There's that old joke about drinking non-alcoholic beer. Actually, there's quite a few of them, come to think of it. That one about listening to porn on the radio. Or the vibrator without batteries. The prostitute who wants to cuddle. Ugh. They only get worse. Fitting, because non-alcoholic beer is generally quite bad.
Or is it?
For the longest time, non-alcoholic (NA) beer was pretty cruddy, because only cruddy breweries were making it—in other words, it was the big corporate factory brands' lightest "lite" beer. That has changed of late, though, and many craft breweries are starting to finally produce non- and low-alcohol offerings. This is especially true in Europe and particularly Germany, which has a long history of top breweries producing "alkoholfrei" products.
Still, there's a scientific reason why near beer will never be as good as those with loads of alcohol. Believe it or not, non-beer begins its life as beer beer, before the alcohol content is stripped by heating it until the ABV dissipates (anything under 1% is technically "non-alcoholic," but that doesn't mean liquor stores will sell it to you, kiddos.) But alcohol is a flavour itself, adding dryness and a boozy "heat." Without it, you get many NA beers that are sweet and syrupy, with a cloying mouthfeel. Smartly, today's top NA producers have combatted that flabby sugariness by adding bittering spices and plenty of hops.
Still, all that effort may not be enough to get serious beer drinkers to try it. Which leads to one final joke:
What beer makes you look the most like an alcoholic if you drink it?
Answer: non-alcoholic beer.
Here are a few intriguing brands, whether you're pregnant, can't drink, won't drink, need to operate heavy machinery, or simply don't want a hangover tomorrow morning.