The best alcohol-free beers from Bristol BreweriesPosted on: 13 Jan 2023
Bristol boasts a wide selection of independent breweries who, more and more, are producing high-quality 0% and 0.5% beers.
As it’s Dry January for many people, we thought we’d try some of these options, so, we’ve rated all the canned non-alcoholic beers from Bristol Beer Factory, Arbor, Good Chemistry, Wiper and True and Newtown Park.
Patrick and Stan from the 365 team have spent their afternoon testing this lovely selection of alcohol-free beverages and have rated them out of 10 for beer name (extra points for a pun), flavour and similarity to alcoholic beer. Enjoy…
Clear Head (pale ale) | Bristol Beer Factory
PATRICK: “I’ve always been a bit down on Bristol’s veteran alcohol-free – when I first tried it, I didn’t like it much, and since I’ve maintained that it’s alright, but there are better ones. That said, it quite surprised me this time around. It has a nice gentle, fruity nose and a good golden colour. It essentially just tastes like a classic hoppy, citrussy IPA. That’s doubly impressive when you consider most alcohol-frees tend to be a bit too malty and sweet. It’s a little bit too bitter, so I couldn’t drink too much of it, but it’s pretty refreshing.”
SIMILARITY TO ALCOHOLIC BEER: 8/10
STAN: “This was the only inclusion on the list that I’d had before which may have corrupted the results of the taste test somewhat. The 0.5% beer’s aroma has a slight citrussy quality, a good sign in my book, and the drink itself does hold some of the qualities of a pale ale, if somewhat uninspiring. The flavour is reassuringly hoppy despite a slightly watered-down, salty taste. Overall, it was not an unpleasant drink that I could definitely settle in and sip on in front of the TV.”
SIMILARITY TO ALCOHOLIC BEER: 7/10
Wish You Were Beer (pale ale) | Arbor
PATRICK: “Arbor have some great beers – but I don’t think this is one of them. It has a very sweet nose, with notes of vanilla. It’s almost inviting, but a bit too sickly. It’s oddly sweet for a pale, with what I can only describe as a very slightly rotten undertone. It’s got some depth of flavour, but all the flavours seem to languish at the back of your mouth for some reason. I will say, for its faults, it’s at least doing something different than other alc-free beers. It doesn’t remind me too much of any beer – in fact, the thing it reminds me most of is a cream soda. Fun fact about me: I really don’t like cream soda.”
STAN: “I’m a big fan of Arbor but my first impression of their effort at a non-alcoholic IPA was a rather sickly, vinegary scent. Unfortunately, my opinion was not radically changed by the drink’s taste, or lack thereof. Without much flavour at all, Wish You Were Beer gave the impression of a watered-down soft drink, definitely not hoppy as it was advertised on the can. However, this should be caveated with the excellent pun in the beer’s name.”
Zero Gravity (pale ale) | Good Chemistry
PATRICK: “Zero Gravity is a new beer for 2023 for Good Chemistry – a distinguished brewery, as I see it, never really missing on their beers. The smell here is fruity, but a tad rotten in the same way the flavour of the Arbor was. The flavour is pretty unexpected. On the first sip, I wasn’t into it, but after opening my mind and trying a few more, I found that it had a toasty, buttery popcorn kind of taste that I didn’t hate. Those flavours might make it quite a nice beer for winter, although it does mean it’s a bit of an acquired taste, and not particularly refreshing. It also doesn’t really land as pale for me, feeling more like a darker ale – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it loses a few points of similarity for not tasting like it's named ale.”
STAN: “I had high expectations of this beer, having heard good things since its recent launch. The aroma of Zero Gravity was not the most appealing on this list, however, when I tasted the beer, I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps the cloudiest of the pale ales, I thoroughly enjoyed the maltiness and earthy quality of the drink as this is something I tend to appreciate in an ale. One fault that does bring down Good Chemistry’s score is the lack of hoppy flavour, but I do feel like this is a beer that grows on you.”
FLAVOUR: 6 /10
Tomorrow (lager) | Wiper and True
PATRICK: “This is the other new kid on the block – and one that I’ve seen a lot of buzz about. When I went to pick the beers up for this article, the bloke who sold them to me (thanks, Beercosm) mentioned they’d been flying off the shelves. Perhaps it’s conformation bias but I tend to agree. It has a crazy, powerfully fruity complex nose, that gives way to a lovely, simple flavour. It hits the lager flavour right on the head – which is nice, considering it’s the only beer on this list trying to do lager. The taste when it first hits your tongue is brilliant and then mellows into a crafty lager taste with just a note of fruitiness to keep it interesting. Something I can’t quite put my finger on holds it back from immortal greatness though – it might be just a little too full-on for a go-to drink. Still, well worth the hype.”
STAN: “Tomorrow lager is another brand-new offering, this time from firm Bristol favourites Wiper and True. My first impression of the drink is an overpowering fruity and perfumed aroma that I would associate more with ale than lager. The taste, however, is instantly recognisable as a lager thanks to its crisp taste, something that is not always a given with a non-alcoholic beer. There are key differences though, Tomorrow is not quite as sweet or bubbly as I would expect, I think it would be better described as sparkling. Overall, I think this is probably the beverage that is truest to its description.”
Promises I Made Myself (pale ale) | Newtown Park and Lowtide’s
PATRICK: “This is a bit of a bittersweet one – and I’m not talking about flavour. Newtown Park, a really promising new brewery, have recently announced they’re stopping production, citing the cost of living issues. To make matters worse: this is a really nice alc-free beer. It’s got a lovely creamy mango smell – just like a Solero. The flavour is a bit light, and a tad on the bitter side, but has a nice tropical punch, and a sour citrusy note to wrap it up. Lands pretty squarely as an IPA too. The name is decent but gets extra points for the pathos gut-punch it delivers with the recent news.”
STAN: “This is the first of two offerings from Newtown Park (in collaboration with Lowtide), who sadly ceased production recently. The smell of this beer was possibly the fruitiest of the lot with a strong peachy aroma emitting from my glass. I was intrigued to see if the taste would match, and this proved to be the case. The drink itself was extremely sweet with a creamy quality that was reminiscent of some sort of yoghurt flavouring. There was a hopiness trying to make itself known but it was unfortunately drowned out by its sweet flavour. As a result of this, I feel like I enjoyed Promises I Made Myself as a drink, but not necessarily as an alcoholic beer alternative.”
Sky at Night (pastry stout) | Newton Park and Lowtide
PATRICK: “Another Newtown Park – the only brewery on this list with two alcohol-free options, and the only alcohol-free stout. Has an odd, sweet coffee smell – reminds me of a Vietnamese iced coffee I had once. For a pastry stout, it’s not very sweet at all in flavour – and just in general is a little thinner and fizzier than I’d like a stout to be. It’s not undrinkable though, and I could probably manage more. Actually, I’ve just had another mouthful, and it does grow on you.”
STAN: “The second Newton Park beer, Sky at Night, took us down a slightly different path to end things. This pastry stout had me intrigued as, while I hadn’t sampled a no-alcohol stout previously, I felt the flavour might hold up well. However, I was sadly disappointed. The beer’s aroma was very much reminiscent of coffee, but not in the traditional, nutty way – like a sugary cup of coffee. My first impression of the drink was that it was more carbonated and waterier than your average stout. The strong coffee-like quality carried through into the flavour and there was an off-putting earthiness. Overall, I think this was my least favourite on the list.”
Have you tried any of these non-alcoholic beers? Let us know your thoughts by contacting us HERE.
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Stan is a born and bred Bristolian, recently graduated from studying English Literature in Sheffield. His passions are music and literature and spends the majority of his time in venues all over the city immersing himself in Bristol’s alternative music scene. A lifelong Bristol City fan, Stan’s Saturday’s are spent watching his team both home and away.