Sober City’s – Best Non-Alcoholic Grocery Stores Beers

The sober-curious wave has been gaining momentum over the last few years and more and more people are reaching for non-alcoholic options at dinners, nights out, and BBQs with friends and family.  So, we at Sober City thought you wanted to see what was available at the local grocery stores and put them through the taste test just in time for summer gathering once we are able to get together with friends and family again.

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Non-alcoholic beer has come a long way and most of the big beer brands are coming up with their own no/low alcohol products, a lot of which are actually delicious.  Yummy AND no hangover? Yes please!  Not to mention the negative effects that booze can have on our bodies for both young and old alike and for some people, problematic alcohol use can creep up if they aren’t paying attention.  So, this could be a great alternative for your next get together.

We’ve all seen the occasional 0% beer for sale at the grocery store, but Sober City was curious exactly how many options there were and if they were any good.  Would you believe there are over 20 near-beer options between Walmart, Costco, Sobeys, Shoppers Drug Mart, Pete’s Frootique, and Superstore?  There are non-alcoholic pilsners, blondes, reds, radlers, IPAs, and much more!  

So, with over 20 varieties to taste, it only made sense to throw a blind taste test event and invite 6 beer lovers to score and give their honest opinions on what Halifax’s grocery stores had to offer customers looking for great beer taste without the alcohol.

 

The Blind Taste Test

For this taste test, it only made sense to select 20 non-alcoholic beers that all fell more or less within the same taste range, so radlers, stouts, IPAs, and reds weren’t included.  Six people were selected to taste all samples throughout 3 rounds where each round had 6-8 beers with similar characteristics.  The tasters sipped each beer thoughtfully, wrote down their opinions on scorecards, and ranked each option from their favourite to least favourite.  Once all 20 beers were sampled, the numbers were tallied, and the top 2 favourite beers from each round were then brought to the finals.  In the final round, each taster judged each of the top 6 beers again and scored each one to determine the overall winners.

With all the details worked out, the score cards printed, it was time for tasting!

As for the results on which non-alcoholic beers do we suggest you purchase on your next trip to the grocery store based on our tastebuds?  Check out what we had to say about each near beer, starting with our least favorite from the blind tasting.

 

The Tale of the Taste 

Hoegaarden Non-Alcoholic Wheat Beer – 20th

$1.67 per 330mL can

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, barley, malt, wheat, sugar syrup, citric acid, coriander seeds, orange peel, hops

Either you’ll love or you’ll hate this beer, and for us, we mostly hated it.  One taster loved it though and said it was creamy, full, spicy, soapy, floral.  Most comments were pure hatred though and people were shocked by the taste of coriander and orange.  We thought it was too sweet and floral tasting and the smell was strong.  One judge said it reminded them of a fluoride treatment at the dentist and another simply called it a silly beer.

 

Grolsch 0.0% – 19th

$1.75 per 500mL can

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, natural aromas. Contains: barley

This had pretty low scores all around, but one taster (only one) scored it high.  They said it had a slightly sweet and woody aroma, medium body, balanced, spicy and woody and gave it an A for complexity, drinkability, and believability.  But the majority of the comments were negative, such as “pretty watery but slightly bitter” and “It’s not pleasant” to “Hate it, would not drink.”  One taster said you’d like this beer if you liked ‘Thrills’ gum as it tasted like soap.

 

Coors Edge Non-Alcoholic – 18th

$1.33 per 355mL can

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: beer, natural flavours. Contains: barley

This is another non-alcoholic beer brand you’ll see all over grocery stores, so you’d think it was good, right?  Nah, we didn’t think so.  It had a fruity nose, was sweet and malty, but had low carbonation and the lack of alcohol was apparent.  One taster commented “I would never drink this under any circumstances.

 

Hill Street Lager – 17th

$2.99 per 473mL can

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malted barley, yeast, phosphoric acid, hops. Contains: barley gluten

This was the winner for the most expensive NA beer of the bunch however, in its case you don’t get what you pay for.  With scores like these from our blind taste test, we hardly saw this as worth it.  This had a mushroomy aroma, was hoppy, malty, fruity, spicy, and rich.  There was a lingering aftertaste, but it wasn’t that great.  One taster said it tastes like it was “fresh out of the brewery tank” and that it “made an impression but maybe a little unfinished.”

 

Partake Blonde – 16th

$1.50 per 355mL can

0.3% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, barley, hops, yeast. Contains: barley

Spoiler Alert, we loved Partake’s Pale much more than their Blonde.  We felt there was nothing flavourful or beer-like with this choice and one taster said it was “trying too hard to be craft and not hitting at all.” Not everyone disliked it though, as one judge said “Intense honey taste on attack with toasty and woody notes.  Interesting, but not beery enough.

 

O’Doul’s Premium (Original) – 15th

$1.17 per 355mL can

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: beer (contains barley), fructose, phosphoric acid

Tasters weren’t that impressed with this popular non-alcoholic brand which was surprising.  Sure, it was a medium-bodied, woody, faintly sweet beer but there was no nose at all and tasted more citrus than beer.  There was no discernable odor, had a weird taste, and was flat/unstructured.

 

Heineken Premium Malt Lager Alcohol Free – 14th

$1.83 per 330mL bottle

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malted barley, hop extract, natural flavours. Contains: barley

It’s not clear what Heineken uses for ‘natural flavours’ but our tasters weren’t loving them.  It was a little sweet but easy to drink and was wheaty like a witbier.  One taster, “said it had a lemon cleaner taste which was off-putting,” and another taster said, “not a huge fan but would drink one if offered.”

 

Krombacher Pils Alkoholfrei – 13th

$1.67 per 330mL bottle

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, barley malt, carbon dioxide produced by fermentation, hops, hop extract

Pretty average beer in both price and ranking.  Distinctly sweet, malty smell that some felt was too sweet.  One taster noticed that this NA Beer has a tomato taste, another commented “throw-up-ish,” and another said it “tastes like pennies.”

 

Compliments Blonde Lager – 12th

$0.83 per 355mL can

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malted barley, sugars (glucose-fructose, malted barley extract), yeast, phosphoric acid, caramel colour, hops, hop extract

This second least expensive option has the longest ingredient list and some pretty “meh” scores.  There was an earthy, spicy smell but not much taste.  People saw this as approachable and crushable but not memorable.  One taster said “amazingly, even closer to water than President’s Choice Blonde.”

 

Clausthaler Original Non-Alcoholic – 11th

$1.99 per 500mL can

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, barley malt, hop extract, fermentation carbon dioxide

Two tasters ranked this as their favourite in the first round but that wasn’t enough to bring it to the finals.  It tasted good, was a little bitter, and was a good all-around beer.  Some on the tasting panel said they’d drink one or two, however one taster said, “it reminded them of wax with a crayon smell/aftertaste.

 

Neal Bro’s Lager – 10th

$2.50 per 355mL can

0.45% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, invert Sugar, citric acid

Some people loved this one and others hated it, but most just said it was okay.  You’d think a beer at this price tag would have more clearly defined, positive reviews, but unfortunately not.  It had low carbonation, a mild odor of faint grain, and was somewhat creamy and malty.  I can assure you, each beer was opened on the spot and poured directly into the tasters’ cups but a few commented that it tasted like it had been sitting out.

 

Budweiser Prohibition Brew – 9th

$1.75 per 355mL can

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: de-alcoholized beer, malt extract, hop extract and natural flavour

This beer was included in the event even though it was discontinued in 2020 because we were curious how it stood up to its replacement- Bud Zero.  According to our judges, the fine people over at Budweiser made the right decisions as this brew wasn’t near as delicious as Zero.  There wasn’t much of a smell or taste and was a little flat on the finish.  One taster said, “this has a slightly sour taste and sweet floral finish- it grew on me.

 

President’s Choice Blonde Brew De-Alcoholized Lager – 8th

$0.62 per 355mL can

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malted barley, corn syrup, yeast, hops, caramel colour, hop extract, sulphites

This was the least expensive option of the 20 we sampled, and most tasters liked it fine.  But it’s boring, “I guess I’d drink it if I had to,” said one taster.  A fan of this beer said “Smooth ‘n easy.  Makes me want to go camping.”  We thought it was like it was trying to be bold, but it couldn’t quite make it.  It’s also the only beer that contained corn syrup.

 

Molson Exel Lager – 7th

$0.83 per 355mL can

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: beer, water, phosphoric acid, caramel, hop extract. Contains: barley

This is a decent option and is almost always in stock at Sobeys.  Its scores were middle-of-the-road and at 83 cents per can, ya really can’t complain.  It has a subtle malt aroma, medium-body, and is refreshing.  One taster said, “I’d drink it if offered but maybe just one or two.”

 

Erdinger Alkoholfrei – 6th

$1.75 per 330mL bottle

0.4% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, wheat malt, barley malt, hops, yeast, carbon dioxide

Erdinger is usually the non-alcoholic choice at bars and restaurants that sell NA beer so naturally, we figured this would score high.  While it did make it to the finals, it didn’t get the best reviews.  “I like it, but it has a weird aftertaste and gets worse the more you drink it” said one taster, while another articulated, “what is that weird taste, was that tomato!”  This choice has a malty head and a malty taste but was hollow and flat tasting.  But there were some positive comments around the fresh, slightly fruity aroma.  It was decent!

 

Partake Pale – 5th

$1.50 per 355mL can

0.3% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, barley, hops, yeast. Contains: barley

Most judges loved this beer in the first round, but in the finals, came in 5th place.  We loved the citrusy aroma, the freshness, and the slight bitterness.  It had a dark, inviting colour and one judge said, “tastes like non-alcoholic but it’s like there’s pride in that.”  Good job Partake!

 

Labatt Blue 0.5% – 4th

$1.50 per 341mL bottle

0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: de-alcoholized beer (contains barley), fructose, hop extract, caramel colour, phosphoric acid

Our judges didn’t love or hate this beer.  It’s a good choice but there are definitely tastier options on the market.  Most tasters said it reminded them of a light beer, but it lacked character.  It was almost scentless, subtly hoppy, slightly fruity finish, and pretty watery.  For $1.50 per bottle, it’s a decent choice but you won’t be blown away.

 

Weihenstephaner Heffeweisen – 3rd

$2.33 per 330mL bottle

Less than 0.5% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, wheat malt, barley malt, hops, yeast 

There was a tie between this and Labatt Blue 0.5% but this choice had the most amount of tasters scoring it as their favourite, gets it into the top 3.  It is also one of the priciest brews, coming in at $2.33 per bottle.  This choice had a strong, spicy smell, fruity taste, but a slightly weak finish.  Two tasters could tell immediately it was a ‘witbier’ and another commented that it was “a little heavy but could drink a bunch in a row.”

 

Bud Zero – 2nd

$1.92 per 355mL can

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: de-alcoholized beer and natural flavour

This NA beer was the winner for its round and came in second in the finals.  Every taster really enjoyed the fruity, fresh, medium-bodied brew that had a nice light aftertaste.  It had a bit of a bitter backdrop which gave it more structure.  One taster ranked this as their favourite in the first round but scored it lower during the finals when it was up against the others and commented it tasted more like “a sweet fizzy drink than a proper beer… Syrupy?”

 

Beck’s Non-Alcoholic – 1st

$1.67 per 330mL bottle

0.0% alc./vol.

Ingredients: water, malt, hops

The winner! All judges scored this high, and it won first place in the finals.  Even though this event was blind, a few tasters commented they could tell it was Becks right away due to the “fantastic Euro taste and refreshing full body and effervescent crisp,” which says a lot about the brand and their commitment to offer a drinkable non-alcohol beer.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are newly sober or have the desire to cut back on the amount of booze you consume, these non-alcoholic beers can be a great choice for many people.  But it is important to remember that even though there is no (or barely any) alcohol in these drinks that doesn’t mean it can’t have a powerful effect on your mind.  The slight smell and or taste of near beer can trigger you to want to drink the “real” thing.  So, if you’re serious about quitting drinking or cutting back, this can make things harder on yourself.  For most consumers though, non-alcoholic beer is a fantastic choice to add to your mix of drinks.  Your liver will thank you, your wallet will rejoice, and your tastebuds will be pleasantly surprised, especially if you go for any of the top 3 from this blind taste test.

If you want more details about this blind taste testing event or to learn more sobriety head over to Sober City for the full deep dive.

 

by Lee-Anne Richardson