I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the ‘no and low alcohol’ section of my local branch of Sainsbury’s. It has grown over this past year from a half empty shelf containing some cans of Beck’s Blue, Free Damm and Bud Zero to several different shelves covering alcohol-free beers from the likes of Big Drop, Infinite Session, Lucky Saint and Drynks Unlimited, along with non-alcoholic spirits, ciders and mixed drinks. Granted, the aisle space given to actual alcoholic beverages is about 50 times it’s area, but it’s my little nook to wander over and peruse when I’m doing the weekly shop, and it’s always well stocked, and on a few occasions has even featured an AF beer I haven’t tried before.
I’ve been less pleasantly surprised by the quality of Sainsbury’s own-brand nolo beers. Their Pilsner Zero was really not my thing, though opinion on the beer does seem to be polarised. I’ve spoken to many drinkers, both AF and ‘regular’, who have poured their bottles of the stuff away rather than finish. But I’ve also received a few comments on this site that mention their like of it, with one commenter stating that it’s her ‘go to alcohol-free drink’. Having re-sampled it myself to make sure I hadn’t been supplied with a tainted batch I found my opinion maybe softened slightly, retracting the ‘bad cider’ comparison, but the beer is still not pleasant, with too much of a citric acid taste, and no pilsner malt flavour. And so the drink’s sibling, Sainsbury’s Low Alcohol Session Ale, has a low bar to get over. Let’s crack one open and get this done with.
The beer pours a dark golden colour with a lively appearance and good clarity. I suppose the wisps of froth produced during the pour could be classed as a head, but for all intents and purposes it’s pretty bare on top. On the nose we get malty sweetness and some juicy stone fruit, with a slight grassy note from the hops. Nothing to get excited about, but nothing unpleasant either.
Taste-wise we get a bready malt base with some stone fruit sweetness, plum and apricot. Some grassy hop bitterness builds a bit of interest, but remains muted and the balance swings more to sweetness. The body is actually pretty good, with a smooth mouthfeel and a decent level of carbonation. We get a sweet, slightly sickly finish to the drink.
Whilst Sainsbury’s Low Alcohol Session Ale is not going to win any awards, it’s without a doubt much better than the travesty that was the supermarket’s Pilsner Zero lager. Hopefully a step in the right direction for the giant company, and if sales of nolo beers continue well for them it might spur them on to offering something more palatable.
Buy Sainsbury’s Low Alcohol Session Ale
The clue is in the name – this Low Alcohol Session Ale is available exclusively from Sainsbury’s supermarkets.
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the bottle)
|Water, Barley Malt, Acid: Citric Acid, Barley Malt Extract, Hop, Hop Extract
|Country of Production
|Unknown – https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/
Sainsbury's Low Alcohol Session Ale Review
Not as bad as it could have been, but still has so much to improve on.