Pregnancy-approved beers

by Ashley on June 6, 2011

Over dinner last week, an expectant friend and I were lamenting that we would be setting aside the pleasure of sipping beer on hot days this summer. So for the sake of summer barbecues  and pregnant women, 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 to the list, as I recall theirs being good, but not a lot of liquor stores stock more than one non-alcoholic option (shocker).

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 (in this house): horse number 4, Clausthaler!

It should do you well for barbecues and pool parties this summer, but I think fans of craft brews (or dark beers or Belgians) will be sorely disappointed. You might stick with that pitcher of mocktails.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary June 6, 2011 at 8:42 am

what a great idea! i love that i’m not the only one that thinks o’douls tastes like water! :)

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Ashley June 6, 2011 at 9:14 am

I should note that Aron’s picks ordered: Clausthaler, St. Pauli, Beck’s, Buckler, Kaliber, ODouls. Mine: Clausthaler, Beck’s, Buckler, Kaliber, St. Pauli, ODouls. Better yet, fly to somewhere like Germany where’s there’s always a good NA beer on the menu at the beer garden.

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Alli June 6, 2011 at 10:10 am

Thank you for posting this, Ashley! I am going to get a few of your top choices and do my own testing this summer.

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Ashley June 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Let me know what you discover!

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Shayna June 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

I was never a big beer drinker but started craving it during my last trimester. My beer-loving, German husband brought home Clausthaler and I find it quite tasty. He even drinks it every so often. I prefer the amber Clausthaler but it’s not easy to find. We buy it at Trader Joe’s but I haven’t seen it anywhere else. Oh, and the both types make a great Radler (Panache/Shandy?) when combined with sparkling lemonade.

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Ashley June 6, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Great suggestion! I’ll look for the amber.

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Rachael Ringenberg June 6, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Wow, thanks for doing this for us! I love it.

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Ashley June 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Tough job… :)

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gia June 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I don’t want to be the downer, but don’t these beers have a little alcohol in them, even if labeled “non-alcoholic”? Just wanted to point it out. Though I believe in alcohol being healthy within the right proportions!! :)

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Ashley June 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm

No worries–it’s actually a great point and something I should have noted. NA beers are required to have less than 0.5% alcohol, so they’re not completely alcohol-free. Of course, it’s a personal call whether you consider that negligible or not (or talk to your doctor if you’re concerned). Thanks for bringing it up, Gia!

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Al June 6, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Thanks for the info, it helps us non-drinkers to find good summer choices

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amy June 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

perfect post!

maybe it’s the warmer weather or maybe it’s roughly 30 weeks without alcohol, but i was just lamenting to my husband last night at dinner that i’ve been craving cold crispy beers SOOO much lately.

thanks for the tips! :)

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Ashley June 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Thanks, Amy! Good luck!

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ashley June 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm

thank you for this post! i miss BEER!

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Heather July 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm

FYI to gia and others worried about the alcohol content- fresh squeezed citrus fruits also contain alcohol. Depending on the age and storage of an orange, fresh squeezed oj would have similar alcohol content to an NA beer. It’s 4th of July weekend and there’s no way I’m going without a fake beer, just to join in the festivities.

Just 1- not 10. Then I might as well be drinking a regular beer :)

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Anna July 11, 2011 at 11:43 am

I love this idea!! I’m a fan of St. Pauli Girl (partially because it’s the only NA beer my corner store stocks). I also recently discovered Bitberger – they sell it at BevMo, and according to the packaging it has 0.0% alcohol, so it made me feel a little less guilty. But still tasted great!

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orin September 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I drink the Paulaner Thomasbrau (?) wherever I can find it – too bad it could not get into your contest. Also very rare in restaurants.

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Robert December 19, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I vote for Kaliber and Buckler. My NA drinking friends love Clausthaler. I didn’t care for that, I hate O’Douls. I’ve tried Becks and St. Pauli, they are just OK. I must try Paulaner Thomasbru, my men are searching that out for me know. Thanks to everyone commenting

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Velgis March 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I was searching online for non-alcoholic beer brands for a Grooms Shower at work and did not realize there were so many. But thankfully you did all the foot-work and tasting for me and now all I have to do is go get the best ranked beer you indicate on your review. Extremely helpful! Thank you so much.

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Jessica April 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

I am in my second trimester and have seriously been craving a beer. I am not into craft beers. Usually before pregnancy I enjoyed bud light or Coors light. Last night I had odouls and sharp’s and both tasted very similar to my favorite beers. They definitely hit the spot.

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Shari April 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I haven’t delved into this experiment yet, but I plan to start this weekend. A good friend of mine who has been an N.A. beer drinker for awhile prefers Bitburger Drive, so i will be on the look out for that.

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Mark May 20, 2012 at 9:01 pm

As a guy, I sort of became intrigued about near-bear because of how bad alcohol is for your system, especially when trying to loose weight. Thing is, I just grabbed a 6-pack of Clausthaler and was disappointed. Before I took my first sip, I tried to image the nastiest beer possible and even wanting to compare it to Milwaukee’s Best or Miller Lite, I was let down.

What is the deal with near-beer? What makes it so different than real beer? I guess I was thinking of this like comparing caffeinated coffee to non-caffeinated coffee, but side by side the boldness and flavor are still there, somewhat. Near-beer seems water down and weak. There isn’t the bold flavors found with a lot of the microbrews I enjoy like Yeugnling or Fat Tire.

Why is that? Does the alcohol allow the flavors in real beer to take effect more? I am really curious to know. Also, do any microbews make near-beer? I would think if I absolutely love a beer like Laffe Blonde, a non-alcoholic version of it, would be possible, right?

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PregnantBeerLover August 27, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I know this is an old post, but part of the reason NA beer is lacking in body and nose is because the volitile oils in the hops are mostly destroyed after “dealcoholing”. Also, another reason is that alcohol provides an astringent quality that absolutely affects the flavor and mouthfeel. There are more reasons but those are the big ones that stand out in my memory.

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Albert Melcher July 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I’m on a low-sodium diet and am trying to fine information on the sodium content of non-alcoholic beers. the bottles do not have information., Does anyone have information on this?

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Adrienne July 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Thanks for the info! I love beer and have been craving it now more than ever!! I’m going to add a little lime to give it a kick! My mouth is watering now!! Good stuff!!

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