Looking to drink less? Not at all? Or for a few tasty zero-proof options to help you adjust to the new low-risk drinking guidelines?
No matter the reason, alcohol-free beer is here to save the day. The past six weeks have seen an astonishing number of new releases, both from established craft breweries delving into the non-alc space and a spate of new start-ups devoted exclusively to alcohol-free beer. Best of all, all of the new offerings are miles ahead of the non-alcoholic beer of yesteryear.
Here are 17 of the best dealcoholized and non-alcoholic beers (the former sees alcohol removed from the beer, the second is more like a simulation, usually made with enzymes that mimic the flavour) available in Canada right now.
Notes on labels: In Canada, products labeled “0.5%” alcohol indicate that there is less than a half-percent of absolute alcohol in the product.
Collective Arts Hazy Non-Alcoholic Hazy Pale Ale, 0.5%
Even when it’s at full-strength, hazy pale ale is controversial, but this super-refreshing brew bursts with citrus-y brightness and is impossible not to love. Collective Arts, a six-year-old Hamilton, Ont.-based brewery, appears to be going all-in on non-alcs. In addition to this pale ale, it also recently launched a new line of alcohol-free cocktails and two more beers, one of which is a deliciously rich and chocolatey Emerald Stout.
Straight Edge Pale Ale (0.5%) by Sea Change Brewing Co.
Edmonton’s Sea Change prides itself on “unpretentious” and “approachable” beers, and the brewery’s first NA offering definitely fits in with that overall ethos. It’s light and fresh, with the exact right level of bitterness to keep things interesting.
Libra Lavender Sage Cream Ale (0.5%) by Upstreet Brewery
Prince Edward Island’s Upstreet Brewery launched its Libra line of alcohol-free beers a little over two years ago, starting with a pale ale, then extending it with a cherry sour. This year, it added a lavender sage cream ale, which is easily the best so far. The result of a collaboration with Juno award-winning musician Serena Ryder, this beer tastes a little like a bitter Italian soda, but with considerably more body.
Asahi Super Dry, 0.0%
With a little hit of bitter on the top, this new non-alcoholic version of full-strength Asahi, one of the most popular lagers in Japan, is crisp and clean, with a decent touch of malt on the mid-palate—much like the original. Available at multiple outlets, including Upside Drinks.
Phillips IOTA Pale Ale, 0.5%
Given that Victoria’s Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. is so well-loved and respected by craft beer fans everywhere, it’s not terribly surprising that its IOTA Pale Ale is simply one of the best non-alcoholic beers we’ve ever tried. It also makes a pilsner, as well as a hazy IPA that’s a top-notch, lightly bittered brew with a very subtle haze.
Le Bockale Aurora Sour Beer, 0.5%
A delicate, refreshing and frothy sour made with kombucha, Aurora is more like a subtle and sweet bubbly treat than the usual tart and acidic sour beer, which makes it exceptionally food friendly. This Quebec micro-brasserie also makes a hoppy NA IPA, a tangy wheat beer with lychee and clementine and Trou Noir, an excellent stout with plenty of bitter coffee flavour.
Harmon’s Half-Day Non-Alc Hazy IPA. 0.5%
Rich, foamy and lightly sweet, this (barely) hazy IPA is a lovely deep golden ale with a touch of bitterness that could easily pass for one of those traditional Canadian ales that everyone’s dad used to drink. Founded by veterans of the craft beer industry, Harmon’s is Ontario’s first fully non-alcoholic brewery (that we’re aware of) and, aside from the Half-Day, it also offers a “Lunchbox” lagered ale and a “Jack Pine” pale ale that’s packed with hoppy flavour.
BSA (Bière Sans-Alcool) Raspberry Sour, 0.5%
Since it tastes light, fresh and distinctly like actual berries, this Raspberry Sour is a standout amongst the options offered by Quebec’s Bière Sans-Alcool (BSA). That said, BSA has five other excellent NA beers and we’d also like to give a shoutout to both the tart and refreshing Lemon-Lime Sour, as well as its lovely Blonde Ale, which was so good it was ridiculously easy to forget it was “sans alcool.”
Street Legal Dealcoholized Nitro Stout, 0.5%
At Central City, the B.C. brewery that makes Street Legal dealcoholized beer, the owners make a point of explaining that their temperance offerings start out as real beer then undergo an alcohol-removal process. It may sound like an academic distinction, but the results are remarkable, especially with the Nitro Stout, a dark, creamy and satisfying beer that’s probably about as close to a proper stout as an alcohol-free beer is going to get. Street Legal comes in three other flavours: a bitter IPA with a nice head, a pilsner and the Mango Wheat Ale, a bright golden and fruity beer that’s got real body and soul. A truly great line-up.
Bulwark Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Craft Cider, 0.5%
This light, dry and perfectly balanced craft cider is actually better than a lot of alcoholic versions of cider on the market. Bulwark is an owner-operated craft cider house in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley that makes cider from 100 percent Nova Scotia organic apples. In addition to the Craft Cider, The house has a second sparkling NA option—”Winter,” which is sweeter and tastes like baked apple pie.
We sought out the non-alc version of the Italian lager Peroni because serious beer people tagged it as one of the better NA simulations. They were right. Best chugged right from an icy cold bottle, this bubbly beer could definitely pass for the “real” version. Available at various retailers across Canada, including the LCBO.
Free Spirit “Adventure” IPA by Rorschach, 0.5%
This NA IPA is so loaded with citrus hops, you could almost mistake it for a shandy. Pairs well with salty snacks and perfect for the end of the day, like many of the liquids brewed at Rorschach Brewing Co., a much-loved brewery in Toronto’s east end.
Still Struggling Espresso Stout, 0.5% by One for the Road
This espresso stout is a highlight of the award-winning line of NA beers made at Calgary’s One for the Road. The company offers a sampler pack for anyone interested in trying its full NA offering, which also includes Marzen, Kolsch and Saskaberry Blonde Ale—all of which are pretty unique in the alcohol-free beer space.
Bellwoods Brewery Non-Alcoholic Jelly King Dry Hopped Sour, 0.5%
The essence of the beloved original Jelly King is fully present and accounted for in this NA version. Although it’s lighter than the full-strength original, after a few sips, the palate seems to adjust to the change in texture. (That initial sensation of “lightness,” by the way, is true of most alcohol-free beers, since alcohol adds a texture that’s hard to replace.) Toronto-based Bellwoods also makes a pretty little IPA called Stay Classy (0.5%) and a fruit-forward and slightly salty Raspberry and Blackberry Dry-Hopped Sour (0.5%).
Grüvi Mocha Nitro Stout
With distinct notes of coffee and chocolate and a full, smooth body, this is one of the better alcohol-free stouts we’ve tried. Grüvi, an American company, also makes a really nice Golden Non-Alc Craft Beer with plenty of bright flavour and a good springy effervescence, as well as a Juicy IPA that has a distinct ripe pineapple taste. Available at many retailers across Canada, including well.ca
Propeller NA Lager, 0.5%
Made in Halifax, Propeller NA Lager is an extremely subtle and light lager with a delicate touch of ginger. It’s the perfect beer to pour over ice and add a generous splash of lime and ginger beer to turn it into a thirst-quenching shandy.
Cascade Sparkling Hop Water by Wellington Brewery
Okay, this isn’t really a beer, but this hop water is a delicious alternative to yet another glass of soda water and lime, since Cascade hops bring a hit of bright grapefruit that livens up the profile. Other hop waters by Wellington include Chinook, Michigan Copper, Vista and Comet, all of which have unique flavours.
NOTE: Non-alcoholic beer has a much shorter shelf life than regular beer, so don’t overbuy, and store it in a cool, dark place, and be sure to consume it within 10 weeks of purchase.