Friday, May 21, 2010

Pregnant Women v. N/A Beer

I was going to title this Pregnant Women v Beer and leave out the N/A cause I thought it was funnier, but I realize that this is a controversial issue and didn’t want to make it any more contentious than it already is. 

So here we go.  First, some background.

I don’t have many vices.  I don’t smoke or take drugs.  I’m not a gamer or a shopaholic. What are my vices then?  Well, I probably spend a little too much time on the computer, I require a coke or a small cup of coffee everyday, and I enjoy a good beer.  How much beer you say? When I’m not pregnant, I’ll have a few a week.  When I’m pregnant? I might have one real beer at the end of my pregnancy, a sip of my husbands’ here and there, and then buy a few six packs non-alcoholic beer over the course of the pregnancy.  Do I down my six pack in a night? Hardly.  It may sit in the fridge for a few weeks before I polish it off.

What does my Ob/Gyn have to say about all this?
During my first pregnancy I had a few non-alcoholic beers, but the choices in PA (where I lived for the fist ¾ of my pregnancy) were dreadful.  My ob/gyn in PA had no issue with non-alcoholic beverages. I had no history of alcoholism and had a healthy pregnancy.  So during this pregnancy I had no hesitation getting some N/A beer. 

I love my ob/gyn practice here in VA and when you talk to them face to face, the doctors are candid and open with you.  However, when you contact them about a controversial issue like drinking and pregnancy, even if it is N/A beer, they err on the side of caution.  When I e-mailed them and asked if the occasional N/A beer was ok, the triage nurse got back to me on behalf of my doctor to say “No, not if it has any alcohol in it.”  Which is funny since that is not what others said to me last year.  But I doubt I would be able to get any doc (especially in this litigious area) to go on record in an article saying it’s ok.  Talk to your doc in person and you might get a different answer.

So there's alcohol in Non-Alcoholic Beer?
The term non-alcoholic beer is a bit of a misnomer because it actually does have some alcohol in it…less than 1/2% to be precise.  A regular bottle of beer on the other hand has about 5% alcohol.  So it would take 10 non-alcoholic beers to make 1 real beer.  So if you have one or even two N/A beers along with a big meal, the alcohol crossing over to the fetus is pretty negligible.

So what’s the big deal with drinking N/A Beer? What are the health risks?
Personally, I don’t think it’s that big of an issue if it’s done in moderation.    However, there are two major fears: 1- that pregnant women will imbibe copious amounts of N/A beer in a single sitting to get a buzz or consume large amounts on a regular basis negating the whole N/A thing, and 2-that no one (not the CDC, Mayo Clinic, March of Dimes, etc) knows exactly how much it takes to harm a fetus and cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs).  So the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the March of Dimes, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist have all gone on the record stating that women should steer clear of alcohol entirely during pregnancy (including the N/A stuff).  Have they gone a bit puritanical/overboard on the issue? Maybe, but since FASD’s are 100% preventable and there are some newer studies out on impact of consistent low dose alcohol consumption, I get that they are just trying to help.

How large of a problem is regular alcohol consumption during pregnancy? 
According to the CDC, 10% of women report drinking alcohol during pregnancy – not the N/A stuff but regular wine or beer. 

What exactly are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)?
FASDs are a range of conditions that could impact a child whose mother drank during pregnancy.  They stem from physical deformities to severe mental retardation.  For more information go to:

How many babies are born in the U.S. each year? How many are born with FASDs?
Approximately 4,000,000 babies born each year in the U.S., of this number, approximately 40,000 babies (or 1%) are born each year with FASDs. 

What’s the rest of the world have to say about the issue?
Well evidently American’s can’t hold/manage their alcohol because most of Europe doesn’t have the same attitude towards alcohol. Especially since wine and beer are so much a part of their cultures.  I checked out some international discussion boards on the issue.  Baby Centre UK ( actually says a few drinks (beer/wine NOT liquor) a week are ok, but recommend abstaining if possible.  The Berkeley Parent’s Network ( has some interesting posts from European members who discuss how they didn’t cease their usual drinking when pregnant.  One doctor in Germany gave these guidelines: 1. No regular drinking (i.e. every single day), 2. No binge drinking (i.e. having quite a few drinks in one session), 3. Not hard liquor; stick to wine or beer. 

So despite all this you’re still going to do a N/A beer taste test and blog about it?
Yup.  I completely understand the issue and still do not believe I am in any way harming my child by consuming basically what equates to probably 5 regular beers over the course of my entire pregnancy. Good lord, I know for a fact that my mother, some aunts, and many of my friend’s mothers drank --the real stuff—during their pregnancies in the 60s and 70s.  Oh, and they smoked too!  I am not condoning it and I personally don’t do it (drink regular alcohol), I’m just stating fact. 

If you like the taste of beer and choose to have a non-alcoholic beer during your pregnancy, I don’t want you to waste your money on crap N/A beer.  I’m not here to tell you that you should or shouldn’t drink N/A beer, that decision’s between you, your spouse, your doctor, and your own personal savior -- whoever that may be.  I do hope however, that you don’t over do it.
The Taste Test

So last week my friend Malvika and I sat down after dinner to test out a range of N/A beers.  I should note that we only sampled 2-3 ounces of each beer.

First, a little about our preferences…

When I’m not prego, I prefer lagers and some ales.  I like beers with some body/flavor to them, a little hoppy even.  Preferred beers:  Yuengling Lager, Sam Adams Seasonal Brews, Clipper City Gold Ale, Harp, and Bass.  In the summer I like lighter flavors, Hefeweizen and even the occasional MGD or Miller High Life.  I am hardly a beer snob.

When I’m not pregnant, here’s what I prefer:
Saranac - usually have one before I move onto Miller Lite
Miller Lite - for when I am drinking a lot
Duvel - champagney beer and very yummy
Hefeweizen - for warm days and drinking outside
Chimay - super yummy beer, but I can only have one or two - not heavy
like Guinness, but filling

The Contenders:

Ok so here are the results of our taste test:

(German, Brauerei Beck & Co)

C: As my daughter would say, “yuck.”  I don’t mind regular Beck’s, but this was awful.  Tasted like skunked Milwaukee’s Best.

M: Agree, yuck, tastes like cheap, bad, college beer.

(Holland, Heineken Brewery)

C: Not offensive, but not good, either. Boring and a bit metallic tasting.

M: Smooth, but not flavorful.

(German, Binding Brauerei)

C: Flavorful, but not lovin it.  Definitely a German beer.  A wee bit bitter. I had it once before and thought I liked it.  Not so much this time.

M: Don’t really like it.  Not much to say about it.  (Even tried it in a glass—as opposed to a plastic cup—to see if it would taste better.  It didn’t.)

(Irish, Guinness)

C: Like a lighter Guinness.  Malty, flavorful and a bit heavy – not my thing.

M: Very flavorful and malty, reminds me of Chionay or Duvel. This is probably my favorite.

 O’Douls Premium
(American, Anheuser-Busch)

C: Like drinking flavored, carbonated caramel water. Weird after taste.  Only get if there are no other options.

M: Tastes like flavored fizzy water, but without good flavor.

O’Douls Amber
(American, Anheuser-Busch)

C: Good amber flavor, smooth.  I definitely like this one.

M: Decent. Much better than regular O’Douls.

St. Pauli Girl
(German, St. Pauli Brauerei)

C: Light, flavorful, actually tastes like beer.  Sort of reminds me of Miller High Life.  My favorite of the group.

M: Huh, surprising, it actually tastes like beer.

Penns Best N.A.
(American, Pittsburgh Brewing Co.)

C: Man, this stuff is dreadful. I mean truly awful.  Don’t bother. I had to wash my mouth out after drinking. 

M: Ugh, awful and it smells like ever clear.

Not tested during this tasting but worth mentioning:

Flavorful, malty and pleasant.  I couldn’t find it this time to include in tasting but it’s quite good and I believe Trader Joe’s carries it.

 Bush N/A
For what it’s worth I have a friend who’s a self-proclaimed beer snob that swears by it. 

Beer not your thing?
Ariel makes several non-alcoholic wines, a sav blanc, a chardonnay and a cabernet.  They taste a bit wine cooler ish but are sort of refreshing.

The domestic N/A beers can be found at most grocery stores.  The imports are carried at Total Wine & More and Trader Joe's in the area.  Oh and if you should just want to try one, Total Wine sells them individually.

So there you have it.  Comments are welcome.

Have a great weekend! 

Oh...ever thought about having a maternity photo session as a keepsake of your pregnancy?  We're giving away one next week!  


  1. Thanks so much for the taste test and reviews!

  2. Bitburger makes a 0.0% N/A beer called Drive. It was hard to find (I live in MN) but a local store ordered it for me). About on par with the other options, but I like that it's 0.0.