First Draught: Weihanstephaner, proof that de-alcoholized beer isn’t undrinkable


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Image: David Ort

Beer is more than just its buzz. So, it follows that it must be possible, at least in a vague, theoretical way, to create a de-alcoholized beer that is worth drinking. Supermarket-brand near beer proves that theory does not always translate to practice. The stuff is awful; hopped up on artificial flavour and sweeteners.

There is a better option, though, for those want—or need—to avoid alcohol but would miss beer. Ted Fleming, and his company PremiumNearBeer.com, is the bearer of that good news. After he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, Fleming didn’t like either option between no beer and the offerings that were available so he founded a company to bring some of the high-quality, European options to Canada. These include bottles from Erdinger, Krombacher, Clausthaler and Portugal’s well-known Super Bock that all fall under the legal limit of 0.5% abv for non-alcoholic beer in Canada. Today’s beer, the Weihenstephaner Original Alkoholfrei lager, is one of the best of the bunch.

As I poured the Weihanstephaner into a weizen glass I was honestly transfixed by its clarity and bright, wheaten gold colour. Drawing deeply on the aroma, I’m treated to fermenting bread dough and a hint of fallen apples. The generally pleasant flavour is lively, crisp, and slightly acidic. There’s just a touch of astringent, chemical residue near the end but it fades to give way to a pleasantly malty and grassy-hop finish.

PremiumNearBeer.com will ship cases from their catalogue of (nearly) alcohol-free beer across Canada. They will also allow you to create customized mix packs to help settle on a favourite near beer. Bars and restaurants – where parties will hopefully include designated drivers – are prime stomping grounds for near beer and Bier Markt and the new Louis Cifer Brew Works are two examples of establishments with a decent selection.

Weihenstephaner Original Alkoholfrei Lager, $65 for 20 x 500 ml bottles, PremiumNearBeer.com

In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David Ort writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including his own site. He is the author of The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook; now in stores and available for ordering online. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter or get in touch at info@foodwithlegs.com.

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