Alcohol-free beer. It's been around for years, hidden away near the soft drink on supermarket shelves, mostly ignored by dedicated beer drinkers. Yet it makes sense for those of us who like a social drink, but worry about the health and social implications big doses of alcohol pose. It also means we can enjoy an alcohol-free alternative that isn't sugary or totally unexciting. In recent times a new wave of alcohol-free brews bearing internationally famous labels has appeared to address our concerns, and they have attracted lots of attention across the beer-drinking globe. Be aware, though, that some do have tiny traces of alcohol, but at less than 0.04 per cent, they qualify as alcohol-free for most purposes. Don't expect to be blown away by these drinks. They all have a washed-out quality that betrays their low-octane nature, but well chilled in warm weather, alcohol-free beers can offer pleasant refreshment.
Heineken 0.0 Pure Malt Lager, about $12 (pack of 6 x 330ml)
Heineken 0.0 from Holland is a pale golden drop with an attractive aroma that's yeasty and lightly malty with a hint of herbal hops. It's lively with good presence and smoothness for zero alcohol beer, finishing clean with balanced bitterness.
Stockists include Liquorland stores; BWS stores (stocks may be limited)
Holsten Alcohol Free, about $11 (pack of 6 x 330ml)
This German label is actually brewed in Alsace, France. Slightly deeper and golden in colour, it has hoppy aromas and a mellow beery maltiness. Hoppy flavours and bitterness are more pronounced and it tastes clean and dry.
Stockists include First Choice stores; Dan Murphy's stores
Peroni Libera 0.0, about $13 (pack of 6 x 330ml)
A pale golden Italian drop with inviting fruit salad, pale malt and almond aromas. It's a smooth mouthful but slightly cloying flavours hint at corn or wheat rather than barley malt. It's easy-flowing with just enough hop bitterness for balance.
Stockists include Dan Murphy's stores; Coles supermarkets