There has been a big shift in previous years into people trying to find a substitute for the Heineken or San Miguel they drink down at their local pub. I’ll admit, whilst not a commercial lager drinker, when sat outside in a beer garden, there are few better things than a bottle of Budweiser; or when eating a curry, a Cobra is absolutely the right drink, but for years there have been few alternatives for those trying to cut down on their booze. In 2020 though, there are several great lager and pilsner style AF beers for you to drink, and we’ve picked our top five, with a few honorary mentions.
How are AF lagers made?
There are two main ways that brewers tend to make their AF lagers. Most take the method of ensuring no alcohol ever forms in the brewing process, often meaning the ABV is below 0.05% (Heineken 0.0%, Budweiser Prohibition, Estrella Damn).
Whilst popular, the better AF beers use an alternative method, removing the alcohol from the finished product either by boiling or filtering.
Are they genuinely as good as the real thing?
So this is one I always struggle to answer, and it largely depends on your mindset going into drinking it. The brewing method is different, therefore the beers are never going to taste identical; take Heineken 0.0% for example, whilst the flavour might be similar, the mouth-feel, bubbles and overall alcoholic strength isn’t the same. If you expect it to be the same, you’ll be disappointed, so the best thing to do is take them as a whole different drink and see if you enjoy the taste as an AF Lager, not an alternative to a normal lager.
The Top Five
1. Lucky Saint Unfiltered Lager – 0.5%
Many of the top ten or so beers in our favourite AF lagers, are all sub-sets of their normal beer rotations. Whether it be the Big Drop Lager, or Nirvana, they have a range of AF beers that tend to champion their pale ales rather than the lagers. With Lucky Saint, they have one product, one lager, and they’ve spent time perfecting the drink. Unlike other AF beers, they haven’t tried to make a craft lager, or pack it with interesting hops and malts to keep up with the craft evolution of actual beer, this is straight up lager which is why it stands out.
Lucky Saint Unfiltered Lager is brewed with the best malts, and the best quality water. The pilsner malts have a caramel sweetness that is normally overdone in AF beers, but in this, they make it feel and taste alcoholic. It has a nice haze, and isn’t too fizzy and the Hallertau Hops make this a beer that is comparable to alcoholic equivalents. What makes this different, and the best is the way it’s unfiltered; leaving big flavours in the beer this is a great choice.
2. Nirvana Lager – 0.3%
Sticking with the Czech/German style lager beer, Nirvana have created a really great one I can’t get enough of. In 2019, Nirvana Brewery, the first UK AF brewery, dropped their Helles Lager on the world to rave reviews; we waited a few months to try it and I wish I hadn’t waited so long!
This pours more golden in colour than other AF lagers, and similar to Lucky Saint, makes good use of Hallertau Hops, giving it that Bavarian taste that has left the UK lager world recently. It is crisp, and much cleaner than others in this category.
3. Smashed Lager – 0.0%
A refreshing, clean lager produced by Drynks Unlimited. This one certainly isn’t as complex as some of the other more German/Czech style lagers, Smashed is more a BBQ lager, a summers day lager and we love it.
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and the criticism I’ve seen around it generally comes when it’s compared to the two above. It’s completely AF at 0.0%, brewed different and is trying to be refreshing AF rather than be a lager for the pub, and they nail it.
4. Big Drop Uptown Lager – 0.5%
Big Drop are one of the premier producers of AF beer, and their lager is right up there! So this is the only one in the top five I’d say is trying to be “on trend” being a little more craft beer than straight up lager-beer.
It’s light, hoppy and has a great floral aftertaste normally missing from AF beers; the use of Magnum hops in this is inspired and is what makes it into this list. It’s light and crisp and to be honest not a lot more needs saying – go and buy!
5. West Berkshire Brewery Solo Pilsner – 0.5%
There are few breweries that are predominantly alcohol beer making breweries, that also make great AF beer, but one bucking that trend in the UK is West Berkshire Brewery. With a good range of beers available as well as this Pilsner, they are leading the way at the moment in AF beers.
The Pilsner is one of my favourites by far. Solo pilsner is fresh and has a big floral aroma which I love; it’s not the best in their range, but is without doubt one of the best in the market. Brewed in more of a Helles style than other AF lagers, this has a lot of flavour, and the malts taste sweet.
Some of our other favourites include:
- Infinite Session Pils
- Brooklyn Special Effects
- Free Damn
Have we missed any?
We are always on the look out for new AF lagers to drink and the likelihood we’ve missed some of our readers’ favourites. Submit yours below and why you like them and we’ll publish right here!