I know what you're thinking. You've looked at the photos of Brewdog's 'alcohol-free' beer, Nanny State and you're thinking 'How can an alcohol-free beer have 0.5% alcohol in it? That's not alcohol free' and technically, you'd be right. Well, not technically - you ARE right.
See, it shouldn't actually be called 'alcohol-free'; it should be called 'de-alcoholised', on account of the process whereby 'normal' beer is processed in some way (usually heated) to remove as much of the alcohol as possible, leaving around 0.5% ABV behind. But 'de-alcoholised beer' doesn't sound quite as sexy as 'alcohol free beer'. Not that either of them sound sexy - the very thought sends a shiver up my spine.
Maybe I'm not the right person to be reviewing an alcohol-free beer (not that Scott would be any warmer to the concept than me). It's not that I don't understand why it exists. I do. I understand that sometimes you really want a beer, but for some reason another, you can't. Maybe you're pregnant. Maybe you're taking medication. Maybe its 10am on a Tuesday morning and you're sitting in the office (although, in fairness, if that's the case you definitely need a real beer). There is an audience for this kind of product. Unfortunately, after sampling Nanny State, that audience doesn't include me.
I really wanted to like this beer. I've seen a few similar drinks around recently - apparently alcohol-free beer is the Next Big Thing - and I thought it would be a good idea to get hold of some to see what all the fuss was about. Brewdog has this beer, Pistonhead have Flat Tire - even Budweiser are planning a 'Prohibition Style' alcohol-free version of their beer that already tastes like it has no alcohol in it... I imagine it'll just be a bottle of coloured water, with a Bud label on the front. And, of course, there's Kaliber, the stuff I remember seeing some of the old boys drinking in the bowling club, in days gone by.
I really wanted to like it. But, I'm sorry to say, I just couldn't, no matter how much I tried. Let's get the good stuff out of the way first - that won't take too long...
For starters, it smells like beer - hoppy, fresh. And it pours well - it keeps a good head and it's a pleasant dark red/brown colour (darker than I was expecting). And then you take a swig and... it just...
It's like this; imagine trying to explain to someone what beer tastes like. You'll talk about hops - the fragrance and taste of them. You'll talk about malt - how it gives a sweetness to the drink, that the hops cut through. Bitter and sweet. Then imagine that that person goes away and tells someone else what beer tastes like. They might embellish the story a bit, miss out some details.
Then THAT person goes and tells another and changes the story a bit. And so on. Like Chinese Whispers. And along the way, some people that have never heard of malt or hops might get involved in the process. So they're trying to explain concepts that are alien to them. And at the end, you have an idea of what beer should be, but which is so far away from the original concept, that it might as well be a completely different entity.
And that is what we have Nanny State. It's not so much a beer, but an idea of what beer is, explained to you by someone who doesn't understand beer. Which is ridiculous, because Brewdog DO know what beer is.
So I understand that a lot of work has probably gone into this product. Knowing how seriously Brewdog take their beer, they probably sank millions into the development of this travesty. And it was all for naught. What we have here, is basically hop flavoured water. It's like perfume - smells alright, but tastes rotten (and ironically perfume would have more alcohol in it). When you take a swig, there's no substance to it all. It somehow feels thinner than water, which shouldn't be possible. It's like drinking a whisper of beer. Can beer exist in gas form?
I could almost forgive the lack of mouthfeel if it tasted OK, but it doesn't. It's too bitter and dry - like when you spray too much deodorant and it ends up in your mouth - and there's no malty sweetness at all. It's just so disappointing.
I still feel like I want to try one of the other alcohol-free beers I mentioned above, just to see if this was a glitch in the Matrix. But if they're all as bad as this drink, then maybe I shouldn't bother. Do yourself a favour - if you're in a social situation where you feel you need to have a drink in your hand that looks like beer, but you can't drink, just suck up your pride and buy a soft drink. Don't buy this/