Beverage Tasting: Suntory All-Free

Summarizing another of the videos I shot over the previous weekend.

All-Free comes from Japan’s brewer and distiller Suntory. It’s a malt beverage proclaiming that it has not only zero alcohol, but also no calories and no carbs. It’s been available in Japan since 2010. They began test marketing it in San Francisco in 2017, and it’s now making its way to the U.S. market and available through mail order, with availability through Amazon expected soon.

I was sent some cans, and glassware from Suntory’s PR people. With other “beer influencers”, I was invited to sample the beverage in a virtual meeting with Suntory officers last week. The event included some remarks and a brief Q&A with Yuichi Kato, Head of Product Development, and Takeharu Nakai, Director of U.S. Marketing and Sales. They talked about positioning All-Free for sports or for daytime enjoyment. Yuichi explained that All-Free is based on malted 2-row barley and hops. They did, of course, hold the actual process close to the vest. But the ingredients listed on the can do list malted barley, hops and hop extract, along with “natural flavor, caramel color, plus phosphoric, ascorbic and lactic acid, the food ingredients used to refine its taste. They also offered the caveat that since it has no alcohol, it would freeze sooner than regular beer.

all-freeimg_1718I saved one of the cans to open for my YouTube “One-Take Beer Review” series. I caught a note of light barely in the nose. The pour is very light yellow with a fizzy head. The closest I can come to describing it is as a “malta”, the unfermented barley drink. However, maltas are pretty full of sweetness, and the All-Free is definitely not sweet. Nor does it have any saccharine flavor, which I appreciate. There’s a steady flow of bubbles to bring some “prickly” hop pellet notes to it. Well, no one would mistake it for a beer. But it does have some recognizable malt and bitterness, kind of a “tonic.” Enjoyed cold, even on ice, it could be a nice “recovery” drink with no “diet” stigma.

It will be interesting to see if this beverage catches on, and how other brewers might follow with their own versions. There are some different ones on sale in Japan. Will the idea spread?

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    Mark McDermott

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