Heineken has launched alcohol-free radlers under its Amstel brand

Heineken has launched alcohol-free radlers under its Amstel brand

Heineken's head brewer has said making a good alcohol-free beer is the "ultimate challenge" for beer companies, but stopped short of confirming one for the Heineken brand.

Willem van Waesberghe told just-drinks that taste issues have so far stopped brewers from finding a high-quality 0% abv beer. However, there is high consumer demand for an alternative to soft drinks or water, and for no-alcohol occasions such as lunch, he said.

"For a brewer, making a good alcohol-free beer is the ultimate challenge," said van Waesberghe, who last week unveiled new Heineken beer H41. "[However], the big issue is that alcohol in lager has taste. If you want to replace that taste you need to replace alcohol and that's very, very difficult. All the other things that have the taste are not good for you, such as methanol."

Are we about to see a no-alcohol Heineken?

Van Waesberghe said the current best non-alcoholic beers are wheat beers or radlers, because they can compensate for "the worty taste that normal alcoholic beer has". "But if you want to make an alcohol-free lager then you're competing in the Champions League [of beer making]," he said.

Asked if Heineken will produce an alcohol-free version of its namesake lager, van Waesberghe said it is not his job to decide. However, he added: "You never know. Alcohol-free beer is something that we're interested in. But if it fits the Heineken brand, I don't know."

The brewer said he believes the challenges of making a high-quality alcohol-free beer will eventually be overcome, though not in the short-term. "There are a lot of nice techniques at the moment, but they all have their disadvantages," he said.

Rival international brewers have already used their core brands to launch non-alcoholic beers. Last year, Carlsberg rolled out 0.0% under its namesake brand. Heineken expanded the European launch of its 0.0% MAXX last year, while it also produces a range of alcohol-free radlers under its Amstel, Dos Equis and Tiger brands.