Belgian brewers too late to the party?

Alcohol-free beer is starting to make inroads on the Belgian beer market.  Last year Belgian supermarkets sold 9 million litres of alcohol free beer, up 3 million litres on the previous year.  Today alcohol-free beer takes a 4.2% share of the entire Belgian beer market.

Belgian brewers have accepted the challenge of producing an alcohol-free beer that is pleasant to drink, but beer sommelier Sofie Vanrafelghem warns it's no time to be complacent.  She claims too many such beverages lack spark and taste too watery.

In pubs and cafes too the rise of alcohol-free beer is noticeable.  The average pub is now selling just over 15 litres a month, but that is still a modest figure.  Abroad alcohol-free beer is a bigger success. Sofie Vanrafelghem is convinced most true Belgians will always prefer one good glass rather than two or three glasses of alcohol-free beer.

The consumers' organisation Test Aankoop compared the various beverages on offer.  Across the board Belgian alcohol-free beers perform poorly.  Denmark's Mikkleler received top points, while a Dutch beer, Brouwers, is best purchase.  Maes 0,0% put down a reasonable showing, though Jupiler 0,0% finished last.

Sofie Vanrafelghem says Belgian brewers are late to the party when it comes to brewing tasty alcohol-frees: "We have a marvellous beer culture, but for too long our brewers looked down on this product, while in the meantime the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Germany are producing tasty varieties."