Reviewing our top four AF beers

The following content might trigger the urge to drink for some people. If this is you, we encourage you to refrain from reading further.

“Maybe you should try a month off beers?”

I shuddered. My girlfriend was right since COVID-19 I was giving it a nudge more often than I usually would. I don’t drink a lot in one go but the time between drinks was getting shorter and shorter. Finished work for the day? Grab a beer. Was I doing some yard work? Better grab a tinnie. Just a bit bored? Yeah, go on, I’ll have a couple. So I decided to have a month off drinking with a twist, I could still drink beers, but they had to be Alcohol-free.

Since starting in my position as head of product engineering at Hello Sunday Morning, I had toyed with the idea of giving some AF beers a taste and seeing how they measured up with my go-to beers which are, for the record Resches, young henrys – Newtowner and balter – XPA. To be honest, I was not expecting much, I had always thought of non-alcoholic or low alcohol beers as pretty crappy with no taste, but I was prepared to risk it for my AF month.

After some chats to mates who have been trying AF beers for a while now, I had a few ideas of what I wanted to get, and I was ready to buy some beers! After a quick google I found what I wanted and where to get them from and put together a shopping list of beers, some I had heard of and some I hadn’t.

  • Heaps Normal – Quiet XPA
  • Sobah – Finger lime Cerveza
  • Sobah – Pepperberry IPA
  • Heaps Normal – Quiet XPA
  • Big drop – Pine trail pale ale
  • Holgate – Love all pale ale
  • Upflow – Session IPA

So you know, none of these companies even know I’m writing this, I bought all the beers out of my pocket.

The big day arrived, and I was excited, it was a couple of days until I had said I would stop drinking, but I thought I should try a couple first. I cracked open a tin of Heaps Normal quiet XPA and knew that everything was about to change. I ended up having three more of them that night.

So far I have also enjoyed the Big drop – pine trail pale ale, Upflow – session IPA and the Sobah – finger lime Cerveza. I have been drinking these Non-Alcoholic beers for a little over a month now and can definitely see myself continuing.

 

Top Four:

Heaps Normal – Quiet XPA

Heaps Normal was co-founded by four mates whose purpose is just as good as their first beer, the quiet XPA. This beer was a game changer for me, while I had enjoyed all the others the quiet XPA is a beer which could easily be my new go to and replace ‘normal’ beers for me altogether. I took a four pack of these to a BBQ and no one had any idea it was an AF beer.

 

Big drop – Pine trail pale ale

Big drop is a brewery out of the UK with more awards than you can count and it shows when you try their beers. I picked up a 4 pack of the pine trail pale ale and wished I had gotten more, this beer has received two World Beer Awards – World’s Best Style Winner.

“Rosy floral aromas are immediate as you pour, with a light and limey citrus bite on the palate and a balanced but obvious bitterness to finish”

Upflow – Session IPA

Judged the best tasting non-alcoholic beer in Australia in The Crafty Pint Blind Tasting Summer 2020 it’s easy to see why, the Upflow session IPA is easy to drink and tastes amazing.

Sobah – Finger lime Cerveza

Aboriginal owned and led Sobah has an aim to raise cultural awareness and promote Aboriginal arts, language and history. The finger lime, aka ‘gulalung’ is an Australian native citrus fruit naturally occurring around Northern NSW and SE QLD throughout Bundjalung Nations lands. There are some great beers in the Sobah range and I really enjoyed this particular one, a great beer for a day in the sun or mowing the lawn.

Cam Lazell is the Head of Product Engineering team at Hello Sunday Morning. He is passionate about building user-centric products with a focus on quality and clinical outcomes for our Daybreak app. Cam is currently training to complete an ironman in 2022 – any tips are welcome!

44 Comments

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  • I drink the great northern zero, lve been drinking heavy for the last 30 odd years. I still enjoy a great northern super crisp after work maybe 4 instead of a dozen. I switch to the zero beer and l really enjoy it and stay sober. The other advantage is it’s a lot cheaper so you save a few dollars, l deafintly recommend zero beer

    By Craig
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    February 18, 2021
  • I absolutely love heaps normal. Finding them stocked at the pub when you are AF or designated driver I think is a game changer….no more hurry up and finish your beers lads! Let’s stay for another!

    By Jen
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    February 18, 2021
  • Hi
    Thanks for that review. I love a cold beer in Summer too, and am on the hunt for good AF wine as well. Where do you buy such beers?? I have been to Dan Murphy’s, First Choice and BWS, only to find a very small and poor selection of AF beverages. Also, the AF wine is never stored in the fridge, always on the shelf.

    By Susan Nicolle
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I personally could not have given up alcohol without alcohol-free beers. I love that they are now readily available in supermarkets and bottle-shops alike. I have tried quite a few brands. Heaps Normal and Heineken Zero being my favourites so far. This review of other brands is really helpful – I’m going to seek them out! Thanks

    By Jacqui
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    February 18, 2021
    • I highly recommend Nort refreshing ale … great bitter taste and only 49 kCal per stubby… no beer gut with this one! Available at BWS.

      By Angela
      |
      February 18, 2021
      • Totally agree with Angela on NORT – tried it last night and excellent ‘IPA’ style – I’ve yet to notice the beer gut diminish but always hopeful 🙂

        By Rob
        |
        February 26, 2021
  • Tried Great Northern recently after drinking Heineken Zero and Carlton zero for ages. Really like GN but found it’s only available in Queensland and the NT! Thanks for promoting alcohol free alternatives for adults. I’ve never like soft drinks or fruit juice.

    By Magda C
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    February 18, 2021
  • I’ve tried the sobah and really like it. Can you get ‘heaps normal’ through retail outlets?

    By Jan Carolane
    |
    February 18, 2021
    • Try Craft Zero online. They deliver to your door!

      By Lachie
      |
      February 18, 2021
  • Thanks for this – there are great options here that I haven’t tried but will now. In the UK and to a lesser extent US you can get great AF beers in pubs, sometimes even on tap. I want to be able to go AF and still enjoy time in the pub with my mates and drink something other than soda water with lime.

    By Mike
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I agree with another comment about Heaps Normal and Heineken zero, very tasty. I’ve just discovered Corona Cero which is also excellent. The important thing for me is that the beer has to be dry i.e. none of the icky sweet taste that is associated with many other zero beers.

    By Radds
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Is 0.5% considered completely nonalcoholic? I wonder if someone was to drink 6+ of these, whether their BAC reading would show zero during a breath test, or whether it would interfere with medications that require people to abstain from alcohol completely?

    There are also lots of other great options that are 0.0% (instead of 0.5%). Heineken Zero is my go-to as of late.

    By Cal
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • 214 days into my alcohol-free life and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have made it without the AFBs…I love a beer and, now, can enjoy a beer that is alcohol-free and tastes great. A big tick to those mentioned above PLUS…the European countries have been doing it for a long time and I still enjoy a Bitburger, Holsten, Erdringer, Clausthaler and Budvar. I’ve really enjoyed the Nort Refreshing Ale and, in recent times, the Tinnies Ultra-Low Alcohol Hoppy Ale. For a very cheap, but quite pleasant AFB, try the Uberbrau Ultra Low ALcohol Lager – at $20 for a box of 24x330ml stubbies, it’s great value. Still the only issue for me is being able to get an AFB of any form when I’m out at a restaurant, hotel, etc…hopefully, the pressure will force change to the supply chain.

    By Peter Rock
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I like Carlton Zero, available at Woolies…crisp taste, very much like regular beer I think, although not everyone agrees.

    By Susan
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I can vouch for Big Drop, I’m in the UK so lucky to have access to their full offering. Pine Trail is my go to everyday beer, but big shout out to their lager and Paradiso IPA.

    By Iain
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Thanks for the review, will try and source these rather exotic ones down here. Have tried Carlton Zero ( a bit “hoppy” ) but the cheapest. Heineken and Peroni Zero’s both nice. Corona , not so. Beware, none of these are that light on calories, just alcohol. Cheers

    By James David Callan
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I love an AFB, I hate sugary drinks and you can’t drink tea at a party. Brewdog Nanny State is quite grown up and really low in calories (bonus) and Brewdog Punk AF is lighter in taste. Both reasonably easy to get hold of in the UK.

    By Josephine Sullivan
    |
    February 18, 2021
    • Brewdog’s Punk AF is my fave 👏

      By Bungo
      |
      February 23, 2021
  • Great yarn. Been a bit sweet on the tins myself of late. Have had a few different AF drops of late and they definitely have a place in my fridge.

    By Nick Green
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • The availability of non alcoholic drinks in Coles, etc. make buying and drinking a regular part of my drinking pattern. I like the Coopers ultra light beer, and Heineken zero.

    By Peter Macpherson
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Very helpful review for a pregnant person, thanks! Carlton Zero is bland but all I can get at my local.

    By Laura
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • This is nuts and a clear indication that for all your gentle and well meaning words, you don’t really understand the nature of the beast and are prepared to put people at risk.

    AF beers maintain, even reinforce, the alcoholic’s alcohol focus, consciousness. Socially it brings pressure in the form of unwanted attention – if you’re drinking a Coke, people just see that and get it, maybe asking about the soft option in passing.

    If people clock the unfamiliar AF beer: “what’s that?”, “what’s it taste like?”, “how much?”, “why?”, “do you miss the real thing?” etc. In no time at all the reforming drinker’s non drinking has become the focus of attention and topic of conversation. That’s uncomfortable and probably stressful also.

    Of course the alcohol industry wants more market share for their AF products so you’re doing them a favour.

    It’s about deconstructing, disrupting the behaviour, the thinking that takes you to the substance in the first place.

    Your AF beers just reinforce the habits and behaviour of a lifetime.

    By Peter Mullins
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Due to a medical issue I slowed down my beer consumption and after trying a number of AF beers I have settled on Nort brewed at Mona Vale Sydney and available in major stores. A few A drinking mates reckon it’s good too. It doesn’t have the sugar and carb content of the major brand AFS. Crown Lager and VBs are my A beer drinks. I will also try the Heaps but never seen it.

    By Gary
    |
    February 18, 2021
    • Can’t find ‘Nort’ online Gary – is it the right name?

      By bevan
      |
      February 18, 2021
    • Besides being AF the other big figure is the sugar content if you also want to watch the waist. I think only Coopers and Nort are sugar-free. Will have to check out the ones mentioned above but very keen to try the Heaps Normal.

      By Peter
      |
      February 18, 2021
    • Nort is also my favourite. I wasn’t a big beer drinker before giving up alcohol (wine was my weakness) but Nort is just like drinking a nice beer.

      By RJ
      |
      February 19, 2021
  • Interested in what you make of the other beers Cam? What of the Holgate and other Sobah?

    By bevan
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I am blown away by how close to “Normal Becks” the “Becka Blue” AF beer is.

    By Mark
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • My almost 40-year-old nephew was drinking Nort at a “Christmas in February” family gathering a couple of Sundays ago, and he gave it the thumbs up. Said it tasted as good as the boutique beer he normally drinks.

    By Sharyn from Sydney
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I’m interested to know how these are priced compared to “normal” beers. I see they are 4-packs, but are they still $20-$25? Also wondering nutritional stats – if they have as much sugar and calories in them as normal beer, and they cost the same, I may as well just drink normal beer. I get that’s not the point, and that these certainly have a place especially in social settings where you may wish to “fit in” without getting drunk. Glad to see there are some more crafty flavours coming onto the market. I might even try ‘em…..

    By Lan
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • These are all very good. Nort IMO is better, the Hawkesbury Prohibition AF Pale better again and the ultimate of all is Athletic Brewing IPA. Not Aussie, but available on craft zero and has all the hit of an IPA but AF. Their Upside Dawn Golden Ale is also amazing.

    By Colin
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I tried my first ever NA beer at a birthday dinner at a brewery last Saturday night …it was the Heaps Normal one and I loved it …I was always reluctant to try a NAB because it looks so much like beer but I have no qualms drinking fizzy apple juice and that’s not cider so I am not sure why I avoided Heineken zero etc but support the locals!!10/10

    By Janet
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Hi just wondering if you can recommend a great gluten free AF beer?

    By Kyles
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I’m finding the growing range of AF beers really helpful. Heaps Good XPA is great. The Budvar Non Alcoholic is also virtually indistinguishable from the full strength. Current favourite is the Vandestreek Playground IPA. It’s just a shame that so few bars sell craft AF beers.

    By Richard
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • More pubs are selling AF beer, which is great (not on tap though unfortunately). Heineken 0.0 is my fave, and is available most places – would be great to see how it & Carlton Zero fare in your next taste test!

    By McLovin
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I would be interested in story on AF wine too.

    By Sue
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • I can recommend Erdinger AF Wheat Beer (they do a regular one as well).

    It’s not cheap, but the taste is great and the closest I’ve come to nearly being fooled by an AF beer so far. Highly recommended.

    By Jon
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • thanks for the inspiration and testing! I’d like to add AF beer Prohibition from Hawkesbury brewing co. Nice and fruity pale ale.

    By El
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Nort, Peroni Libera, & Sobah Lemon Aspen Pilsener are my favourites

    By Richard Sargeant
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Agreed. Heaps Normal Quiet XPA is the best AF beer on the market. A close second is the Heineken 0.0. Great review. Thanks.

    By Lachie
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • Had a Carlton Zero today at a (otherwise great) steakhouse for lunch, it was rubbish. First and last time. The Heineken version seems OK. But I’m a Sobah fan: Davidson Plum, Lemon Aspen and the Pepperberry are my picks.
    Not tried the other brands mentioned here, might have to give them a crack.
    The best bit about NA beers is that I’m satisfied with just one!

    By Papa Romeo
    |
    February 18, 2021
  • After researching what goes into beer I wouldn’t drink it ever again, AF or not the potent
    8-prenylnaringenin is in both. Man boobs boys! Massive guts and inflammation all over the body. Not to mention the animal products eg isinglass that are used to clarify beers for eye appeal Now they claim beer is Vegan friendly because they use synthetic chemicals to clarify yeast. Beer is not Beer any more once science and profit motive get involved……be wise! Health is more important.

    By Jas
    |
    February 19, 2021
  • I tried Edenvale shiraz wine from Woolworths for around $7. HHmmm yeah not quite like a beautiful alcoholic Shiraz but I gave it a go. It was quite vinegary and watered down like and it took me 3 nights to finish a 700ml bottle unlike an alcoholic shiraz in which I was drinking the whole bottle. Now I am just having a sodastream soda water with lemon or orange or frozen berries through the week. I still like pepsi max sometimes too after all I can’t give up everything in one go.

    By Mazza Gilbert
    |
    February 23, 2021
    • I’m not sure if Dan Murphy’s still sell a brand called Ariel, but it is the best AF wine I have ever had. I have tried all their range. Of course, there is the issue of going to DM in the first place, but I used to avoid the pull of the “little monster” by buying my AF drinks in the morning when I did my grocery shopping.

      By Bungo
      |
      February 23, 2021
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