Near Beer 

Non-alcoholic choices

Beer goes well with summer activities. Barbecues, baseball games, floating the river--they all call for a cool one. But it's easy to overindulge, and with the Fourth of July coming up, someone needs to keep a clear head around all the fireworks and festivities. Enter nonalcoholic brews. This week, while the rest of the paper tackles more traditional brews, I'm exploring beer alternatives. German lagers translate well, but my top pick for drinkability goes to an industrial offering that should please the Bud Light crowd. Here's my near-beer ranking:

4. St. Pauli N.A. $1.19-$1.59

A surprisingly thick and persistent froth tops this pale straw brew. Grassy malt aromas lead into lightly tart citrus and grain flavors. There's a nice hop bitterness on the finish.

3. Becks Non-Alcoholic Brew

A straw-colored pour with a decent head and sweet fruit aromas, this near beer is very pleasant on the palate, which is well-balanced between soft malt and hops, and backed by ripe lemon. Pleasantly refreshing.

2. Clausthaler Non-Alcoholic, $1.29-$1.69

This brew opens with heady toasted malt and hop aromas in a crystal-clear pour that has a thin froth on top. There's a nice richness to the palate, with creamy, soft malt flavors playing against lightly bitter hops. This near beer finishes clean and fresh.

1. O'doul's Premium Amber, $9.99-12.99, 12-pack cans

Bright amber in the glass, this brew has a light white head that leaves a nice lacing. Sweet citrus aromas dominate with hints of clover and fresh grain. There's ripe citrus on the palate as well. This brew is very clean and quaffable with a crisp finish.

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