We give away thousands of glasses of flavored beer at festivals and beer stores every month, and one question people ask is whether Mad Hops can make non-alcoholic (NA) beer taste better. These brews have the reputation of being flavorless and a little weird-tasting. Frankly, I didn’t know because I had never tried one. So I decided to investigate.
I went down to the local grocery store to see what kind of selection they had. I was surprised to see non-alcoholic versions of popular brands like Labatt’s, PBR, Old Milwaukee, and Busch alongside well-known NA beers like O’Doul’s, Buckler, St Pauli’s and Beck’s. There were also some new brands like Kaliber and Clausthaler.
Turns out the market for non-alcoholic beer market is huge and growing fast, nearly doubling in size over the past ten years. About a third of the adult US population doesn’t drink alcohol; so perhaps it’s not surprising that so many traditional beer companies have come out with non-alcoholic beers. Even people who drink “regular beer” sometimes want to abstain from alcohol at a business event or after working out.
It looks like beer, but it doesn’t really taste or smell like beer!
For the purposes of today’s taste test I ended up buying a 6-pack of O’Doul’s, the standard bearer of everyday non-alcoholic beer. Since I’ve never had an NA beer before, the first thing I did I was to taste the beer by itself, before adding any Mad Hops.
It was mild with a skunky smell. It reminded me of a beer that had been cooled, allowed to come back to room temperature, and then cooled again. I found the taste to be metallic, as was the after-taste (although I’ve looked at online reviews and never seen anyone else say that). It didn’t taste like beer exactly, but I found it refreshing. If given the option I might prefer it to a Coke or Sprite.
So could Mad Hops help? I already knew that our flavor drops improved the taste of a super light beer (Beer-Lover On the Atkins Diet? Here’s How You Can Make Michelob Ultra Taste Better), could it also give a non-alcoholic beer more body and depth of flavor? And what about that metallic taste? Could Mad Hops cover that up?
The Surprising Results of My Taste Test
Mad Hops comes in two basic categories – fruit flavors and craft beer inspired flavors. The “craft” varieties Pale Ale and Irish Porter are our two most popular products. They enhance any macro beer with a large dose of hops, malts and bitters; to the point where people who visit our booth at festivals literally cannot believe they are drinking a Bud Light or PBR.
Our fruit flavors take a different approach; they were designed to mask the beer flavor more than enhance it. Many people who don’t enjoy the taste of a plain old beer love the taste of a Mexican Lime or Cherry Wheat.
At least 3 of our 6 flavors makes NA beer way better! What do you think?
I tried the fruit flavors in the O’Doul’s, both with a hint of flavor as well as fully flavored up, and was delighted with the way they made the NA beer taste. The Apple Amber, Wild Blueberry and Mexican Lime in particular worked very well. The Cherry Wheat was not as successful, at least to my palate. The problem was it didn’t do enough to cancel out the metallic taste and after-taste.
This was also the case with the Pale Ale and Irish Porter. Did the Mad Hops make it taste better? Yes, of course; but not to where I was really happy with the results. I found the metallic taste of the beer difficult to mask or enhance, no matter how much Mad Hops I added. Cherry Wheat is closer to the craft beer varieties and contains more hops than the other 3 fruit flavors, so perhaps that’s the reason it also didn’t work as well.
That’s my take on adding Mad Hops to O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer. I have to admit the results of this unscientific taste test caught me caught me completely off-guard. I am a big fan of all 6 flavors of Mad Hops (no surprise), and believe they all work well with any macro beer, completely transforming its color, aroma and flavor. However, not all the flavors worked well with the O’Doul’s, IMHO.
I’m going to try some other NA brands over the coming days. I’ll let you know how that works out.
UPDATE: Steve and I just tried all six Mad Hops flavors with Beck’s Non-Alcoholic beer. While we both enjoyed the plain Beck’s more than the O’Doul’s and there was none of that metallic flavor, there was still a pretty strong skunky-ness to the aroma, taste and aftertaste. Not sure if every NA beer has this problem, but we will keep investigating.
We both agreed that our results with the Beck’s were much better than the O’Doul’s. Every Mad Hops flavor successfully masked the skunky taste and added a much-needed boost to the body and robustness of the brew.
It’s not surprising that the taste of NA beer needs a lot of help; these products are almost more like soda than beer. The alcohol is removed by heating it, which boils away a lot more than just the booze. After that, the whole thing has to be re-carbonated with CO2. Mad Hops works by putting all that good beer stuff back in (without adding any alcohol and only 7 calories!)
I hope you have the chance to try Mad Hops for yourself the next time you sit down for an NA brew. When you do, please report back so we can build a database beyond myself. What flavor do you think would taste good in an NA beer?