Thursday 8 March 2012

“Beer Flavour Drink”

Hi Mark,

I am wondering if you would be interested in sampling a non-alcoholic beer flavour soft drink?

That’s how the email started. It also included a picture of the product.

My reply was simple: It sounds terrible but I won’t judge it until I’ve tried it.

Equator is made by Beverage Brands who produce WKD. It contains 0.00% alcohol, 0 calories and 0% sugar. The ingredients include ‘Barley Malt Extract’ and ‘Iso Hop Extract’ plus colour, flavouring and sweetener. It is a beer flavoured drink, an alternative soft drink or something for the health-conscious, perhaps. What they've done is attempt to create a beer flavour drink, minus booze and calories, in a lab.

But, like I told the guy from the PR agency, I wouldn’t judge until I’ve tasted, so I opened a bottle.

The first surprise is the tinge of electric-green in the colour, kind of like it’s going radioactive. Given the makers of the drink and their use of bold colours, I guess it’s understandable that creating a subtle gold would be difficult, like asking cage fighter to pirouette. You get good foam to begin but that doesn’t last long and then it looks dead. Next is the smell: it’s like lime and soda mixed with Shloer, which is another Beverage Brands drink. Then taste: very thin, like soda water, then the faintest hint of the shandy you used to be able to buy in cans from the corner shop, which is soon replaced by nothing. It doesn’t taste like beer and there’s this weird almost-lime thing going on, like they’ve tried to mimic the dregs of a bottle of Corona. It’s not very nice.

I can’t ever see a time when I’d order an Equator. And I don’t really see the gap in the market for a beer which tries to taste like beer but isn’t beer. It might sell millions and then I’ll look like a dick, but it’s not something I’ll buy. The best thing about it is the name: at 0.00%, Equator works well...

There are some decent alcohol-free beers on the market, especially some of the wheat beers. But they are made like beer - they are brewed - with the ingredients of beer, not replicated in the factory. It does leave me wondering if you could make a great-tasting beer in a laboratory from the ingredients of beer, perhaps a big IPA with loads of malt extract, big iso C-hop additions and booze blended with carbonated water... That’s something I’d love to try. 


  1. An interesting idea, and similar to one I recorded on my Alan Partridge dictaphone "idea for a new soft drink...spring water infused with hops". Having undertaken preliminary tests on this concept (see my blog on Hop Tea), I now know that my brand "H2OP" is not a 'goer'.

  2. I saw this in tesco but could not bring myself to buy it.

    Well done for at least giving it a go, so the rest up don't have to.

  3. I agree about the name. Though they equally could have gone with the vertical option: "Meantime" has a nice ring to it.

  4. That sounds utterly ghastly. But I have a certain grim fascination that make me want to try it...

  5. Broadfordbrewer - H2OP - brilliant! I'm attempting to make hopped gin soon and I hope it's better!

    Cookie - My pleasure.

    TBN - But wrapping the label vertically might have been trickier?!

    Jeff - Delicious!

    John - I had that same grim fascination. So much so that I've drunk all three bottles I got sent!

  6. "then the faintest hint of the shandy you used to be able to buy in cans from the corner shop"

    Used to be able to buy???? You can still buy cans of Shandy in quite a few newsagents and corner shops, just like you can still get Dandelion & Burdock and American Cream Soda quite easily!

    And quite frankly I'm more likely to buy cans of shandy then to seek out "Equator".

  7. Mark, you've inspired me to ask our lab if it's possible to do what you've mentioned in the final para.

  8. A beer flavoured soft drink? What is the world coming to :}. You're right though, don't knock it until you've tried it.

  9. Ha! Inbev have done that sort of thing in Belgium already, something like a year or two ago... 'Jupiler Force' it's called... Why 'force'? Beats me. And the thing tastes like what you describe too!

  10. Oh, and by the way, I never see anybody drinking or buying the 'Force' stuff, so my guess is it's going to vanish from supermarket shelves pretty soon and with much less publicity than when it hit them!

  11. Surely one big mistake they are making is that beer flavour is more than hops and malt. There is a lot going on with the yeast

  12. It's the color that gets me.

  13. Just a nit pick but I'm sure it won't be 'made by Beverage Brands'. Much more likely a contract product.

    Anyway, when I made a spelling mistake with Beverage did my clever computer suggest Average?

  14. "like asking a cage fighter to pirouette":

  15. Bavaria 0.0% is much nicer