By Charles Passy
We are living in an era where Americans increasingly take pride in going alcohol-free. Witness the Dry January movement that calls upon drinkers to give up their drink for the first month of the year. (And don’t forget Sober October, either.) Bars and restaurants are also heavily promoting alcohol-free cocktails — or mocktails, as they’re called. And alcohol-free “bars” have even become a thing .
So, what could be next? An alcohol-free version of Budweiser, of course.
Beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev /zigman2/quotes/209225053/composite BUD -7.88% , the company behind the ever-popular Bud, recently rolled out Budweiser Zero, touting it as an alcohol-free brew with “zero compromise on taste or experience.” It comes as part of a larger push by Anheuser-Busch, which now offers a full range of alcohol-free and low-alcohol products, from Karbach Free & Easy, a non-alcoholic IPA, to Spiri+, a line of zero-proof flavored seltzers in the style of hard seltzer (think White Claw without the claw).
Anheuser-Busch officials say their plan is to grow their alcohol-free/low-alcohol line to the point that it accounts for 20% of the company’s beer volume. (They wouldn’t say what percentage of volume the line currently has.)
Still, the push is not entirely new: Anheuser-Bush vice president Jake Kirsch notes that the company introduced O’Doul’s, its first alcohol-free beer, some 30 years ago. “We’ve had a lot of time to learn and expand in the space to meet evolving needs of our consumers,” he says.
Most beer geeks take a fairly dim view of Budweiser, seeing it as a passable lager but one without much character. As one online observer noted, it’s a beer that will get folks “drunk while not tasting bad.” So, what happens when you remove alcohol from the equation? To our surprise, it tastes fairly much like, well, Budweiser, with a slight hint of corn and a pleasing crispness. Mind you, that’s hardly a full-throttle recommendation. But at least Anheuser-Busch accomplished what it set out to do.
This would work in pretty much the same way as Budweiser works, meaning it’s fine as a game-day beverage, especially when paired with salty snacks. Just don’t expect to get any sort of beer buzz.