It’s great to see the big supermarkets in the UK latching on to the alcohol-free movement currently taking over the world. Whilst the majority of shelf space given over to liquid refreshment is still dominated by sugary soft drinks and full-strength beers and wines, the nolo section is usually no longer relegated to a single four-pack of Beck’s Blue. It’s now quite common to see NA beers from the larger producers, a few of the smaller producers, and also the supermarket’s own-brand AF beers. We’ve already covered M&S’s Southwold Pale Ale previously, and there are plenty more I’ve seen gracing the shelves of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and others. With this review though we’re back to another offering from Marks and Sparks, their Low Alcohol Czech Lager.
This non-alcoholic lager is actually produced for the supermarket by the Staropramen Brewery, famous for it’s own lagers, and the Czech Republic’s second largest brewery. They’ve been churning out beers, mainly lagers, since 1869, and are now under the wing of the multinational Molson Coors Beverage Company. Staropramen already produce their own alcohol-free beer, which we’ll review in due course but have so far heard good things of, so they obviously have prior knowledge of NA beer production. Whilst we’re not expecting them to use the exact same recipe for this supermarket own-brand beer, does the famous Staropramen quality remain?
Pouring from the 500ml bottle, we get a dark amber liquid with decent clarity and what appears to be quite high effervescence. The head is thin and recedes with the same speed as my former boss’ hairline. On the nose we get some mild malt sweetness, some bready aroma, and some very slight herbal hops. So far, it hasn’t done a good job of rousing the senses.
The malt continues into the taste, and is the dominant flavour of the beer, but again this is somewhat mild. There are some hoppy notes in the background, but not enough to add flavour in sufficient quantity. The beer is rather dry, and I think this is coming from the carbonation. Someone has pumped a load of CO2 into this, causing one of the problems that used to plague early NA beers – a dry tinny metallic taste coming from the carbolic acid that’s added to the mix. A huge step backwards.
A very disappointing lager from M&S&Staropramen, one that has certainly knocked Staropramen’s own NA beer down several notches on my list to try. It’ll quench your thirst in warm weather, but your tastebuds will be crying out for something better. And there are so many better AF beers out there for you.
Nutritional Information (per 100ml)
0.5% alcohol by volume
19 calories energy
(taken from the side of the bottle)
Water, Malted Barley, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Yeast, Hops
Marks and Spencer Low Alcohol Czech Lager
A step backwards in the production of NA beer, which comes as a surprise as it’s produced by the famous Staropramen. Needs some refinement.