My boss told me I should try Heineken’s new non-alcoholic beer, Heineken 0.0, and write a review. Because I’d like to think I’m a good employee, I put aside my beer snobbery and did so.
This was Thursday. My wife, in Philadelphia for a wedding rehearsal, had left me to feed, bathe, and put our infant son to bed. Given that he passes out milk-drunk promptly at 7 p.m., this meant my wife had also given me an opportunity rare in new fatherhood: three uninterrupted hours of free time.
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A temporary bachelor, I decided to go wild. I reheated a bowl of leftover chili, didn’t do the dishes, left the trail of destruction my child left in the playroom, flipped through Netflix for 20 minutes before settling on The Cloverfield Paradox (wife hates sci-fi), and cracked open that Heineken 0.0., along with a bottle of regular Heineken that the company’s media representative, Bjorn, had so graciously sent for comparative purposes. Heineken has sold the non-alcoholic, 62-calorie Heineken 0.0 to Europeans for a while now, but the company plans to release the beer to the American public come January 2019.
To stage my taste test, I turned off the lights in an attempt to not only to enhance the experience of J.J. Abrams Event Horizon rip-off, but to ensure that the test I was about to conduct was, in fact, blind.
As the opening credits ran, I fumbled for a bottleneck, almost knocking over the baby monitor and nearly derailing the entire momentous evening.
Now, before you launch into your finger-wagging that I shouldn’t have been drinking if I was the sole caretaker of my son and what if he woke up and had sprouted some type of vile, writhing face infection that was accompanied by periodic bouts of acidic projectile vomiting and violent green diarrhea and needed to go to the pediatric emergency room immediately, let’s hold up.
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Regular Heineken Lager is a meager 5% alcohol by volume (that’s abbreviated ABV, for you teetotalers). Heineken Light Lager is 4.2% ABV, by comparison, but that’s just for your own edification.
So I grab a bottle blind and I take my first sip, knowing that for sure I’ve just taken a glug of Heineken Lager. The light bubbles, the first taste of subtle malt sweetness, followed by the mellow tang of aluminum. I let the aftertaste linger as the spaceship from The Cloverfield Paradox (SPOILER ALERT!) malfunctioned. The beer and the movie—both comfortably predictable.
Then I tried a sip from the other bottle. Light bubbles. The first taste of subtle malt sweetness. The mellow tang of aluminum. Wait a second? Were my taste buds still affected by the Mucinex I had been taking for my seasonal-allergy-induced bacterial sinus infection? Had the absence of my wife, whom I’ve now been married to for three-and-a-half years rendered my senses, much like my patience with changing our wriggling son’s cloth diapers, short?
Both of these dang beers taste exactly the same.
I switched back and forth between bottles while I half-watched the movie and half-Instagrammed and I couldn’t tell the difference in the two beers. I held my smartphone up to the first beer I had tasted and wouldn’t you know it there it was: Heineken 0.0.
Bjorn, please pass my respect onto InBev, or SABMiller, or whatever Massive Booze Conglomerate owns you now (fact check: It’s actually Heineken International), because you had this Men’s Health Food & Nutrition Editor fooled.
As I asked myself about the type of person who would actually enjoy The Cloverfield Paradox, I also turned the same question to Heineken 2.0.
Surely, their market isn’t me, a thirty-something, temporarily-wifeless, new dad in his living room strewn with baby toys, who is occasionally checking the monitor to make sure he hasn’t killed his son through some bizarre crib-placing accident, and missing his wife because if she was at home instead of in Philadelphia he wouldn’t have to watch The Cloverfield Paradox and could instead watch 12 Angry Men but promised not to because she wanted to watch it with him?
Heineken says, “Heineken 0.0 brings for the first time a truly incredible beer taste to the non-alc [SIC] space, and opens a world of opportunity for people to come together and enjoy a beer that expands the drinking occasion—not limits them.”
Marketing mumbo-jumbo aside, maybe they are after guys like me—guys who have started opting for a seltzer after dinner instead of a double IPA because a hangover with an eight-month-old is like no hangover you’ve ever had, single dude. And, hell, what better seltzer is there than a beer-flavored seltzer?
Regardless, though I finished my Heineken 5.0, I didn’t do the same for my Heineken 0.0 or The Cloverfield Paradox.
And that three hours of free time was more like two. I fell asleep at 9:00 p.m., the faint taste of beer-that-isn’t on my tongue.