Spanish Non-Alcoholic Beer
It would be fair to say that Brits have a certain reputation when it comes to drinking lager in Spain. Especially in the more tourist-friendly areas of the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol and the Spanish islands.
But perhaps that is that all about to change - and not least because Magaluf and Ibiza are clamping down on alcohol-fuelled holidays.
The rapid growth of the non-alcoholic beer sector in the UK suggests there’s a huge appetite for 0% drinks, and the Spanish clearly know what they’re doing when it comes to beer ‘sin alcohol’ (sin means 'without' in Spanish).
As awareness of the benefits of drinking non-alcoholic beer grows more and more people are giving them a go. As well as this, the adoption of 0% beers by travel companies such as easyJet suggests this is a trend that large companies are willing to bet on (after all, an airline can only carry a limited number of options onboard).
With the biggest Spanish brands getting behind 0% beers, it’s clear that the Spaniards are all for a move towards 0% beer. And that can only be a good thing for European drinkers as a whole, given the popularity of Spanish lagers in general.
During a recent family holiday to Valencia, I explored the range of non-alcoholic beers and radlers (shandy) readily available in supermarkets. Here’s the list of drinks I sampled - click the names to head straight to the reviews:
- Amstel 0.0
- Amstel Oro 0.0
- Adlerbrau Sin Alcohol
- Adlerbrau Sin Radler
- Ambar 0.0 Sin Gluten
- Mahou Sin
- Mahou Sin Tostada
- Mahou Radler
- San Miguel 0.0
- San Miguel 0.0 Radler
And along with my reviews, you’ll also find some suggestions for things to do whilst visiting Valencia. It’s a wonderful city with loads to offer.
Getting to and Travelling around Valencia
We were visiting in January, when the weather was cool through the mornings but pleasantly warm in the afternoons (and much nicer than the UK!). We flew with easyJet from Luton to Valencia and then used Valencia’s excellent Metro service to get into the city and the EMT bus service to travel around the city and a littler further afield.
Travelling with 4 young children is often quite stressful - especially in cities and abroad. But Valencia in January is quiet and easy to get around and we were fortunate to be staying within walking distance of Valencia’s historic centre and the wonderful Jardin del Turia which runs the length of the city.
During my first trip to the local supermarket (a Consum), I was pleased to discover a decent range of 0% beers available by the can and bottle, and so began my Spanish 0% taste test.
Refreshing Spanish Lager
Amstel 0.0 Pura Malta is a refreshing, everyday kind of lager. Best served really cold and whilst enjoying some Mediterranean sunshine - if possible! The official information recommends serving at between 2 and 4 Celsius, no doubt because as the beer warms up it starts to taste a little less appetising. The good thing about drinking a 0% beer is that it can be consumed fairly quickly without worrying about the after effects!
There’s some of that slightly odd alcohol-free taste hanging around amidst the maltiness, but there’s also a good amount of bitterness to balance the malt.
As with many of the mainstream alcohol free lagers there’s an abundance of malt and drinkers of Amstel 0.0 will no doubt recognise a strong resemblance to Heineken 0.0 (they are produced by the same manufacturer, after all). I’m not a regular lager drinker, but I am sure I wouldn’t notice much difference between these two beers.
Amstel’s 0.0 is attractive in the glass, bright and clear with a reasonable head and a light fizz. The packaging is great too. I bought mine in a can, but the bottle is similar with a rich blue and gold (contrasting with the red of the alcoholic version). It looks like a premium product, which I guess it is based on brand alone, but at around 40p per can (€0.54 from Consum in Valencia as of January 2020) it’s really good value.
This is the kind of non-alcoholic option which could really help NA beer hit the mainstream, so get hold of some and share it with a few friends. It’s cheaper than the alcoholic version, and at less than half the calories your waistline will thank you as well as you pocket!
Perfectly drinkable (when cold), I’d recommend Amstel 0.0 it to anyone looking for an easy-drinking 0% lager.
Our children are still at the age where a holiday is judged on the quality of the play parks. Valencia scores top marks in that department with the highlight being the Gulliver Park in Jardin del Turia. Jardin del Turia is a massive town park (10km long). It runs around the north and east of the city, following the route of the river which was re-directed years ago to prevent flooding.
Gulliver is huge. He’s lying down, tied to the ground by the Lilliputians, meaning that children (and parents) can enjoy clambering around all over him. The park is surrounded by a tall fence with only one entrance/exit point making it quite easy to keep track of your children as they climb about all over poor Gulliver. Highly recommended!
Amstel Oro 0.0
A Golden Beer with Complex Flavours
Amstel Oro (literally, ‘gold’), is probably my favourite 0% beer from a mainstream brewery to date. I love the gold and teal packaging, which definitely stands out on the shelf and immediately gives the impression of a premium brand - and it did not disappoint.
It’s a rich golden colour in the glass, no doubt as a result of the roasted malt used in the brewing process. I think it looks far more appetising than a pale lager - more like an ale, but with a refreshing fizz. The head doesn’t stick around for long - but that’s not a deal breaker for me, especially in a lager.
The flavours are far more interesting and complex than the standard Amstel 0.0, again coming from the drying and roasting process used in manufacture. This beer is a non-alcoholic version of standard Amstel Oro which I haven’t tried (so I can’t compare directly) but I imagine this is an excellent non-alcoholic alternative. The marketing blurb from Amstel make reference to ‘mocha chocolate or coffee’ flavours, which I’m not sure I got, but it’s certainly a tasty beer with far more going on than a standard lager.
Amstel Oro was easily available in standard supermarkets (Consum), and was good value too. Should I find myself back in Spain anytime soon I’d definitely be stocking my fridge with a few of these.
I drank mine straight from the fridge - and quite quickly as it was so tasty - so I can’t say how the flavour might change as it warms up a bit. Drink it cold and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
We spent a wonderful day at Oceanografic Valencia, which is the largest aquarium in Europe and regularly voted one of the world’s best. Being January it was very quiet, so we were able to enjoy all the exhibits in relative peace and quiet. The sun was shining and the whole place was very well kept and easy to navigate.
We used the EMT bus service to get across the city. It proved to be a very reliable and cost effective transport option of us throughout our trip (even though we probably could have saved a bit of cash by buying multi-journey tickets in advance).
Adlerbrau Sin Alcohol
A Subtly Flavoured Standard Lager
This is a bog-standard 0% lager. The can says ‘ABV. Less than 1%’ - so my presumption is that it’s probably a 0.5%. There’s very little to find out about this online, there’s no mention of a website on the can, but at least the ingredients are mentioned: water, barley malt, maize and hops.
Adlerbrau Sin Alcohol has a very mild taste. It’s not particularly hoppy, but neither is it overly malty (which makes a nice change from many of the non-alcoholic lagers). However, being neither malty nor hoppy leaves it rather bland. There was a subtle hint of those 2% French stubbies available in huge multipacks in supermarkets in the UK and across Europe - a memory of other holidays spent across the channel.
It’s got a good fizz, and colour - it’s definitely a refreshing beer to enjoy on a hot day. I didn’t detect any odd flavours which are often lurking in standard non-alcoholic lagers, nor was there any unpleasant aftertaste. In fact, the overriding aftertaste was fairly bitter, confirming that I had just drunk a beer, and not some kind of weak-tasting savoury shandy.
Based on packaging alone, I’d suggest Adlerbrau is at the more budget end of the non-alcoholic range. But, with most of the non-alcoholic cans available in our local Consum costing between €0.40 and €0.70, there’s really not that much to choose between them in terms of cost.
So, there are definitely better non-alcoholic beers, but this is by no means the worst. I’d actually recommend it if you’ve tried a NA lager and can’t get along with the maltiness which seems so prevalent. It’s mild flavour would no doubt appeal to some, whilst putting others off if you’re looking for something more distinct.
Coffee at Un Cafe
We love coffee and were delighted to find a fantastic little take away in Valencia’s historic centre. It is run by Danny (who speaks good English) and he is clearly an excellent barista. As well as excellent coffee also serves lovely hot chocolate with the option of Oatly which meant our dairy-intolerant son could also enjoy a hot chocolate. We’d heard Valencia was good for vegan food - and it was certainly pretty straight forward finding suitable options for him whilst out and about.
If you’re visiting Valencia and enjoy a good coffee make sure you visit Un Cafe. What surprised us the most was the price - a takeaway espresso costing only €0.90 - and nowhere we saw charged more than around €1.30 for a takeout coffee of any kind.
Ambar 0.0 Sin Gluten
Without Alcohol or Gluten. Also Without Taste and Fragrance.
In Spanish ‘sin’ means ‘without’, so you’ll frequently see ‘sin alcohol’ on alcohol free packaging, although it is being phased out in favour of a big 0% or 0.0% sign.
This beer (though it can hardly be called that), from Ambar, is not only ‘sin alcohol’ it is also ‘sin gluten’. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that alcohol free beer is niche enough - but add to that a requirement for gluten free and you’re heading into a very small section of the market. However, in my efforts to explore as many of the readily available 0% beers in Spanish supermarkets as possible I thought it was worth a try.
It was not.
I poured mine from the bottle it came in into a small glass. The tiny head that formed lasted all of about 2.5 seconds and then was gone without trace. There was a reassuring fizz, but that was of little comfort given that it was immediately obvious how disappointing this beer is.
It tasted of, well, nothing much at all. And it didn’t smell of much either. I did detect a slight maltiness coming from the bottle immediately after opening but, like the head, this didn’t stick around once poured into the glass.
Interestingly, having given it to my wife (who hates beer) to try, she remarked that of all the beers she’s tried this one was almost drinkable - presumably because it tastes of nothing. And even more disappointingly, because of the lack of flavour, all there is to let you know you’ve just consumed something is a rather odd aftertaste - a fairly unpleasant combination of that weird bitterness often associated with artificial sweeteners along with that chemical-like residue sometimes associated with not-so-nice non-alcoholic beers.
What positives can I draw? Well, if you are in the gluten and alcohol-free section of the market and you’re in Spain and can’t find anything else, I’m this would prove refreshing on a hot day, although you might like to mix it with some lemonade to give it some flavour and mask the aftertaste. Under every other circumstance I think you’ll easily find something else far more enjoyable.
The Museu de les Ciències is located in another amazing building designed by Santiago Calatrava. It's a huge building, surrounded by water, and it houses some excellent interactive exhibitions and experiences.
The museum was split into a number if distinct sections, each with a different focus. As of January 2020, exhibits span space travel, the human body, the science in children's stories, human language, Nobel prise winners and more. We several hours exploring the exhibits and had a great day it. It's also incredibly good value!
A Sin-sational Lager from a Spanish Favourite
Mahou is not a brand I am at all familiar with. Some of their beers are available in the UK, but not everywhere. It definitely seems to be one of Spains best-kept secrets (I tried their alcoholic IPA the other day and that was really excellent).
Mahou Sin is a standard lager - only without the alcohol. It does have a subtle malty flavour, but nowhere near as strong as Heineken 0.0. And whilst the malt is less evident, it is by no means without flavour.
To me it tastes just as an everyday lager should and is best served ice cold. It has a good amount of fizz and is thirst-quenchingly refreshing. After a long day visiting Valencia’s wonderful Museu de les Ciències, followed by a run around in the equally amazing Gulliver Park (yes, parents are allowed to enjoy clambering all over Gulliver too!) this really hit the spot.
Having tried the Amstel 0 recently I would say that there is very little to choose between these two brands in terms of flavour - which bodes well for the other Mahou I have in my fridge, the 0.0 Toastada.
I hope we’ll see more of Mahou in the UK over the coming months and years - I’ll definitely be looking out for it, particularly in the alcohol-free section. I’d recommend this beer to anyone looking for a decent introduction to 0.0 lager, or needing a reliable offering for guests.
This is yet more proof that when it comes to brewing really good non-alcoholic beer that appeals to the mass market, Spanish breweries really know what they’re doing.
Albufera is a national park area located south of Valencia which encompases a large lake as well as a beautiful stretch of coastline and nature reserves. We were limited by the bus service, so couldn't explore very widely, and being January it was very quiet with an obvious lack of tourist visitors. However, it was a very beautiful and peaceful place with some amazing wildlife and picturesque scenes.
San Miguel 0.0
San Miguel’s Refreshing and Award-Winning Alcohol Free Lager
San Miguel 0.0 won the ‘Best Spanish alcohol free beer’ category in the World Beer Awards 2015. Not being a regular lager drinker I’m not sure I would ever choose a pint of San Miguel (alcoholic or not) given any other options from Germany or France. However, I would definitely opt for another one of these, should the opportunity present itself.
There’s more than a hint of malt, but it is well balanced with a decent bitterness. It definitely feels like beer in the mouth - in a way which some non-alcoholic lagers struggle to achieve. After an afternoon exploring the back-streets of Valencia’s historic centre, including scaling the heights of the Serranos Towers, this was a thirst-quenching and welcome refreshment.
I suppose I could have done a direct comparison with standard San Miguel. But, with past experience of comparing ‘like for like’, I know this would probably have resulted in disappointment. Die-hard San Miguel fan may not consider this an adequate replacement - just as Heineken 0.0 is not quite the same as the standard stuff.
San Miguel is a well-known brand. And given the popularity of their lager amongst Brits I am sure their non-alcoholic lager could be instrumental in exposing many who ask ‘why would I drink a non-alcoholic beer?’ to give it a try.
Rated as a top thing to do when in Valencia we were not disappointed with our trip to Mercat Central. There was loads to see and experience and we enjoyed some fresh bread and traditional Spanish tortilla as well as some Valencian chocolate.
Oh, and the beer stall is definitely worth a visit!
Mahou Sin Tostada
Disappointingly Bland Tostada
After trying the Amstel Oro, which also makes mention of ‘tostada’ on the label, I had high hopes for this beer. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to expectations. What a shame!
The Mahou Sin is a really good standard lager, but I prefer something with a bit more flavour, having been a regular ale and IPA drinker in recent years. The Amstel Oro really makes the most of the additional flavours created by the drying/roasting process to make it distinct from the Amstel 0.0. Sadly, the Mahou Sin Tostada doesn’t really taste any different from the standard Mahou Sin.
In fact, I’d say it was pretty bland. Yes, there are hints of roasted malt, but no more than a subtle suggestion. And sadly there’s a slightly chemical-like aftertaste, quite bitter (but not in a good way).
Having heartily recommended the Mahou Sin, I’d suggest giving this one a miss - go for the Amstel Oro instead.
Bioparc is a fantastic animal park a short bus journey from Valencia city centre. We had a fantastic day out, and while I'm not usually a fan of zoos and the like, Bioparc was really well done with very happy looking animals. We'd definitely recommend a visit if you're planning a trip to Spain.
San Miguel 0.0 Radler, Mahou Sin Radler (Mixta), Adlerbrau Sin Radler
Best Enjoyed with a Large Measure of Spanish Sunshine
Let’s start by stating the obvious: as soon as you add lemonade to beer it stops being beer, so I’m not really reviewing these as I would do with a non-alcoholic beer. Also, in the UK ‘radler’ isn’t really a thing. The closest would probably be a Bass Shandy (which I haven’t tried in decades) as a shandy in a pub would normally be a 50/50 mixture of lemonade with either lager or bitter, depending on preference.
With all these things in mind I have lumped these 3 drinks together - as there is very little to choose between them. Given the right circumstance all 3 go down nicely. But, perhaps a bit like Sangria, radler will likely remain a mainland European thing.
I drank the Alderbrau Sin Radler whilst sat in the sunshine enjoying a picnic with my family in El Palmar. This seemed the perfect situation in which to enjoy this drink - and it did not disappoint. However, because of rather obscure ‘less than 1% alcohol’ description I can’t say what the exact percentage was which may not satisfy the hardened NAB drinker! There was a pleasant bitterness (from the beer), which contrasted with the sweetness of the lemonade.
The Mahou radler (with a rather alco-pop style ‘Mixta’ brand emblazoned on the can) is rated at 0.9% ABV so can’t really be classed as a non-alcoholic drink. But, for the purposes of research and fairness I was happy to include it in this taste test! I really enjoyed this one - there was definitely more taste of beer in this one and slightly less sweetness than the Adlerbrau and San Miguel (which I’ll come to next). Of the three, this is the one I’d definitely buy again - although I don’t think it’s available in the UK.
Finally the San Miguel 0.0 Radler - the one with the biggest brand awareness (for me) and also absolutely 0% alcohol making it truly alcohol-free. It was nice - although I think that because of the subtlety of flavour in the San Miguel 0.0 lager the taste of the beer was almost entirely masked by the lemonade. That said, there was still an undercurrent of bitterness, like the other two it was obvious that it wasn’t straight lemonade.
If you’re in the mood, I’d say try any (or all) of these. They’re all refreshing with a bitterness which tells you it’s not just lemonade. Given the right circumstances a decent radler is something to be enjoyed. And for those of us who have grown up with the idea of drinking alcohol in public spaces being ‘bad’, a can of radler feels far more acceptable!
Spanish breweries have long been popular with UK drinkers. If the growing acceptance of non-alcoholic beers continues, Spanish breweries like San Miguel and Mahou look set to take their share of the market - and deservingly so.
And if you're planning a trip to Spain and want to keep your alcohol intake low whilst enjoying a drink, I hope you'll check out some of the beers mentioned above and then let us know your thoughts by leaving a review here on drinkNAB.com.
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