However, I’d heard a few good reports about this one, so I bought a four-pack to try it for myself. Draught or canned Guinness is certainly a very distinctive product in terms of its appearance, mouthfeel and taste, and the canned zero-alcohol version does a pretty good job of replicating that. From its look, and the first gulp, it’s just like a glass of standard Guinness. It’s only as you get further down that you realise something is missing, and by the time you reach the bottom of the glass you’re left with something rather dull and forgettable.
However, in a sense it’s too convincing an imitation for its own good. I don’t normally buy canned Guinness to drink at home, so why should I buy an alcohol-free version except as a curiosity? Other people may take a different view, but personally I tend to see alcohol-free beers as a soft drink alternative, not a beer alternative, and thus tend to look for something, probably a lager, that is palatable but not particularly challenging. One of the best I’ve come across is actually the alcohol-free Stella Artois, which is available in Wetherspoon’s, but which I haven’t come across in the supermarkets.
I’ve tried a few of the alcohol-free British-style ales, but in general I’ve found them pretty revolting, coming across as unfermented wort laced with hop syrup. And I recently tried an alcohol-free Stowford Press cider which just tasted like standard cider severely watered down.
Canned alcohol-free Guinness is certainly a triumph of the brewing technologist’s skill, but I can’t see it becoming a regular purchase. Although “widget” bitter is now very much a declining market, it would be interesting to apply the same technology to something like John Smith’s Extra Smooth.