Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ramadan 2016, Day 19 – Taste Test of Non-Alcoholic “Malt Drinks”

Non-alcoholic malt beverages are fairly popular in the Gulf, more popular than they are in North America, and are sold in every grocery store. Occasionally my Muslim friends ask me how they compare in taste to real beer and, based on past experience, I usually dismiss it and tell my friends that, no, they don't actually taste like beer. Recently someone asked me which one is closest in taste to real beer and in truth I had no idea. I've actually haven’t tried any of these non-alcoholic drinks for a few years so it gave me an idea -- to buy one bottle of all the brands that I find in the grocery store and give them a try. I found seven of them.

Many of these malt beverages also come in fruit flavors and stuff like that. I didn't bother with any of the added flavours, all the ones I sampled were just “malt”. I kept them chilled for a couple of days so they were all nice and cold when I tried them.


Looks: has a nice amber colour, but barely any foam when I poured it. Within seconds it looked flat.

Taste: it had a strong and very obvious malt flavor, but that's not necessarily the same as a beer flavor. You could basically consider it just a malt drink (which I suppose that’s what it is.)

Does it taste like beer? No, this wouldn’t fool anyone.

3 Horses

Looks: again, nice amber colour. Lots of foam so it was a real contrast to Rich

Taste: watery. Not much taste to it at all really. Slight malty taste, sort of, but really weak. Was it even a malt taste? Hard to tell.

Does it taste like beer? Absolutely not. Sure looks like it though with the foam so you could use it as a practical joke and serve it to your friends making them think it’s beer. Keep a video recorder handy for the WTH reactions.


Looks: nice amber colour, light foam

Taste: water. Mixed with . . . I don’t even know. Regret, maybe? Whatever it is it’s not a beer taste. Ugh. Didn’t even want to take another sip.

Does it taste like beer? Hahahahaha, hell no.


Efes is Turkish and one of the most popular brands of beer in Turkey. So this is a non-alcoholic malt beverage made by an actual beer company. I have high hopes.

Looks: amber, but a bit darker than the others I’ve sampled. Light foam, less than if you poured a real beer.

Taste: wow, this actually has a beer-like taste. Malt flavour is a touch strong, slight bitterness to it as well.

Does it taste like beer? Actually it was a pretty good attempt, and leagues better than the other ones I've tried. I think for a frequent beer drinker the extra bit of malt taste would give it away but I could see some people being fooled for at least the first few sips (until the lack of alcohol starts to become apparent).


Looks: dark brown, darker than the other ones. Something about the colour just seems a bit off to me and it kind of doesn’t look like a beer. That said I'm not a beer expert so maybe it does look like some darker beers. Foam was really light, though not as bad as Rich.

Taste: watery, with a moderate malt taste. Similar to Rich the taste is far more like malt than beer, just that the taste is weaker. So, a Rich with more water.

Does it taste like beer? Nope.

Barbican - Special Edition

A special edition of a non-alcoholic malt beverage? Whatever. I hope it's an improvement on the original.

Looks: dark, similar to Barbican original maybe just slightly lighter. Foam was much better than the original though.

Taste: still watery but the taste is more developed, a bit more complex than a Barbican. Malt and something else. It does taste better than the original so at least it has that going for it.

Does it taste like beer? The richer flavor gives it a somewhat-beerish flavour but it’s highly unlikely this would fool anyone. So far though this is in second place behind the Efes.


A look akin to a stub-nose bottle?! I'll give it an extra point just for that. Nostalgia.

Looks: A decent light-brown colour, very beer-like. Almost no foam though.

Taste: water. Oh wait, there was a slight malt taste in there somewhere. Then there was some weird after-taste, like, like, I have no idea. It was just odd. Not a fan.

Does it taste like beer? It doesn't even really taste like a malt beverage, let alone a beer. Just . . . no.

Overall impressions:

Efes was the clear winner and the only one that actually tasted somewhat like a beer. I suppose that's what you get when a beer manufacturer actually makes it.

I was impressed with the colour of all of the brands, pretty much all of them had a nice beer colour and a bit of foam (though the amount of foam varied and I'm not sure if even the foamy ones would reach the level of foam from pouring a normal beer).

Barbican Special Edition also wasn't bad and came in a solid second place but if you are a beer drinker I doubt this would be a replacement.

The rest of them are for people who like malt beverages but don't kid yourself that it tastes like beer.

The bottom two? Holsten gets my vote for bottom of the pack, though Moussy gave it a run for its money. Maybe the fruit flavour ones are better.


dave said...

As someone arriving on Friday for 4 years his is very useful info.
Now, how about alcohol free wine, oh and Pork free bacon?

Glen McKay said...

Well, hopefully your employer will give you a letter so that you can get a liquor license, at which point you'll be able to buy alcohol and pork for home.

And yes, there is alcohol-free "sparkling juice" sold at some supermarkets, and if you're eating at a place that serves bacon it will be pork-free, either veal or turkey bacon.

goosetav said...

Great post! It looks like all these non-alc malt bevs are foreign brands, do you know of any Qatari brands or non-alc malt bevs?

Glen McKay said...

No, I don't think there are Qatari brands, at least I have not seen any. Given Qatar doesn't grow malt or barley I don't think we'll see one anytime soon -- easier to import the beverages instead.

Many of my Muslim friends still like drinking Efes.

Rico said...

I have one question after read your alcoholfree queste story, which I like. The question is there an original Qatari alcoholfree beer brand?

Glen McKay said...

Not to my knowledge. Then again I haven't tried any of the newer beverages that have come out but I haven't heard of any domestic brands.

Glen McKay said...

Oh, and five years on some of my friends still like drinking the non-alcoholic Efes. They were surprised when they travel to Turkey and can only find the alcohol versions, I guess non-alcohol Efes is only for the Middle East market.