I have very mixed feelings about this beer. Non-alcoholic beers are a tricky business and never quite a substitute for the real thing. As a beverage, I quite enjoyed Innis & None. As a beer, not so much.
I loved the nose – a massive wave of stewed gooseberries (not the Cape kind). I love the smell of gooseberries and it brought back fine childhood memories of baking gooseberry crumble with my grandmother. I’m not entirely sure what’s lending this potent gooseberriness but it must be one of the “beer’s” additives – vitamin C, ginseng (doubtful since ginseng tastes/smells like soil) or guarana (anyone know what guarana smells like??).
The additives do dominate but there is a certain beeriness to Innis & None. It’s surprisingly malt-forward – notes of nicely browned toast lend an initial sweetness but this quickly gives way to a tart finish that attacks you on all sides of your tongue. The aftertaste is pleasant but you do have to enjoy the bitter and the tart to enjoy this beer.
I suppose the additions were a smart idea, making this a cross between a non-alc beer and an energy drink. Designated drivers or general non-drinkers out with their beer-swilling buddies will no doubt appreciate the caffeine kick from the guarana. It’s tough to stay awake and engaged when you’re surrounded by tipsy folk. Pregnant women who fancy a non-alc brew should probably read up on the compatibility of guarana and being up the duff before partaking though.
Overall, it’s more interesting and more flavourful than most non-alcoholic beers I’ve sampled (with the exception of BrewDog’s Nanny State). As a beverage I would give it a solid three, but as a beer it gets a 2.5.
Interested in non-alcoholic beer? Check out this review of six locally available versions.