HOT, BITTER, SOBER SUMMER. 7 great non-alcoholic beers in town. UPDATED 19.11.22

As the hottest summer in decades, centuries and ages comes this way, and as the beverage-loving Midsummer solstice is knocking at the door, we decided to publish a rather alternative list of alcohol-free beers available in Riga and possibly elsewhere.

I call myself sort of a straight edge person totally inert to booze in general. However, sometimes it is just fine to crave for something bitter, added sugar-free, or savory to drink, and this is where non-alcoholic beers come in handy. One of my options for years has been Zelta zirgs, a rich rye-bread-like malt drink, but, as it's production depletes, it's time to look for something more. Sadly this taste is out of the shops right now and might not return at all.

This might be one of CAPITAL R's weirdest articles, but I believe I am not the only one in the club. The number of people willing to switch to "zero" beers has grown exponentially, so has the offer. Reasons might be various: some are not fond of getting bashed, dead-drunk, three sheets in the wind, or wasted any more while keeping the sensation of bitterness; some are looking for new tastes; some want to drink anything lean; some want to be surprised by the potency of "near" beers (maybe the growing market of female clients that want something lighter but bitter enough is a trigger as well, who knows).

I think the most common reason to switching for "beer that does not bite" is simply the fact that most of us drive or ride nowadays - there is a need for bitterness without being a threat to others and self.

Alcohol-free beers might also definitely be a choice for those who like the taste, but don't like the overweight it comes with. And it's a plus for "zero" beers that never seem like a full meal. When you look at such beverages from a nutrition perspective, most of them don't live up to the kcal rate of regular beers (usually it's 35 - 45 kcal per 100ml if not more whereas alcohol-free beers often don't reach 30). Fun fact - "near" beers always have nutritional value given apart from the regular ones that almost never have it (at least in Latvia) and some of them are even labelled "ISOTONIC" with added vitamins.

Despite or, probably, because of that, it is quite hard to chug a couple of half-litres of the "beer lemonade", to say nothing about a pint or two. Definitely, for me. Therefore, it's weird why some breweries still think non-alcoholic beers must have the same drinking size as the regular ones. From my experience, it is quite enough to have a couple 0,33L longnecks spanning across the evening instead of hanging around with a lifeless pint. Even some craft beer breweries we know are considering "near" beers to be introduced in their assortment any time soon, and some I know have noted the size.


In order to create our subjective list, I tested at least 30 alcohol-free beers (not in the same day), focusing only on the ones widely available in stores, bars, cafés (i.e. something you don't need to search with compass and fire). Another criteria - I am looking for what's basically beer with as basic ingredients as possible, not some sin-free shandy pee or hops-flavoured soda sugar bomb (yes, we sadly have those). IMPORTANT! I noticed the best "near" beers usually being closest to the callories of their alcoholic versions. Hence a very good indicator - simply avoid everything below 25 kcal.

Finally - a list of 7 decent non-alcoholic beers was born (with possibilities to be updated!). Despite it following an increasing yet only approximate ranking, we managed to highlight our most favourite one at least. So, if you look for a genuine taste of beer in Riga and Latvia, check these ones out and try not to bother with others outside our selection!

7. Staburags Bezalkoholiskais gaišais alus - a regular pilsner that looks and tastes like a regular pilsner, and it's a good thing!

6. PAULANER Weissbier Non-alcoholic - although lean nutrition-wise, this Bavarian beverage has a thick, non-filtered-like body with an interesting bread-like aftertaste that can trick the drinker well. Definitely the flavour of South-German contryside (whatever it might actually mean).

5. Carlsberg Alcohol Free Organic Pilsner - Years of mass-production and "probably the best unlimited funding in the world" in research has paid back! After another try I was convinced (and not because of the "organic" label) that Carlsberg have managed to produce a well balanced and sin-free pilsner!

4. Kronenbourg 1664 BLANC Alcohol free - for some, this "wheat beer with a taste of citrus" might be a bit too sweet (thanks, added sugar), but the zesty, bitterish replication of malt and hops really works here. Also - not too large, so BLANC feels like a good, soft alternative to specialty beers.

3. Kokmuiža Non Alcoholic - this should be one bottle, but it's six at least. Simply because I am not convinced if any of these ales is superior to others. One is clear though, all versions have a very intense, distinctive bitterish base of hops; when aware of this, you can decide for yourself whether you are a lover of raspberry, grapefruit, IPA, APA, or zesty hints. UPDATE. This picture lost a very dear taste of raspberry to me, therefore Kokmuiža slides down in the list.

2. Hoegaarden Wit 0,0% - possibly the most known company on this list brews one of the most exotic tastes among "zero" beers on this list. With a hint of coriander and orange peel, the taste is definitely refreshing and this specialty-like beer also comes with a pleasant size. EDITOR'S CHOICE!


1. Piebalgas bezalkoholiskais - The best combo of all - not too sweet, not too bitter, not too large. Piebalgas barley "zero" beverage also has the most kcals of all, thus making it the richest non-alcoholic beer in the market now (who knows, maybe it really defines their success). Also - produced by one of the most renowned traditional breweries in Latvia. EDITOR'S CHOICE!


  1. My favorite one (not on the list above): Lāčplēsis. While the alcoholic beer by Lāčplēsis is among the last choices, the non-alcoholic one is perfect! It truly tastes like a beer (instead of the "metalic water" taste)

  2. Lāčplēsis 0° is fine indeed! It stayed right behind our list.

  3. Claustahler is a very good non-alco lager option as well, to me even better than Carlsberg...


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