Sunday 30 July 2023

Fade to black

Guinness announced last week that they were investing €25 million at their Dublin brewery to increase production of the 0.0% version of the beer by 300%. I’ve written about alcohol-free beers several times in the past, generally taking the view that, while they had a place in the market, it was difficult to produce one that was particularly palatable, and the industry and media were prone to greatly exaggerating their potential for growth.

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.


  1. There are better stouts than Guinness, akshually.

    1. Maybe there are but Guinness has its own taste and is loved by many, and has been around for longer than all the others. It's a good beer. The only problem with it is the current fashion for serving it freezing cold.

    2. I'd dispute that it's a good beer. It's consistent, widely available thanks to intense and continuous marketing, but actually lacking in flavour and body. If a small brewery turned out an identical keg stout it wouldn't attract much praise.

    3. Yes, "intense and continuous marketing" just like the Caffreys beermat I saw in Uttoxeter yesterday boasting "Everything you could wish for. Taste of an ale. Smooth as a stout. Cold as a lager" and "Surprise! New 3.8% abv".
      Most in the pub had the sense to be drinking Draught Bass.

  2. Pubs are dying. Cask beer is dying. Where is the Pub Curmudgeon?

    He is at home drinking alcohol free widget beer.

    A sad sad decline.

    1. FWIW I've been in ten different pubs in the past week. Anyway, enough of the personal sniping.

    2. If it helps reduce drink driving I am all for it.

  3. Thank you for the review PC. I'd call that taking one for the team, mind, but the Stella comment is super helpful.

  4. What if these products prove popular among the temperate kids?
    What if we think, great, at least they are coming into the pub now.
    They grow in number as the temperate start to replace the old boozers.
    Eventually they ask why they need to be surrounded by drunks? They spoil the pub, yeh?
    So as the smokers were kicked out, so will be the drinkers.
    If you love pubs you'll need to give up booze and have an alcohol free to support pubs.........

  5. I really want to try one of these if they are so good. Unfortunately I do not want the capital outlay for 4 cans.. One will be plenty.. Are there another three fellas out there who will join me in a consortium to try them? We can share the costs equally. Looking forward to the rise of this great new beer sector

  6. Professor Pie-Tin1 August 2023 at 13:17

    In a bit of a quandry here.Not quite sure what to do with August now the excellent Ashes series is over scandalously early this summer. For five Tests my routine has been get out of bed at 10.30am,shower and assume position in front of telly while Mrs PPT offers tea and toast until about 6.30pm when it's down to the local for a debrief and a few bevvies then back home for a bit of scran, more drink then perhaps a laugh and a giggle looking at the American cricket league thing then retire to bed about 2am-ish then rinse and repeat for five days x five.
    There's this bastard Hundred thing starting tonight but that gets my goat.
    And the footy and rugger don't start for a while yet.
    Any suggestions for how to occupy myself in August involving drink would be gratefully received. Herself was most displeased when three bottles of Bulleit Rye arrived this morning. Especially as I'd left strict instructions with Amazon to leave it in the garden shed where she never ventures...

    1. PPT,
      Have you tried Uttoxeter ?
      Not the races, the pubs.

  7. I've had some at Christmas, it was fine although not quite as good as the real thing. A relative has a medical condition which means they cannot tolerate alcohol so it was pleasing to provide an almost grown up drink.


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