Back To Top

Nonalcoholic beers review: Cass, Hite and Tsingtao

Major brewers keep plugging beers with little to no alcohol. Are they worth trying?

Cass, Hite and Tsingtao
Cass, Hite and Tsingtao
Drinking is fun for a lot of people. And in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, some of us are guilty of finding solace in downing a few extra drinks at home.

Even those who have a low tolerance for alcohol don’t have to feel left out, as major beer companies have released nonalcoholic or low-alcohol beers in recent years.

They are as accessible as it gets. Nonalcoholic drinks are available on online shopping platforms, as their alcohol content by volume below 1 percent excludes them from the online sales ban under the liquor tax law.

With distiller HiteJinro forecasting that the nonalcoholic beer market in South Korea will grow to 200 billion won ($181.8 million) in the next three to five years, The Korea Herald has put some of the bestsellers to the test.

Cass Zero

Cass, the bestselling beer in Korea, became the latest brand in the country to join the trend, with its first batch on online retailer Coupang -- 5,282 boxes -- selling out in just one week in October, according to Oriental Brewery, the company behind the brand.

When the can goes pop, you are instantly hit with the familiar malty scent. What follows are carbonated bubbles. They give beer the refreshing texture that many love. And for the first few seconds, you almost forget you are drinking something nonalcoholic, as the taste manages to trick your brain. Well, almost -- until you remember there’s no alcohol.

Containing less than 0.05 percent ABV -- and interestingly, vitamin C -- the company said Cass Zero has the same refreshing feel as the original, thanks to the “same fermentation and aging process” before the alcohol is removed in the last stages of production.

“When you want to have a beer in the afternoon but without consuming alcohol, Cass Zero is something you can go for instead of sparkling water or soft drinks,” said one official at OB.

It definitely smells like Cass and almost feels like it. But the aftertaste from the first gulp makes it clear that the original Cass tastes better.

Hite Zero

Distiller HiteJinro led the charge with the release of Hite Zero in 2012, a completely alcohol-free beer, and it has sold over 58 million cans since, according to the company.

Sales between January and September this year also rose 33 percent compared with last year. During September, when stricter social distancing rules were introduced, the company saw a 71 percent year-on-year sales increase.

“The figures reflect an increasing number of consumers who are opting for nonalcoholic drinks for health and diet reasons while staying at home,” HiteJinro explained.

What differentiates Hite Zero from the others is the strong aroma of hops, which gives the drink a fruity waft as you crack open a cold one.

If you like fruity beers and are looking for nonalcoholic alternatives, this could be a good starter.

Tsingtao Non Alcoholic

Tsingtao Brewery said Tsingtao Non Alcoholic contains twice as much of its fresh malt, which gives it more depth and an extra layer of smoothness.

Earlier this month, BK, the Korean distributor of the beer, launched a promotional campaign featuring a blind taste test with YouTubers.

One official at BK said the campaign reflects positive reviews from consumers, who say it is “hard to tell whether it is nonalcoholic or not without being told.”

With 0.05 APV, the low-calorie, nonalcoholic beer from China’s second-largest brewery did a decent job of imitating the scent, texture and most importantly the taste of the original beer.

Sure, the aftertaste is bland compared with regular beers, but some would consider that a small price to pay for fewer calories and no hangover.

By Yim Hyun-su (