Quaffers: Chris Shanahan beer reviews; and the rise in popularity of zero-alchohol beers

Chris Shanahan
Otway Brewing Prickly Moses Chainsaw Ale
Otway Brewing Prickly Moses Chainsaw Ale 

As VB (4.9 per cent alcohol) and XXXX Gold (3.5 per cent alcohol) vie for Australia's most-popular beer crown, Coopers has announced a sales surge in the very different zero-alcohol beer market. 

The Adelaide brewer says sales of Holsten 0.0% increased 20 per cent in the last year. Coopers expects consumption to continue growing  after decisions by national liquor outlets to range it alongside normal beers, not soft drinks.

Cooper's Scott Harris said increasing sales in Australia "reflect the situation in the rest of the world, where no alcohol beers make up to 13 per cent of total beer sales in some European countries".

Feral Brewing Co Boris Russian Imperial Stout 330ml
Feral Brewing Co Boris Russian Imperial Stout 330ml 

Market research group Mintel recently reported particularly strong interest in zero-alcohol beer in Spain and Germany. European commentators attribute growing success largely to health consciousness and improved flavour. German-made Holsten, for example, is brewed like a normal beer, with the alcohol removed afterwards.

Otway Brewing Prickly Moses Chainsaw Ale 330ml $4.45

We pushed past the murky, bilge-water colour to find a refreshing ale, with the light body and pleasantly tart acidity derived from brewing with malted wheat. Wheat ales often come with sweet, fruity notes. Instead, Chainsaw gives the pleasant herbal, spicy notes of hops – but without pronounced bitterness.

Feral Brewing Co Boris Russian Imperial Stout 330ml $7.25

As black as the local swans, this Swan Valley stout, at 9.1 per cent alcohol, storms onto the palate with its intense dark-chocolate and roasted coffee-bean flavours. The alcohol lends a sweetness to the overall opulence of a stout meant to be enjoyed in small doses, perhaps with a plate of nuts or Christmas cake.