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As I mentioned in my previous post I have drunk very little beer over the last 10 months. This is hopefully a temporary state of affairs, but during this time I have obviously missed the taste, so to compensate have tried various alcohol free and low alcohol beers. I have to admit none have been particularly enjoyable, but some have still been better than nothing! In the pub trade Becks Blue appears to be the best most widely available alcohol free beer, having pushed the likes ofKaliber and Clausthaler to one side.However, as I haven't been feeling particularly sociable for the best part of a year, visits to the pub have been few and far between, and the majority of the alcohol free and low alcohol beers I've sampled have been consumed at home.

My thoughts on three alcohol free/low alcohol beers are given at the end of this post, but after months of struggling with them I've recently come across an excellent website for the Alcohol Free Shop. Based in Greater Manchester I was surprised to see that the shop stocks 24 different types of alcohol-free beer, including some interesting offerings from Erdinger, Krombacher, Maisels, Schneider, Veltins and most surprising of all Bernard from the Czech Republic. The shop also stocks a wide range of alcohol free wines (I hope they taste better than the one from Sainsbury's my wife and I tried the other weekend!), plus alcohol free ciders.

With the exception of the Bernard beer, which is an amber coloured Czech lager, all the others listed above are pilsner style beers. For ale drinkers there's virtually nothing available (I don't know whether the former Whitbread-brew, White Label is still around, but from memory it was pretty awful). Harveys however, stock two low-alcohol beers in their pubs. Both are produced from regular Harveys beers, before some of the alcohol is removed. John Hop is produced from the company's Best Bitter, whilst their Old Ale is used to produce the dark beer, Bill Brewer. Both have an abv of 1.0%. I haven't tried either in many a long year, but from memory the Bill Brewer was slightly more drinkable than the John Hop.

Before ending I want to stress that the sole reason for my avoiding alcohol has been that whilst I enjoy it at the time, it seems to make my anxiety symptoms worse, particularly the following day. It is difficult to know the reasons for this; they may be purely psychological, or alternatively the alcohol may be interacting with my medication. On the other hand it could just be down to the simple fact that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and can enhance any feelings of depression. Whatever the reason. I don't want to turn into some rabid anti-alcohol crusader, and as I start to gradually feel better, and slowly cut back on the medication. I will start to gradually re-introduce my system to some proper beers!

Review Time:

Becks Blue - Probably the widest available alcohol free beer, but in my opinion the worst of the lot. Thin and metallic with a nasty aftertaste to match, this beer to my mind isn't even a distress purchase. In fact when faced with this beer or no beer in a pub I would go for a mineral water instead!

Bavaria Holland 0.0% alc Premium Original. - It has always puzzled me as to why a company in the Netherlands should adopt the name "Bavaria" for its brands, but nevertheless this alcohol; free beer is a huge improvement on the Becks version, and quite drinkable, However, it still lacks that certain something. Most alcohol-free beers can contain up to 0.5% alcohol-by-volume, but Bavaria claim their version is different in that it's specially brewed to contain no alcohol and is a genuine 0.00% beer.

Sainsbury's Low Alcohol Czech Lager. - Brewed at the Staropramen Brewery in Prague which I know is more of a beer factory than a traditional Czech brewery, but this 0.5% low alcohol beer is the best of the bunch, and at least tastes like a lager.