Alcohol-free beer is a drink that can quickly divide opinions. So, I was interested when Heineken came out with their first version of this beer. Throughout the years, I’ve tried the drink multiple times, so I have a good understanding of what it tastes like. Let’s start with a quick summary.
Heineken Zero tastes more bitter and slightly sourer than regular Heineken. Furthermore, it has less carbonization because of the lack of fermentation which means there’s less bite on your tongue. Finally, it has a slight metallic aftertaste, and the drink has little body.
However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question fully, and there’s much more nuance to this discussion. Below we’ll therefore dive into more detail. We’ll discuss the flavor, mouthfeel, smell, and appearance. Finally, we’ll explain why Heineken Zero tastes the way it does. Read on!
First, let’s talk about the flavor of Heineken. I’ve read quite some reviews of Heineken Zero, and I notice there are two camps when it comes to this beer. Either you think Heineken did fine and created a beer that at least tastes like beer. Or you think the drink is not worth drinking and rather unpleasant.
Unfortunately, I’m in the second camp. Heineken Zero (also known as 0.0%) was first introduced in 2017, and I reckon I’ve had one of these every year since then. Also, I’m drinking one right now.
For me, the taste is underwhelming, to say the least. Does it taste like beer? Yes, somewhere vaguely I do taste beer. However, to me, Zero is a lot more bitter than Heineken Original, and it doesn’t taste like the international pale lager that Heineken normally is. Furthermore, as my girlfriend pointed out to me, it’s also a bit sour for some reason. That explains why my face always cramps up a little when the taste kicks in with this alcohol-free beer.
Also, Heineken Zero has very little body to me. Of course, this is to be expected when you take out all the alcohol in a beer. However, the fullness of a regular beer is not a part of Heineken Zero.
In conclusion, to me, Heineken Zero tastes like bitter, lightly carbonated water that has a bit of sour mixed into it. None of it makes me excited for another sip.
As said, Heineken Zero has much less carbonation than Heineken Original. This does affect the experience of drinking a beer in a significant way. Taking out the carbonation creates more of a ‘watery’ experience, and you lack the ‘bite’ on your tongue that regular Heineken does have.
For illustrative purposes, I made two videos. The first video is Heineken Zero straight out of the can into a glass. I noticed the alcohol-free beer has larger bubbles and fewer of them. Furthermore, after five minutes, basically, all these bubbles were gone.
The next video shows the carbonization of regular Heineken. The bubbles are much more frequent and also smaller. Furthermore, they stayed for a much longer time and were still very present after five minutes.
One of the reasons for this is that Heineken Zero, of course, doesn’t have a fermentation process in which yeast has the time to turn the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, there’s an unpleasant aftertaste that feels like I just drank a drink that contains a lot of iron or magnesium. It’s almost a metal-like feeling, even though I did pour the drink from a can into a glass.
Straight out of the can, Heineken Zero smells different from regular Heineken. At first, it does smell like a regular Heineken. However, it also has a vague representation that I’m going to describe as urinal-like, which is quite offputting when you’re planning on enjoying an alcohol-free beer.
Luckily, the smell does disappear after you’ve let the can sit for a moment or after you pour the drink into a glass. I guess it’s best not to smell this beer too much before drinking it.
Finally, there’s the appearance of the Heineken Zero can and the drink itself. The can itself is, at the least, recognizable in the way they designed the packaging. The red star is undeniable present, and the whole can is wrapped in a blue banner with other parts still having the green Heineken color. You will recognize the can in a store, and I think they did a good job with this part.
When the beer is poured into a glass, it looks exactly like a regular Heineken. The foam is the same, the color has the same intensity, and overall it does look like a Heineken from the outside.
Why Does Heineken Zero Taste Like This?
So, why does Heineken Zero taste the way it does? Because, no matter how you put it, no one is genuinely excited for an alcohol-free beer, and I’ve never read one raving review about it.
Why Heineken Zero tastes different than Heineken Original is quite simple. It’s because it’s not produced like Heineken Original. Both Heineken Original and Zero are made in the Heineken brewery in Zoeterwoude.
First, Heineken takes the malted barley and the hop extract and mashes it. This creates a substance that’s referred to as wort. For regular Heineken, yeast is added to the wort, which ferments the wort and produces alcohol and natural carbonization.
However, for Heineken Zero, yeast is also added, but it’s taken out before the fermentation process can create alcohol. This is the reason why Heineken Zero still has a small amount of alcohol (0.01 – 0.03%, don’t worry, it won’t get you drunk). However, taking the yeast before fermentation means that the beer does not have time to get its taste.
As a result, the beer is still mainly only wort. As a result, brewers still have to develop a solution to make the wort taste like beer. They do this by adding substances like glucose and ‘natural flavorings’, which we already discussed in this blog where we looked at the ingredients.
However, breweries haven’t found the magic solution yet, which means we’re left with Heineken Zero that somewhat tastes like Heineken.