MOVIES & BOOZE: Functional Beers

Dean Clarke recommends some functional beer's for the post Christmas season!


Given that it is the New Year, and people are making New Year’s Resolutions, we thought it would be a good idea to be preachy and tell people what they could do for their a good way! 

The beers for today are functional beers – beers that are ‘free-from’ something.  We have Maisel’s Alkoholfrei – an alcohol free wheat beer – and Wold Top Marmalade Porter – a gluten free porter.

 Maisel’s Alcoholfrei –


Beer Style                            -  Non-Alcohol Wheat Beer

Alcohol by Volume          -  < 0.5% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  Maisel’s Brewery

Brewed in                            -  Bayreuth, Germany.


Maisel’s have done very well in terms of accolades this year.  Maisel’s Original has won best Weissbier in the world at the World Beer Awards, and this beer – Maisel’s Alcoholfrei – won best Non-Alcoholic Weissbier in the world.


There is always an issue when one has to take something out of a beer – in fact two potential issues.  I expect that a key supplementary reason why this beer has received such critical acclaim is that it has not only side-stepped both of these issues, but it has also delivered a complex and incredibly tasty beer.  Removing a fundamental element of the beer can alter the balance of flavor in the beer – in the case of removing alcohol, because alcohol carries flavor, this can cause the beer to taste thinner and less flavorful.  Secondly, the process of removing something from the beer can cause other, sometimes unwanted flavors, to develop in the beer.


Firstly, in terms of flavor, Maisel’s wheat beers all have a depth of complexity to them.  While banana and clove are the signature elements of a wheat beer, and Maisel’s Alcoholfrei delivers on both of these key flavor characteristics, this beer adds further depth and interest by providing layers of fruit flavor.  Peach, citrus and gooseberry all emerge on subsequent tastings.  Likewise the clove spice in the beer is supplemented by subtle cinnamon, both of which develop in the wheat beer fermentation.  It is true to say that the alcohol-containing version of the wheat beer does benefit from the inclusion of alcohol in the beer – as we mentioned earlier, alcohol helps to carry flavor – this beer has enough flavor complexity to provide depth, and it is a beer that develops on the second and third mouthful.


The second issue that can sometimes happen with alcohol free beers is the development of unwanted flavors in the beer.  Alcohol can be removed from beer by ‘cooking’ the alcohol out of the beer, or by using a particular method of filtration.  The former can cause unwanted flavors to develop – staling flavors such as paper/cardboard can develop in beers that are subjected to this process.  Maisel’s Alcoholfrei avoids this by removing the alcohol by filtration.  This keeps the beer tasting fresh, and avoids unwanted staling character that can be present in many alcohol free beers.


Maisel’s Alcoholfrei has a distinct zing of carbonation that further lifts the medium to light body of this beer.  The mouthwatering quality of the peach and citrus fruit flavour is complemented by this buzz on the palate.  Sufficient residual dextrins (sugar) and proteins are left in the beer to allow the beer to have a solid and satisfying mouthfeel.  The overall result is a beer that is layered in complexity and superbly balanced that is both light and vibrant to someone who wants to simply enjoy the beer for what it is, while providing multiple facets to the beer drinker that wants to dissect and consider each aspect of the beer in turn.


It is rare that I would say that an alcohol free beer can stand alone as a beer in its own right.  Often when I am talking about alcohol free beers, the conversation starts with an apology ... “this is an alcohol free beer, so you need to expect ... “.  However, in the case of Maisel’s Alcoholfrei, I do feel that this beer stands on its own two feet.  Retaining the house character that is evident in other beers from the Maisel’s wheat beer range, this beer borrows and balances the citrus character that is more to the forefront in Maisel’s Kristal and combines it with the peach and soft/stone fruit character that is more evident in Maisel’s Original and balances all of this with banana which is possibly more evident in Alcoholfrei than it is in either of the other two.


An alcohol-free beer that one can enjoy by focusing on the beer rather than worrying about what is missing from it!


Wold Top Marmalade Porter –


Beer Style                            -  Wold Top Marmalade Porter

Alcohol by Volume          -  5.0% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  Maisel’s Brewery

Brewed in                            -  Bayreuth, Germany.


Often, the style for a gluten free beer is quite straightforward – they tend to be lagers, golden ales or pale ales.  This might possibly be because the primary target market for gluten free beers are people who may not have developed a taste for beer (because before the ready availability of gluten free beer, they had to abstain from it).  However, in more recent times, an array of styles of gluten free beers have become available, and many of these beers can be enjoyed as beers in their own right rather than as compromises that one feels they have to take to avoid the consumption of gluten.


It is almost incidental that Wold Top Marmalade Porter is gluten free.  This beer is truly delicious.  Combining a classic English Porter with a modern craft twist, Marmalade Porter provides a backbone of dark malt flavour – liquorice, dark chocolate, powdery cocoa – with a delicious fruit character (primarily, bitter orange peel combined with caramelised or roasted orange, but also black cherry) that evolves and develops the more one drinks the beer.  The balance in the beer is incredible.  At 5% a.b.v., it is most drinkable (don’t think the richness of an Imperial Russian Stout that I often review at this time of year, but rather the comfort flavor qualities of toast charcoal, coffee and chocolate and the drinkability of a normal to premium strength beer).


This beer develops in complexity with each drink.  At the forefront, the dark malt character gives a foundation to the beer.  This malt character underpins the overall balance of the beer, and develops into a dusty and slightly dry cocoa powder mouthfeel into the finish of the beer.  However, fruit flavor from both hop additions and possibly further developed in fermentation provides a sweet fruit counterpoint.  Orange and chocolate is already a classically delicious flavor combination, but this further develops into darker fruit flavors as the dark malt and fruit interact and combine.


The body of this beer is lighter than the flavor descriptors might lead one to expect.  While the dark malt provides all of the comfort of a night by the fire, in reality this is a medium to light bodied beer.  Complex and layered, one can explore the depths of character of this beer without being overwhelmed by a heavy bodied beer.


By the way, it meets the <20 ppm requirement for this beer to be classified as gluten free, but this shouldn’t be the primary reason to drink this beer.  Drink it because it tastes great!