The ultimate guide
to non-alcoholic
(NA) beers.

Our beer expert
evaluates thirteen
near-beers.  A feat
well beyond the call
of duty.

Why did he
do it and
which one
did he like

Find out in this
installment of
"Beer My Way"
Dan Hodge
Beer My Way......... proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
               anything and everything about beer
by   Dan Hodge
What was I thinking about??  

Each year the approach of  Spring causes me to reflect on
the months just passed and the hearty brews associated with
the Christmas season and long winter nights. And each year
at this time either because of a moment of insanity or a
sudden surge of religious zeal, I give up drinking beer for

Although I have granted myself a few dispensations during
this dry forty day period (St. Patrick’s Day, my beer club
meetings, days with an “a” in them, etc.) there are still
about thirty five days during which I don’t partake of my
favorite beverage. So I switch to the closest thing (and
farthest thing from the strong brews of winter), “near
beer”, or, as it is called today, “non-alcoholic beer”.

So far this year I’ve tried a dozen or so and although they
are all similar, there are some surprising differences in the
various offerings. To the best of my knowledge, there are
no NA IPAs, Dunkelweizens, or any other special styles
available. All the near beers can be lumped into what people
referred to before the microbrew revolution simply as
“beer”. These “beers” have one characteristic they all share-
a malty aftertaste.

Here are my opinions on some readily available near beers.

St. Pauli Girl NA is an excellent, full bodied brew with great
head retention and beautiful Belgian lace on the side of the
glass. There is a hint of hops and this, being the closest to
real beer, is my favorite. At $6 a sixpack, it’s among the
most expensive.

The Guiness offering in the non-alcohol line is Kalibur, a
darker brew with an average malty taste and a head that
disappears faster than John Kerry can change his  position
on an issue. Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

Penn’s Best, brewed by Pittsburgh Brewing, is definitely the
Iron City of the NA market. It is a nondescript, inoffensive
brew that offers neither taste nor body. However, it has a
two-fold positive attribute that is hard to beat. It’s  $2.49
/sixpack price enables it to be mixed half and half with
tastier, higher priced brews without sacrificing the flavor of
the better brew. It’s like adding a little bread to expensive
crab meat to “stretch” it when making crab cakes. See, I do
know more than just beer. In fact, I still stretch a crab cake
now and then. I haven’t let the high salary I’m paid by beer
Nexus change me.

Clausthaler, the best selling NA beer in Europe , is close to
St. Pauli Girl without the head retention. It’s also in the $6

The label on Molson Excel proudly states that it’s  brewed
with the “finest ingredients”. This is right on target if the
ingredients are soiled diapers and goat urine. This is the
vilest smelling and tasting stuff I’ve ever had. The
commercials for Buckley’s cough mixture proclaim that it
“tastes terrible…..but it works!” Excel ads should say
“tastes terrible….period!”

A big surprise was Coor’s non alcohol beer. This $4 range
brew has more body and flavor than Coor’s Light, but then
again, so does Poland Spring water. Seriously, if I had to
make a choice between Coor’s Light or the NA alternative,
I’d take the latter.

Miller Brewing Company’s “Sharps” is a clean, refreshing
concoction. Also in the $4 price range, it’s an excellent
substitute for a lawnmower beer.

Buckler, from Heineken, is similar to St. Pauli Girl and
Clausthaler, but a step lower in both quality and price.

I tried three brews from Anheuser Busch and ,as expected,
all three are of excellent quality, fresh, clean tasting, and
popularly priced, but with no head retention or distinctive
taste. Of  O’Doul’s, O’Doul’s Amber and Busch NA, the
amber is the best. It really does have a hint of darker malt
and is very drinkable.

In the past I’ve had the $4/case Texas Pride and the $2
/bottle Thomasbrau from Germany , but haven’t found
them yet this year and don’t even know if they are still

I’m beginning to acquire a taste for these fake beers, but
eagerly look forward to Easter Sunday, when I return to the
Real McCoy. A nice doppelbock would go well with my wife’s
Easter Kielbasa.