Near Beer: Part 1

Perhaps the most unspeakable adulteration of beer is the complete, or near-complete, removal of alcohol to make those sad, non-alcoholic shadows-of-their-former-selves near beers that men drink during sympathetic pregnancies, women drink during actual pregnancies, people drink when they have some bad genetics that make them incompatible with alcohol, or for a myriad of other reasons.

But I’ll admit it: I take a vacation from booze every once in a while and these charlatans lull me into a sweet sense of comfort that feels like a beery staycation.

It’s more than a little ironic that the first place I ever bought de-alcoholized beer was at the Whitehorse liquor store.

Since that first foray, I have spotted near beers in many grocery stores, with the expected beige-grey patina of dust. But if they can make it taste delicious, I will purchase it.

If you choose wisely, your near beer should approximate beer and the hop presence should trick your brain into thinking you’re not just drinking something that’s 99 percent.

And, at anywhere between 50-80 calories per bottle of non-alcoholized, your beer belly might just melt away. Plus, you can easily operate heavy machinery while “under the influence” of it.

Since nobody asked for it, here it is… my assessment of near beers purchased near you:

Blonde Brew (Loblaws Inc.)

Aroma: Very sulfury, slight smell of cat urine, dull sweetness and almost imperceptible hop aroma.

Flavour: Watery, slightly viscous with low hop bitterness. Cardboardy flatness with mild sweetness. Very unsatisfying.

Verdict: Fail

Molson Exel (Molson Coors)

Aroma: Worty (unfermented beer) sweetness with some grainy notes and faint smell of barnyard straw and green tea.

Flavour: Gaggingly sweet and unpleasant to drink with dank straw notes and almost non-existent bittering hops.

Verdict: Fail.

O’Doul’s (Labatt Brewing Co., owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Aroma: Sweet, sightly corny and vegetative aroma with some European hop aroma.

Flavour: Tastes watery with slight sweetness and low bitterness.

Verdict: Not recommended.

Clausthauler (Bindig-Brauerei AG, Germany)

Aroma: Grainy, sweet toasted malt, European hop aroma.

Flavour: Sweet malty flavour with some chalk candy notes; subtle bittering hops. Tasty, but very sweet.

Verdict: Recommended only for malt lovers, i.e., people who like sweeter, rather than bitter beers.

Beck’s (Brauerei Beck GmbH & Co KG, Germany, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Aroma: Pleasant, slightly sweet malt aroma and moderate European aroma hops.

Flavour: Good viscous mouth feel. Assertive bitterness dominates the flavour with low malt levels. Lingering bitter and minerally finish.

Verdict: Highly recommended for hop lovers.

Holsten (Brasserie Kronenbourg, France)

Aroma: Moderate European hop aroma; very little sweetness in aroma, smells minerally.

Flavour: Very dry. Low malt flavour. Hop bitterness dominates. Slightly watery.

Verdict: Recommended… if Beck’s is unavailable.

The North American beers are clearly losers in this line-up. While the European beers have natural beer ingredients like malt, hops and yeast, our continent`s offerings are full of stuff you just shouldn’t find in beer.

The Blonde Brew contains corn syrup, caramel colour and sulphites. The complete ingredient list for O’Doul’s is beer, fructose and phosphoric acid. Just nasty.

Luckily, I was able to buy the O’Doul’s and Molson Excel as singles. But what am I going to do with a 12-pack of Blonde Brew? Sure, the unicorn on the side of the case is kind of fun.

I mean, who doesn’t like unicorns?

Maybe I can persuade Superstore to give me a refund.

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