9 of the Best No- and Low-Alcohol Beers, According to an Expert

Every beer on this list contains less than .5% alcohol by volume and will satisfy even the most discerning beer drinker.

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Updated on January 24, 2024
By: Tara Nurin

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Group of friends toasting in a pub, holding their glasses high above the table

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Group of friends toasting in a pub, holding their glasses high above the table

Photo by: Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images

Whether you’re abstaining from alcohol for a short period of time or have sworn it off altogether, you’ve likely heard the hype: low- and no-alcohol beer – also known as NoLo – is in. Sales were up 19.5% in 2022, according to NielsenIQ, and thanks to advances in technology, they now taste so, so much better than they used to, with widespread flavor improvements noticeable even from one season to the next. This latest crop brings forward beers that are good on their own – rather than being “good for an NA” – and don’t make the drinker miss the alcohol.

For beer lovers, that means at least a hundred satisfying options are now available from around the world — produced both by NoLo exclusive breweries as well as “regular” breweries of all sizes cashing in on what smart money predicts is a “trend” that’s here to stay. So if you haven’t tried a near beer in more than a year, consider picking up some of these selections, all available online or in many major retailers.

Non-Alcohol vs Alcohol Free Beer

But before you shop to find new favorites, know that the terms non-alcoholic (NA) and alcohol-free (AF) are not necessarily interchangeable, and beers labeled as non-alcoholic might actually contain minimal amounts of alcohol. While definitions in this category vary from country to country, the U.S. federal government designates these beers as “cereal beverages” that may carry a “non-alcoholic” label even if they contain up to .49% ABV. If you’re going for no ethanol at all, look for “alcohol-free” beer, which guarantees no measurable traces, or 0.0% ABV.

Some of the differences in alcohol content come from the process of production, with some brewers making full-strength beer then removing the ethanol and others keeping the alcohol from developing in the first place. Craft brewers tend to opt for preventing full fermentation by keeping the yeast from fermenting the liquid too much, or they might experiment with modified new yeasts capable of only fermenting to low alcohol levels. Brewers who can afford pricey dealcoholization systems may choose to remove ethanol molecules from full-strength beer with either intense reverse osmosis filtration or vacuum distillation, which evaporates out the alcohol at lower-than-normal temperatures.

How Does Non-Alcoholic Beer Taste?

While you might decide whether you like a beer in just two sips (always give a first beer a second chance) did you know that near beers have their own sensory profiles different from alcoholic versions? Though the beers on this list triumph from their because there’s no alcohol and production techniques don’t always mirror those of their boozy brethren, consider giving NA/AF beers some slack for a thin body, a quickly dissipating head, a sweeter-than-expected taste, more or less carbonation than usual, or a drier-than-normal finish. Plus, some dealcoholized beers have fainter hop or yeast-derived flavors or aromas, owing to certain volatile compounds not surviving the removal process.

Can No- and Low-Alcohol Beer Make Me Sick?

To maximize flavor and attempt to avoid microbes that grow more easily in the absence of ethanol, drink NA/AF beers fresh, cold and never after freezing.

If you’re drinking it on draft, “Ask the last time they cleaned the beer lines and the last time that keg was tapped. It also needs to be cold the whole time,” says Meagen Anderson, founder of the Aficionado Certification Program, the world's first pro-level certification program for NA adult beverages.

Finally, know that draft NoLo beer can pick up alcohol-creating yeast particles if the establishment doesn’t exclusively dedicate a tap handle to it.

$10.99 (Pack of 6)
Total Wine & More

I would declare the Brooklyn Pils my favorite of the bunch if I didn’t like the others too much to pick a fav. During tasting, I exclaimed, “Gosh, I really like this,” out loud several times and didn’t want to put the can down to try competing samples. Meeting expectations for an expertly brewed Brooklyn beer, the Special Effects Pils tantalized from the beginning by pouring a rich off-white foam atop a brilliantly clear blonde liquid. An enticing aroma of fresh citrus hops and sunflowers made me want to dive in, and the right balance of malt and lightly earthy hops keeps the flavor feeling perky. Excellent job on the mouthfeel, thanks to a very light body and a warming, tingly sensation that sticks around for about twenty-five seconds then cools off with a hint of spearmint. Brooklyn’s website calls this “the perfect palate cleanser” but with my tasting notes full of comments like, “This was fantastic,” thinking of it as a palate cleanser would be to overlook and waste the excellence of one of the best NA’s I’ve ever sampled.

$13.99 (Pack of 6)
Bravus Brewing Company

Bravus gets the nod for most improved NA brewery of 2023. Four of the NA-only brewery’s beers either did or could have made the list this year – up from none last year. While West Coast IPA and Golden Light ranked among my top could-have-been-contenders, the Peanut Butter Dark stood out as Bravus’ highest-quality year-round offering. (Pro tip: don’t sleep on the sublime Pumpkin Dark when it comes out in the fall.) The heavy dose of peanut in the aroma and flavor smells and tastes real because it is. With natural peanut butter, hazelnut and chocolate extracts, this medium-bodied stout might drink better in cold weather but it evokes memories of cracking open hot peanut shells at the ballgame.

$12.49 (Pack of 6)
Total Wine & More

Not only did I write “YES!” in my initial notes about this entry, I couldn’t wait to try it again the following day. My friend Yvonne called the medium-bodied Mexican lager “fun,” and I agreed that they nailed it with zippy lime and salt content that completely covers up any absence of alcohol. It could cheerfully replace a margarita or form the base for an outstanding one – with or without added tequila … your call.

$10.99 (Pack of 6)
Drizly

One sip of the Stella and I knew this was a shoo-in. It’s mellow, easy, a touch floral and carries a subtle yet bright citrus – lime – tartness that serves to perk up the flavor rather than overtake it like too many of the inferior NA beers I tried. Flavored with cane syrup, Stella smells a touch sweet, almost like cookie dough, and drinks like a smooth ale that’s been conditioning in the cellar.

$10.48 (Pack of 6)
Walmart

According to the brewery, Heineken 0.0 was built from the ground up rather than as an attempt to recreate the original, so it’s not clear why they say they then added flavors to make it taste more like the Heineken we all know and some people love. The 0.0 makes my list regardless – either as an adept facsimile or a unique newcomer. To my friend Michael it tastes familiar – getting his vote for being “spot-on for re-creation.” To me it tastes far fruitier – more appley – and less characteristically skunky than the OG lager. I get heavy green apple on the nose and apple/pear to taste; while this often appears as a flaw in beer, here I find it pleasant and probably derived from the yeast instead of by accident. If you buy it and don’t like it, the apple essence makes it excellent in a cocktail or “mocktail.”

$29.99 (Pack of 6)
Amazon

If we were categorizing these entries, the highly refreshing wheated Erdinger weissbier would win for Best to Drink on a Summer Day. Brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, it’s so light that its aroma evokes white fluffy clouds and vapor. Though it goes down easy, its delicate floral taste and nice round mouthfeel give it merit and make it deserving of being taken seriously.

$15 (Pack of 6)
Drizly

Can we talk for real for a sec? I like to drink orange-colored Clausthaler NA grapefruit when I have a rare hangover. The only repeat from last year’s list, the Clausthaler sips like a spritzy grapefruit soda that’s not too sweet and not too tart. It also boasts a nose of a grapefruit sliced open immediately after getting plucked from the tree. What doesn’t it look, taste or smell like? Beer. But that’s ok with me. As long as you know what you’re getting – or not, in this case – enjoy this grapefruit juice-infused malt beverage like an infinitely quaffable soda and maybe even a vitamin C-charged hangover helper.

$11.99 (Pack of 6)
Drizly

To quote my friend Michael again, “I could see drinking this at a nice bar. It’s almost a little bit elegant.” I don’t disagree. Not only do I compare the low-carbonation mouthfeel to a Cognac, I can see occasionally drinking this very delicate, medium-brown elixir in place of wine. I designate it the Best NA Beer to Drink with Food because I suspect it would enhance but not compete against myriad different types of dishes; I also recommend replacing it for sherry in a cream soup.

$11.99 (Pack of 6)
Athletic Brewing Co

A few Athletic offerings danced the line between “maybe” and “yes,” so I selected the Lite to represent this popular NA-only brewery because I can imagine slamming one after a hard run – not that I would know about anything remotely resembling running. An unfussy lemon aroma and taste saturate the otherwise beer-flavored beer that goes down quick and fades even quicker. The light body and pithy hop bitterness make for a clean quaff that my friend Joann says she’d pair with crabs and has the added bonus of tasting like a lemon cookie.

Veteran freelance journalist and former Forbes beer/spirits contributor and TV host Tara Nurin writes for hundreds of media publications and speaks for entities like the Smithsonian on topics that relate primarily to beer business and culture. Nurin designs and teaches for-credit beer and spirits courses for Wilmington University (DE) and provides marketing consulting services for a client roster that includes NZ Hops, Ltd. With a focus on women in beer coverage, she’s been an active Pink Boots Society member since 2010 and founded New Jersey’s original beer education group for women. Nurin is frequently quoted as a beverage expert in publications such as Wine Enthusiast and Food & Wine. After residing in 11 states and countries, the trilingual Nurin has chosen to live as an urban pioneer on Camden, NJ’s, riverfront. She released her first book, A Woman's Place Is in the Brewhouse: A Forgotten History of Alewives, Brewsters, Witches, and CEOs, in September 2021.

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