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Home » The Vine

The Vine: October 3, 2008

Submitted by on October 3, 2008 – 11:59 AM57 Comments

Hi, Sars –

I am desperately hoping that some of your amazing readers will have suggestions regarding decent, flavorful, non-alcoholic beer.If not, it's going to be a long 9 months.For both me and my husband.

If it helps, some of my alcoholic favorites include Rogue Dead Guy, Anchor Steam, and Three Floyds Alpha King; if I am in a bar with limited selection, I will generally go with Bass or Sam Adams.

Thank you!

Beer and Pregnancy…Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Dear Beer,

"Beer and Pregnancy": best band name I've heard all week.(Last week's: "Secret Decaf."Don't ask.)

Also, congratulations! Anyway. I hear that Sharp's is tolerable, but…that's the problem, really, isn't it.The selection just isn't that good, so "tolerable" is often the best you can hope for.(O'Doul's is o'ful.)

Readers, any thoughts?

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57 Comments »

  • Julie says:

    I'm preggo, too, and I have been drinking Buckler (made by Heineken) and Kaliber (made by Guinness) non-alcoholic beer … they both taste good to me. I'm just about to have my baby–so excited to have a margarita soon!!!

  • KKP says:

    Speaking from experience (just hit 8 months) haven't found one that is worth it. They're not good, they left me feeling way to bloated and I didn't see the point. Every once in awhile I'll have a sip from hubby's beer and just savor that taste. I've heard that some versions of non-alcoholic wine are quite good but never tried any. Good luck in finding one that does something for you!.

  • Sandy says:

    You may enjoy Kaliber, by the makers of Guinness. It's got a strong smell so people either love it or hate it.

  • jateke says:

    I'm also pregnant. Your mileage may vary, but I simply HAAATE all non-alcoholic beers I've ever tried, and I've found that just having a sip of my husband's beer really does the trick for me. I know that any consumption of alcohol at all is controversial, but we're talking one or two sips a night, so I feel confident that it's never reaching the baby. And I'm not 100% depriving myself; I still get to have a taste of the Real Thing when I want.

  • Teresa says:

    If you're in the first trimester, I'm surprised that beer would even sound good to you right now! I was addicted to Fresca (and saltines) during that period, and now I can't go near it because it brings back the nauseating memories. Enough about me. Later when you do feel like drinking "beer," I was gonna say the same thing Julie said: Buckler and Kaliber are a better and more full-flavored than Sharp's.

  • Susanna says:

    It's not the same thing, really, but what about apple cider (not hard cider)? Since it's apple season, there's plenty of choices at the farmers' markets. Best for at-home drinking, probably.

  • Donna says:

    Not that this is helpful by any means, but I had some good non alcoholic beer at a friend's house when I was pregnant. I'm going to have to find out what it was. I think it may have been the one made by Heineken.

  • Sarah M says:

    Congratulations! I'm due in two weeks, and the nine months of sobriety have actually gone by pretty quickly.

    I can't suggest a non-alco beer, but if you like mocktails, a little Rose's lime cordial in tonic makes a decent substitute for gin-and-tonic. Bartenders can also be really enthusiastic and creative about making virgin variations of their signature drinks.

  • Jen says:

    As a former bartender, I recommend Buckler as well. It isn't as good as a "real" beer, but it's MUCH better than some of the other crap out there.
    Congrats on the baby!

  • Maragret in CO says:

    Carlsberg NA and Holsten
    GerstelBecks/Haake Beck
    Clausthaler
    St. Pauli Girl NA

    I found that list thru Google – the guy said these were worth a try! Congratulations!

  • Best non-alchoholic beer I've ever had is Erdinger Alkohol-frei. It's an alchohol free wheat beer which is also vitamin-enriched and isotonic- I've been using it as a hangover cure for years, and it's genuinely pleasant to drink.

  • Karen says:

    Buckler is good. I also liked Clausthaler, which is another German non-alcohol beer. Kalilber is ok. Beck makes a non-alcohol beer as well, although I haven't tried it. The imports seem to have more flavor than Sharp's or O'Douls.

  • JennyB says:

    Non-alcoholic Becks is the best one I've found. Only 60 calories a bottle – hey, even us pregnant gals have to watch our girlish figures – and tastes almost exactly like regular Becks. I don't know the beers you list as your faves, so I can't say how they'll compare taste-wise.

  • JeniMull says:

    Add my votes for the imports. I'm preggo with #3, and have just found myself craving a bit of fake-brew. I may go get some this weekend – but keep in mind – you may find (like I did in the previous pg's) that the non-alcoholic stuff just made me miss the full beers more.

    I really like the spicy bloody mary mix currently – lots of yummy salt and flavor – also a little filling, so I feel satisfied.

    I highly recommend a nice big Guinness after you have the baby!

  • EB says:

    On Beer Advocate, they're listed and rated as "low-alcohol" beers because the "non-alcoholics" actually have small amounts of alcohol. There's a ton listed. Most of them rated pretty poorly. Clausthauler seemed to rate best, but from the hoppy ales you like, I don't think there's going to be much out there to quench your thirst.

    My wife's doc said there's nothing wrong with having a real beer or glass of wine sometimes, but it's crazy the looks you'll get if you do it in public. She was drinking a framboise, which is like 3.2% and this woman at the next table was staring daggers at her like she was smoking crack. Of course, maybe that's why the little bugger came out 11+ pounds!

  • Jennifer says:

    Here's my vote for Kaliber. Made it through both of my pregnancies on Kaliber. Of course, people look at you funny, because most don't recognize it as a non-alcoholic beer, like they do "O'Drools", but when you're craving that cold beer taste, it's worth it.

  • nik says:

    I am 7 months into my 2nd pregnancy and I swear I have tried them all.
    Kaliber and St. Pauli Girl are probably the most satisfying….but when it comes down to it, they really still arent the real deal and I just dont think it is worth the calories, bloat and price for sub-par "beer".

    Once a month I "treat" myself to a small glass (4-6oz) of a real beer….I save it for a party or a night with the hubby. It isnt the same, of course, but man do I appreciate it.

    Also, if you like wine, I think it is Sutter Home that makes a NA wine…..it is nice if you are going to a party or something.

  • Cat says:

    Congratulations! I, too, am in my first trimester and have been fotunate to get off with just a few weeks of whoopsy tummy. I'm back at full steam now, and enjoying all the different types of NA beer. So far, my favorites have been:

    Kaliber (Guiness)
    St Paulie Girl NA
    Becks NA

    I was shocked by the selection in my local liquor store! So many to try! I think these are equally as good are alcoholic beer (aside from the pleasant buzz, of course).

    Does anyone know about NA wine? This is the first I've ever heard of it!

  • Julie says:

    I'm thirding the recommendations for Clausthaler. I learned about it from a friend who, when pregnant, tried nearly every available non-alcoholic beer in a desperate effort to find one that tasted like, you know, beer.

  • Pave.Gurl says:

    I've been sober for about a jillion years (ok, fine, 17 this month), and beer was my drink of choice.

    Frankly? None of them taste like I remember beer tasting, but then again… 17 years. To be fair, back in My Day, the selection of beers with alcohol was much more slim than today, too (very few imports, no ice, no dry, no ultra, no microbrew).

    So to me, O'Douls Amber tastes like I remember beer tasting: Like ass. Buckler, Kaliber, and Clausthaler all taste like fouled up water to me.

  • When pregnant, I found Kaliber to be ok & O'Doul's Amber to be acceptable.

    Nothing tastes the same as the real thing though, so I did the occasional (once a week) glass or half glass of real beer or real wine. At home, though, because you do get dagger-looks otherwise. (And my OB in Ireland said it was just fine to have a weekly drink after the first trimester, so it was even medically ok'd.)

  • Tisha_ says:

    @ Pave.Gurl when I first read your post, I read the first line as "I've been pregnant for about a jillion years (ok, fine, 17 months)" LOL I had to reread that like 3 times before I read the actual real words you'd written.

  • Pam says:

    I also craved an occasional beer while preggers. Buckler is a good NA choice and pretty accessible. Margaret's list of beers is also good, but those brands are trickier to find.

    BTW, baby congrats!

  • Leigh says:

    We're trying, so I've been on/off drinking (worse than when actually pregnant, I'd say, since you don't even know if it's necessary! Argh! Hate!). O'Douls is dreadful but I actually really don't mind the O'Douls Amber. Definitely tastes more like beer.

    I have had trouble finding other stuff like Kaliber in the stores around here, so if you're stuck with limited choices, O'D Amber is probably your best bet.

    (Some well-meaning friends bought me a 12 pack of Milwaukee's Best Non-Alcoholic. …Yeah. I think you can imagine!)

  • Heather says:

    St. Pauli Girl makes a non-alcoholic that comes close to a dark!

  • Go Amie says:

    There's really no evidence that, after the first trimester, a drink or two a week causes any harm to the fetus. And in fact, to my (limited) knowledge, America is one of the few places where the "no alcohol at all" rule is pushed; to me it seems to go along with the general guilt-tripping of pregnant women here.

    So of course it is up to you whether to have any alcohol during your pregnancy, but you should know that it is perfectly safe to have a cold one or two while you wait.

  • Alessandra says:

    Congratulations! I'm due any minute now with kid #2. Haven't tried anything other than O'Doul's and Sharps and found both wanting, so I take the sip of my husband's beer with dinner.

    Can't wait to have a decent martini, a beer, a g&t, a real glass of wine, champagne…it's a toss up if I miss coffee or alcohol more. The substitutes are just not the same.

    As for a mock-cocktail, I've had cranberry juice and seltzer water in a martini glass with a twist of lime. Looks like a cosmo but is completely harmless. Plus, the cranberry juice is good for you!

  • Sally says:

    Not pregnant, but I reached into the Tub o' Beer at a party a few weeks ago while I was talking and accidentally grabbed a Sharp's. And it wasn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me. Not my first choice, by any means, but I didn't feel the need to spit it over the edge of the deck like I did when I tried O'Douls.

    And for the record, my best friend, who IS pregnant and is also a pediatrician, says that after the first trimester, there's really no huge problem with having A beer or A glass of wine once or twice a week, but that if you try it in public, you get looks like you are wearing a shirt announcing your intentions to sell the tot into slavery. Maybe you'll be like my other friend who got a prescription to have a Guiness after the baby was born…something about milk production or anemia or something like that.

  • Courtney says:

    technically it isn't beer, but have you ever had kombucha? it's fermented tea mixed with fruit juice — they sell it at Whole Foods & Sunflowers & similarly crunchy stores. it's .5% alcohol, so it has a slightly beery taste, but is also slightly sweet & packed with all kinds of nutrients that are supposedly hugely beneficial. it's considered a "raw food," so it might be worth researching what with the being-pregnant & all, but it's good stuff & kind of beeresque.

    also, may I just say that you have great taste in beer. Three Floyds is the bomb; if you're ever in the Chicagoland area, their brewpub in Munster, IN is worth the trip.

  • La BellaDonna says:

    Beer, congratulations! And you, too, Pave.Gurl. My brother hasn't been sober as long as you – yet! – but he's well on his way, and this is one really happy sister saying congrats on behalf of a family member who is grateful!

    I'm-a just puzzled. I recognize that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a terrible thing, and alcohol in the wrong trimester can lead to teeny tiny babies (EB, I am so sorry! Your wife could have birthed a fine big baby if she'd only shown some restraint!) – but doctors used to prescribe beer for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Most of the boomer generation had moms who had their coffee and cigarettes, their Coke (no Diet Coke!), their beer, their wine, their whathaveyou, when pregnant, and here we are, all grown up – the Panic Generation! To the point where some people aren't just shy about giving the Glare of Self-Righteous Uninformed Judgment to a pregnant woman with a glass in her hand, but a few times, have suggested jailing women who refuse to give up their alcohol.

    I think that people in general might be better off swapping some of that Panic and Judgmental for a helping or two of Moderation and Minding Their Own Business. If it's OK with the doctor, and you don't find a nearbeer that works, Beer, you might really be better off with a modest amount of the genuine, than any amount of the faux flow.

  • Nilda A. says:

    <<>>

    I rather drink melly garbage that has been sitting in the middle of cesspool for about a week rather than taking a sip of O'Doul's ever again. HORRID.

  • Kat C says:

    I don't actually mind the O'Doul's Amber Ale. It should get me through the next few months. I haven't tried this Kaliber or Clausthaler you speak of, but I'm going to get right on it.

    Congratulations!

  • Sandman says:

    "(And my OB in Ireland said it was just fine to have a weekly drink after the first trimester, so it was even medically ok'd.)"

    My sister-in-law in Geneva is getting similar advice from her OB; a weekly glass of sparkling wine is consided okay after the first trimester. The Swiss love them some sekt, apparently.

  • BeerPup says:

    My first pregnancy, I had one beer a week after the first trimester. Or rather, I bought one beer; I'd loose my craving for it after the first few sips. But boy, those first few sips were tasty. My second pregnancy I didn't feel like drinking beer at all, but I couldn't get enough hamburgers.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    The March of Dimes sez
    "In fact, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe. Therefore, the March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women do not drink any alcohol—including beer, wine, wine coolers and hard liquor—throughout their pregnancy and while nursing. In addition, because women often do not know they are pregnant for a few months, women who may be pregnant or those who are attempting to become pregnant should abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages.

    Recent government surveys indicate that about 13 percent of pregnant women drink during pregnancy. About 3 percent of pregnant women report binge drinking (five or more drinks on any one occasion) or frequent drinking (seven or more drinks per week). Women who binge drink or drink frequently greatly increase the risk of alcohol-related damage to their babies."

    My doc had me drink the occasional beer while nursing…something in the hops promotes milk production. (And boy-o-boy did it ever! My teensy little A cups overflowed! They became giant beer steins! OW!) But that was the early seventies, in the dark ages practically!

    I would think that moderation is the key…but certainly ask your own doctor!!!

  • DT says:

    St. Pauli Girl NA was the only one that I liked enough to actually drink when pregnant.

    Someone mentioned cider from farmers markets but you should stick to pasteurized cider only if you go that route.

    I also heard the same thing about beer and milk production but it didn't seem to do much for me. Same with the Mother's Milk Tea — didn't hurt, but didn't really help either.

  • Ted says:

    Just another semi-related word of advice: if you do end up giving up beer entirely and you don't already drink bottled water, start – something about purified water (my nurse friends could explain this better) makes it slightly easier to give up cigarettes, alcohol, and similar.

  • Jo says:

    OK, I'm no help because I'm a snobby Northwesterner who only likes microbrews on tap from the brewery that made them and that certainly doesn't include non-alcoholic beer, but I have a question.

    Someone mentioned non-alcoholic wine. What's the difference between non-alcoholic wine and grape juice?

  • My favorite newspaper columnist, Jon Carroll, wrote about non-alcoholic beers – he called O'Doul's swill, but seemed to approve of Klausthaler, Kaliber, Buckler, and St. Pauli Girl.

    Happy swigging!

  • Jam says:

    You might want to look outside beer. I really like the the juice brewery's range, which are fruit juices with malted wheat, barley, hops, etc. The apple one tastes a lot like a really good cider, and they all have that warm undertone from the malted barley and wheat. Bottom line, they feel like beer, they occupy the same niche in my mind, but they're not alcoholic. They're based in the UK, but you might be able to find something similar closer to home.

  • Pave.Gurl says:

    @ La BellaDonna and Tisha_ : Thank you! And also: Hee!

    @ Jo: There's actually a pretty interesting bit in the new issue of Cook's Illustrated about n/a wines. It was in response to a reader question about wine in cooking and alcohol that doesn't cook off, and has a fairly in-depth scientific who-rah about the differences.

  • Erin says:

    For those wondering about stout/guinness and nursing, it's because of the iron and yeast. Scientifically proven to help anaemia and aid milk production (and would make an awesome Guinness for Strength poster). It used to be given to new mothers in hospital and I've heard it's still highly recommended in Italy. And in a couple of weeks when I have my baby you can bet I'm having a glass!

    As another pregnant woman out there who has been periodically desperate for a pint, I've coped with stealing sips from my husband's glass and the very occasional half glass of wine. However, I think we all have to remember that it is very difficult to do clinical trials on pregnant women (any volunteers for the heavy drinking sample group!?!), so it's not that any amount of alcohol can harm a fetus, but rather, we don't know, and probably will never know the levels. But I probably shouldn't get started on the fearful and largely unscientific misinformation given to pregnant women by society at large…it's not no coffee; it's no more than 300mg of caffeine a day. That's about 3 espressos people! Grr.

  • Shawna says:

    My father's allergic to alcohol and drinks non-alcoholic Becks. It's got 0%, not even the .5% some have. I'm not a beer fan but he likes it. (Actually he likes it mixed with Sprite. *shudder*)

  • Hannah says:

    I actually edit a magazine about drinks, and I'd definitely encourage you to explore the world of mocktails. Right now, I'm brewing up some ginger simple syrup on the stove; buy some bottles of club soda, and you have yourself two weeks' worth of good, strong ginger beer. (Ginger can be good on a wobbly stomach, too.) Another favorite is adding homemade rosemary simple syrup and lime juice to soda or tonic, sometimes with muddled fresh mint. It's not beer, but it's bubbly and festive and refreshing. There are also sodas like Dry Soda that aren't super-sugary and feel a little more grownup than your average mass-market stuff. I guess it depends what you want: If it's the taste of beer, explore the n/a's or have the occasional sip of your husband's. If it's something cold and refreshing to sip with your friends after a hard day's work, the mocktails might wind up be a good option for you. At any rate, best of luck and congratulations!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Re: the statement from the March of Dimes:
    The March of Dimes sez
    "In fact, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe. "

    This is a hugely misleading statement in the context of their argument against any alcohol consumption by pregnant women. What's true is that no study has precisely demarcated the line between safe drinking and drinking too much, for the reason someone pointed out above — you can't do clinical trials on this stuff, since it's unethical to assign women to a category that may be unsafe, so all the studies are observational. That limits their precision, since you don't know what's causing what; given the general taboo on drinking while pregnant in the U.S., those woman who drink heavily during their pregnancies often have other problems as well.

    But here's an equally true fact, from the observational studies: there's no good evidence that light-to-moderate drinking actually does ANY harm throughout most of the pregnancy. I personally think the fear and guilt heaped on pregnant woman over this issue is way out of line, and is of a piece with a general culture that reduces pregnant women to receptacles for their fetuses — instead of as thinking people who are pregnant and may be planning to be a mother. Why is it such a radical idea that women should have the right to draw their own conclusions about what they want to do while they're pregnant?

    A book I love and give to my pregnant friends (though it doesn't get into alcohol consumption that I recall) is Susan Douglas's and Meredith Michaels's _The Mommy Myth_. If you click my name above, you'll get taken to a short review that summarizes its main points.

  • Kate says:

    It's always nice to read the Vine comments and hear how not-the-end-of-the-world everything turns out to be, like it's a whole site full of wise older sisters.

  • ChrEliz says:

    I had one drink (a single glass of wine, a single weak margarita, a single hard cider — I don't like beer) once or twice a month throughout my pregnancy (well, I wasn't in the mood for it during weeks 7-12, morning sickness). I wasn't ordering in restaurants much (where I live, restaurants are not smoke-free, and I didn't want to be around second-hand smoke, obviously) but I was at home or with family or friends. I basically had one drink when I felt like it, and my occasions of feeling like it were extremely moderate in number. Maybe 10-12 drinks total the entire pregnancy? Something like that.

    If you like the idea of being completely alcohol-free for 9 months, great! But if you think that seems a little excessive and unnecessary, like I did, then it's your personal choice to have an occasional drink if you want to.

    I'm not a big drinker – in regular non-pregnant life, I drink only 1 or 2 glasses of wine, 2 ciders, or 2 margaritas, once or twice a month. So I basically halved or quartered my consumption during pregnancy. That felt just right to me. My kids are healthy, smart, and perfectly fine. I realize that my experience is no scientific study, and I'm not trying to convince anyone to drink alcohol if you're most comfortable abstaining, but I'm just saying I don't think the cultural expectation of absolute gestational prohibition is supported by the research, nor do I believe it necessary. Jus' sayin'.

    Whatever you decide, congratulations on your pregnancy and I hope it's as enjoyable and stress-free as possible!

  • Sue says:

    A reliable friend of mine told me a story that her OB/GYN's mother was advised (by her doctor) during her pregnancy in the 1960s to take up smoking as a habit so that she wouldn't gain too much baby weight. She was a non-smoker who was encouraged to start smoking after she got pregnant, and she did just that because her doctor told her to. Crazy, but notice that her daughter survived the pregnancy, the birth, and her childhood and is now a healthy, successful MD herself.

    Congrats to you and your husband, Beer.

  • Alessandra says:

    My mom's OB put her on amphetamines to keep the pregnancy weight down. I was born 5 weeks early. Coincidence? Hmmmm…

    So, yeah, we're tying ourselves up in knots to be completely healthy vessels for our children and that's very noble, but up until about 100 years ago, a lot of people drank more because there wasn't truly potable water. So, you'd drink water mixed with wine or weak ale or a cider. Plus lots of caffeinated tea and coffee. The infant mortality rate was higher, but I'm not sure that the causation is necessarily 100% attributable to alcohol.

    I will say that if you opt for the one small glass of wine or beer (I might shy away from hard liquor personally), definitely don't imbibe in public.

  • Ann says:

    Congrats!!!!
    When I was pregnant with my son, I had occasional MASSIVE beer and red wine cravings. Especially towards the end. When I wanted a good guzzle, I drank Kaliber, sometimes St. Pauli Girl. I thought Becks was skunky. O'Doul's Amer was OK in a pinch.

    My midwife gave me the go-ahead to have small amounts of whatever after the first tri. I found that a few sips of the real deal satisfied the craving.

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