Galley Guys 1By The Galley Guys
Greg Nicoll
John Armstrong
Andy Adams

The Galley Guys assemble on the spacious port side deck of theNeptunus 550 Express in Harbour West, Hamilton.

There is nothing so refreshing and enjoyable as a frosty, cold beer on a hot sunny afternoon, but sometimes one tastes like another and the added effects of the sun and the boat’s movements can make a couple of beers, a little too much.

Ice cold water is the most refreshing thing I can think of, but after a few sips with little or no flavour and no “body”, the water looses its appeal.

What to do?

We like beer, but it’s the alcohol that makes it a bad choice. Perhaps the solution is beer without the alcohol. In typical Galley Guy fashion, we wanted to try out this theory under the best possible circumstances, so we contacted our friend Jan Willem De Jong, Managing Director at Neptunus Yachts and invited him to bring his gorgeous new Neptunus 55 over to Harbour West so we could relax together onboard and test the theory that “near-beer” is a good solution.

Galley Guys 2A few cold brew awaiting the big test!

In preparation for this, we went to the Beer Store to check out the selection and discovered that in Ontario at least, they don’t sell near-beer. All the beers the Ontario Beer Store carry have at least a bit of alcohol (and some contain a fair bit)!

The next course of action was to head to the grocery store and sure enough, we discovered that they all carry some form of low alcohol or de-alcoholized beer. As true Galley Guys, we didn’t know this…although I’m betting that you probably already did!

In a story by the Canadian Press last summer, we learned that Budweiser is launching its first non-alcoholic beer since Prohibition in Canada targeting what they expect will be a growing thirst for near-beer.

In recent years, Canadians have increasingly turned to low- and non-alcoholic beverages, and Labatt, which has brewed Budweiser in Canada since 1980, is counting on that to continue.

According to Euromonitor International, in 2015, Canadians consumed 11.6 million litresof , low- and non-alcoholic beverages which was an increase of 9.1 per cent over the previous year. That preceded double-digit annual growth from 2010 and 2014, the market research firm says.

The Canadian Press story noted that the market is unlikely to stop expanding any time soon. From 2015-2020, sales volume is expected to grow by more than eight per cent a year according to Mark Strobel, a Euromonitor International research analyst.

Strobel said the rise in the non-alcohol business is being driven by young people who are more socially responsible and also older folks who want to limit their alcohol intake, just like the Galley Guys!

Galley Guys 3Greg Nicoll sets up the “blind” taste test using the comfortable dinette in the Neptunus 550 Express.

Despite continuous growth, non-alcoholic beer is still a fairly small market in Canada, especially when compared to the overall beer business.For the year beginning at the end of March 2014, Canadians drank 2.257 billion litres of regular beer, Statistics Canada data shows.

Labatt is confident that Budweiser will be the top choice for non-alcoholic beer drinkers and they have made a $6 million investment in equipment to make Prohibition Brew.

But, all the major beer companies are offering low- and non-alcoholic choices and so are more and more craft breweries. Labatt will make Budweiser Prohibition Brew available in some convenience stores, grocery stores and fast-food outlets. It’s the fast food opportunity that could be the most valuable. Canada’s aging and more health-conscious population may be turning away from soft drinks at the fast food outlets.

As a bit of background, non-alcoholic beer actually starts out as normal beer. A brewer mashes malt and boils it with hops and then the beer goes through a fermentation process, which creates alcohol and carbon dioxide. At this point, a brewer would bottle the beer if itwas their regular alcoholic version. But, if it is to be non-alcoholic, the beer must undergo another step.

The most common method to remove alcohol from beer is to heat the brew. Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, brewers can heat the fermented beer until the desired amount of alcohol remains, however this process can sometimes alter a beer's taste.

To reduce the unwanted change in flavor, some brewers heat beer in a vacuum, and this technique significantly lowers the alcohol's boiling point and affects the flavor much less.

Galley Guys 5Agreement! We can all appreciate the non-alcoholic brews as refreshing and a far better choice for boating; we support near-beer off the pier. From the right -  Jan Willem De Jong of Neptunus Yachts and Galley Guys Greg Nicoll, John Armstrong and Andy Adams.

There are other methods as well but the point is that the beer starts out just like regular beer. Some beer styles, mostly those lower in bitter hops, adapt better to becoming non-alcoholic and of course, the goal for non-alcoholic beer is to deliver flavor, aromatics, balance and body. It's just harder to achieve without the alcohol.

So, can the Galley Guys tell the difference?

Reaching back in time to the Coke – Pepsi Taste Test, we selected a group of beers, some regular and some non-alcoholic, masked the bottles and cans with numbered sleeves and we poured out some test samples.

We had Molson Canadian and Molson Excel, Labatt Blue and Labatt .5, Beck’s and Beck’s Non-alcoholic beer…and there a host of others on the market – this was just a sampling.

You won’t be surprised to learn that in our blind taste test, the Galley Guys were able to consistently choose the regular beer! But that was not the point. We were there to compare.

We knew we liked regular beer. What we wanted to learn was if we would enjoy the non-alcoholic beer enough to want a ‘fridge full on our next cruise and we all agreed – the answer was “yes”.

Still cool and refreshing and not sweet, and not bland either – it’s near-beer off the pier for us.

If you’re not already a non-alcoholic beer drinker, it’s certainly worth a try this summer. And, if you can enjoy your beer on a Neptunus 550 Express – so much the better!

 

 

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