I’ve recently got into drinking non-alcoholic beers in between real beers as part of a health kick. It’s good to see that more and more bars and supermarkets are seeing a market for these beers, so the selection has certainly broadened since I last looked into it. Most of the familiar labels now have a non-alcoholic alternative. However, the process of removing alcohol can damage the flavour of beer and it’s a real challenge for the brewer to maintain an appealing distinctive flavour, so I’m going to put a few beers I like to drink head to head with their zero-% counterparts and tell you my verdict. First out of the fridge is Heineken and the fairly new 0.0 version.
While the golden amber colour is the same for both beers, the normal Heineken has a drier crisper mouthfeel than it’s zero-alcohol counterpart. I’m sure that’s down to the 5% alcohol content. The label on the distinctive green bottle tells me it has 42 kcal per 100ml, so I’m drinking the equivalent of three fingers from a 4 finger Kit-Kat. Kit-Kats are my go-to reference for calories.
Heineken 0.0 is sweeter and slightly metallic tasting, but that might just be a bi-product of it being poured from a can. The cereal undertones are there and there is some of the same hoppy aftertaste, but I have to say during the drinking I’d have been hard-pressed to identify it as Heineken if I couldn’t see the can. At 21 kcal per 100ml it not even a two-finger Kit-Kat, but I have to ask myself which would bring me more joy.
Sugars in the 0.0 version come from the barley malt. While in alcoholic beers, all malt sugars are fermented by yeast (Heineken’s ‘A-Yeast’) into alcohol, in the 0.0 version some malt sugars remain in the beer. Heineken 0.0 is known to be double-blended meaning an alcoholic beer is brewed and then watered down with a beer that has had the alcohol removed, in an attempt to keep some of the original flavour intact. The 0.0 version actually contains 0.05% alcohol but this trace amount is considerably lower than what naturally occurs in many foods apparently.
Beyond the unlisted percentages of ingredients used, the only difference in the base ingredients is the enigmatic item ‘natural flavourings’ which could be anything really and the brewers are being very cagey about it.
So in summary, Heineken 0.0 tastes different to regular Heineken, but it does have a similar malty body and some hoppy aftertaste. I’d prefer a Kit-Kat but think Heineken 0.0 tastes just as good as a lot of normal alcoholic mass-produced canned beers, for instance Fosters or American Budweiser.