloudy, ruddy ale-like complexion. Powerful whiff of molasses on the nose, followed by hoppy snap. Date-like hints on the tongue with syrupy, malty undertones and a funky finish that our tasters didn't care for. If you love a slightly sweet, dank brew, this one's for you.

Clausthaler Original Non-Alcoholic
Clausthaler

Clausthaler Original Non-Alcoholic

Calories: 92 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: A fresh, hoppy nose that smells almost pleasant compared to the other brews in our sample. Pronounced hops with a rounded malt body and a hint of honeyed sweetness. Less skunky that other German and Dutch brews. The hoppy finish lingers pleasantly on the palate.

Busch NA
Walmart

Busch NA

Calories: 60 | ABV: 0.4%
Tasting Notes: Skunky, funky, hoppy nose. Yeasty, wheaty notes on the tongue with an effervescent, dry finish. If you had to describe an American pilsner with a traditional "light beer" taste, this would be it.

Partake Brewing Pale
Total Wine

Partake Brewing Pale

Calories: 10 | ABV: 0.3%
Tasting Notes: Cloudy amber appearance with a musky, floral aroma reminiscent of kombucha. Initially clean, hoppy bite is quickly overwhelmed by a creeping, burned butterscotch-like malt base. The unpleasant skunky, musky aftertaste lingered too long for our liking. But hey, just 10 calories in this Canadian brew!

Buckler Non-Alcoholic Brew
Total Wine

Buckler Non-Alcoholic Brew

Calories: 99 | ABV: 0.4%
Tasting Notes: Clear, rich golden color with whiffs of malt on the nose. Toasty, slightly sweet on the tongue with balanced undertones of honey and nutty grain and a moderately clean finish. Could pass for a German lager if you don't look at the label.

Texas Select Non-Alcoholic Brew
Texas Select Beverage Company/Facebook

Texas Select Non-Alcoholic Brew

Calories: 58 | ABV: >0.5%
Tasting Notes: Pale yellow in appearance with delicate carbonation. Hints of molasses and malt on the nose, followed by vaguely citrusy hops with notes of toasted bread. The most watery-tasting of the brews we sampled, just like the cheap light beer dad used to drink in the summertime.

Beer Taste Test Winner
Cheapism

Our Favorite: Athletic Brewing Company’s Run Wild IPA

Compared to Budweiser, none of the non-alcoholic beers we sampled had quite the same depth or richness of flavor. But much to our surprise, we did discover a couple brews that were tasty enough to satisfy our team of (temporarily dry) beer aficionados. Athletic Brewing Company's Run Wild IPA was our clear favorite: You could mistake it for the real thing if you didn't look too closely at the label, and our tasters found it refreshingly similar in flavor to a decent craft ale.

Runners-Up
If you're fond of hoppy German and Dutch pilsners, Buckler or St. Pauli N.A. are worth trying. And for fans of good old American yellow beers like Budweiser, O'Doul's and Coors Edge are all-day drinkable. The only brews we'd probably leave on the shelf are the Bravus Amber Ale and the Partake Pale Ale — both of which our tasters disliked outright — but may be worth trying if you're a fan of non-traditional beers.