Review of "Clausthaler Premium Low Alcohol Lager"

published 21/01/2006 | Tricksty
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"To Suckle Fools and Chronicle Small Beer."

Beer with no alcohol.

You may think it's boring, you may think it's bland. You are right. But if, like me, you are temporarily off the booze, (my abstinence is due to pregnancy), then you just might find sticking constantly to soft drinks is even more boring than opting for this stuff. Before anyone shouts at me, I know water and juice are much more beneficial for me, but I have to admit I do like the taste of beer and juices can be very sickly and cloying after a while. And anyway, a little of what you fancy does you good…

Clausthaler Classic is the second non/low alcohol beer I've sampled recently. The first one was truly awful and tasted like bitter soda water. It came in a big 500ml bottle and was a chore to finish (but of course, I did). It's a Bulgarian brand that I don't think you can buy in the UK, so I won't go into details; suffice to say that I was not expecting much when I popped the top of this slender number.

At 330ml, my Clausthaler Classic was a much girlier sized portion. It comes in brown glass bottles and has quite a traditional, simple label, done out in gold and red on white. The beer itself is pale amber coloured. It's moderately, but not-overly, fizzy, and doesn't fill you up unpleasantly with gas like many beers do. (I can't drink Castle Maine XXXX without burping out every other word when I speak). The taste is quite hoppy- very faintly sweet and a little bitter, and there is a discernible flavour. It doesn't taste like watered-down beer; it actually tastes similar to Amstel to me. In fact, the only way I would know that this beer was low alcohol is because I don't feel an urge for another one as soon as I've finished. The lack of alcohol prevents that little voice in your head that shouts "MORE!" just as you come to the end of your pint, and you end up actually feeling sated and refreshed after a wee one.

I think Clausthaler have achieved a fine and drinkable low alcohol beer here. I was intrigued as to how it tasted so mightily superior to the first one I'd tried, and had a mosey on down to the Clausthaler website, where I discovered some rather intriguing facts which I am delighted to be able to share with you all. Clausthaler is not that famous in the UK, but around the world it is the market leader in some countries, (Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg), and has won some fantastic if obscure beer awards. It is, in marketing terms, the most successful non/low alcohol beer in the world. This seems to be due to the brewing technique. Let me enlighten you:

Most non/low alcohol beer is made thus: step 1 - brew beer like in the old days, out of barley (malt), hops and water, step 2 - remove the alcohol, either by dialysis (letting the beer seep through a membrane under its own pressure) or by mechanically boosted pressure (reverse-osmosis). Alcohol lost, but flavour lost too.

Clausthaler beer is made thus: step 1 - specially cultivated yeast is added to the wort, (the mixture which becomes beer when it's fermented), which produces a negligible amount of alcohol compared to normal yeast. There's no step 2. The beer produced is already low in alcohol, but still retains what Clausthaler boast as "plenty of the full-bodied, flavoursome taste". The details of the method are patented, and, of course, top secret.

The company is very proud that the beer is made in "strict accordance with the German Beer Purity Decree of 1516". Wow. This means there are only the purist of ingredients in the beer- no nasty chemicals or preservatives. The ingredients are simply water, barley, hops and yeast. (Actually, yeast isn't in the approved ingredients list of 1516, mainly because they hadn't discovered it by then). There are 85 calories per 330ml, which is actually around the same as normal beer.

I was a bit perturbed to see that Ciao!'s product description labels the beer as "low" alcohol, whereas it quite clearly states on my bottle that it is "non-alcoholic". I'm not being puritanical about drinking alcohol while pregnant or anything, but I do like to be sure of my facts. Here is the truth:

Clausthaler Classic contains 0.45% alcohol by volume, which incidentally they claim is the minimal quantity necessary for our taste-buds to appreciate beeriness. In Europe (and my bottle was purchased in Bulgaria), manufacturers are permitted to stick a label on which says "non-alcoholic", "de-alcoholized" or "alcohol-removed" as long as the alcohol by volume is less than 0.5%. In the UK alcohol-free beverages must contain less than 0.05% alcohol. Technically, they are referred to as "alcohol-free". Aha! You may be thinking, good old Britain putting paid to unscrupulous marketing techniques! Well, chew this over:

Nearly all fruit juices have traces of alcohol. Apple juice, for example, typically contains 0.1-0.38%. So, apple juice should be described as "low-alcohol"… Laws vary from country to country, but in Germany, for example, many soft drinks are up to 0.3% and grape juice can be up to 1% without having any warning on the label. Go kids!

But in fact, all this is squabbling about nothing. Such low levels of alcohol are proven to have no effect whatsoever on the body organism, and show no change in your blood alcohol content. We are living in an age obsessed with correctness and fear of being sued should one tiny detail be wrong. But I digress.

You are, of course, dying to know when this fruity gem was first introduced to our parched tongues. It was launched in 1979 in Germany, was and still is brewed at the Binding Brewery in Frankfurt am Main. It was introduced into the UK in 1982 and in 1992 it was the official supplier to the German team in the Barcelona Olympics. It's not that easy to get hold of on our island, but you can, for example, order a case-load online from at £1.09 for 500 ml.

Some facts to astound your friends next time you're down the pub sober:

---- In 2003 the government collected £7,500,000,000 in alcohol excise duty.
---- Heavy drinking, leading to alcohol related violence and liver disease, costs the UK government £30 billion a year.
---- 40% of all beer consumed in Australia is low alcohol.


PS The title comes from "Othello" if anyone was wondering...

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Comments on this review

  • denella published 27/10/2008
    Excellent detail.
  • Expired-Account published 07/09/2008
    I don't drink, I hate the taste, think I'll leave this one
  • pinkmatchstick published 21/04/2007
    nice review - the last low / non alcohol drink I had was about 1989 - Swan Light - tasted like cold tea without milk in it eeugh
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Product Information : Clausthaler Premium Low Alcohol Lager

Manufacturer's product description


Product Details

Type: Lager

Manufacturer: Binding Brewery

EAN: 4053400001012


Listed on Ciao since: 18/10/2002