This week we reported on how big brewers are increasingly focusing on the nonalcoholic segment as they pursue new audiences and seek to compensate for a core market with mediocre growth. But how good are the new breed of nonalcoholic beers? To find out, S&P Global Market Intelligence corralled a group of five not-so-reluctant reporters and editors and conducted a taste-off.
The competing beers: Heineken regular versus Heineken 0.0; Birra Moretti regular versus Moretti Zero; Adnams' Ghost Ship pale ale versus the low-alcohol version; Erdinger wheat beer versus the alcohol-free style; and Guinness regular versus Big Drop Brewing Co.'s 0.5% milk chocolate stout.
The alcoholic beers were easy to identify, thanks to the distinctive "burn" as they coursed down the throat. But the panel also discovered that several of the nonalcoholic tipples possessed plenty of flavor and body and could be just as easily knocked back for a satisfying beery taste.
The Heineken 0.0 was as harmless and bland as regular Heineken, but with a sweeter aftertaste. Not a big hit. The other lager, Moretti Zero, won more points for its malty flavor and balance. "For different occasions, I'd happily drink either of them," said one taster, reaching for the alcoholic version.
The regular Ghost Ship, with 4.5% ABV, is a fruity citrus-flavored pale ale. The alternative version is also a fruity citrus-flavored pale ale — with only 0.5% alcohol. In our tasting panel, this near-beer won the most plaudits, thanks to its floral, peppery flavor.
The Erdinger alcohol-free wheat beer had an anemic finish, while the 0.5% Big Drop chocolate milk stout — which took the silver medal at the 2017 World Beer Awards — stopped everyone in their tracks. Said one taster about the milk stout: "It's like tasting that last sip of coffee which has cooled and lies at the bottom of your cup. I couldn't get through a bottle of that."
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Consumer Edge is a weekly collection of critical developments across the automotive; retail; and food, beverage, and tobacco industries that draws on exclusive analysis and value-added content from the Consumer News team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.