By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Feb 15, 2008 at 5:31 AM Photography: Andy Tarnoff

"Bar Month" at is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City bar history. Cheers!

Labels describe it as a "malt beverage," but is non-alcoholic beer near-beer or an entirely different animal? We decided to check it out for ourselves, popping the tops of two Milwaukee-made NA brews and one from Europe. Only the Cream City near-beers, however, were eligible to win this Milwaukee Challenge.

Miller's Sharp's was the winner, besting Pabst NA -- also brewed by Miller - four votes to two. Here's what our judges had to say.

Molly Snyder Edler
Staff Writer
Pick: Pabst NA

Although I immediately was turned off by the look of the Pabst NA can - I can't stand the colors red and green together, not even during Christmas -- I still found this non-alcoholic beer to slightly trump the Sharp's.

Both of beers have less than .05 percent alcohol content and both have a mere 58 calories, but the Pabst has a little more taste, although it didn't really taste like beer. It is slightly sweeter with a trace-of-beer aftertaste.

Truth be told, I found both of these beers to taste awful, but if forced to drink one, I would choose the Pabst NA. The only time in my life I drank non-alcoholic beer was during pregnancy, and even then I only drank Clausthaler.

Julie Lawrence
Staff Writer
Pick: Sharp's

I honestly can't believe I "prefer" Sharp's to something else, but if there is anything less palatable than a non-alcoholic can of Sharp's it might just be the N/A version of Pabst. I expected it to be watered down -- even the regular stuff has a fairly mild flavor -- but this can of faux suds tasted more like a fizzy helping of unflavored La Croix Sparkling Water than anything resembling beer.

There simply was nothing to it. The Sharp's pulled ahead by producing a slightly tangy aftertaste, although that might have just been the taste of the can. It was hard to tell.

Drew Olson
Senior Editor
Pick: Sharp's

Let's get the disclaimer out of the way: I am not a beer snob. I like just about anything that is cold, cheap or being purchased by someone else.

I drink Miller products over other domestic brands because I started doing it in my teen years and, well, I like to support the home team in that regard.

That may be a major reason I chose Sharp's. It reminded me of High Life, without the head or body. (Imagine a glass of High Life that had a handful of ice cubes melting in it and you get the picture). Most NA beers are not hoppy or malty, but have a heavy corn flavor, almost like corn-flavored water. But, something about the Sharp's felt normal to me.

The Pabst had a golden color and a surprisingly foamy head, but didn't seem as drinkable to me. It had a bit of a fruity finish and tonic-water texture, which one of my colleagues coined "beer-flavored La Croix."

Bottom line: I wouldn't go out of my way to drink either of these, but if I was on an alcohol fast or unable to imbibe because of painkillers or other circumstances, I could see using them to wash down a hot dog or a slab of pizza.

Given a choice, I'd stick with the Sharp's.

Maureen Post
Editorial Intern
Pick: Sharp's

Sharp's and Pabst NA are local attempts to maintain the tradition of Milwaukee beer pride without the possibilities of hangovers and next-day regrets. When put to a personal taste test, Sharp's narrowly beat out Pabst NA. However, I’m not so sure I would say either would quench a non-drinker’s thirst for beer.

The Pabst NA is strikingly sweet, visibly flat and fails to meet the Blue Ribbon standard. Comparably, the timid, diluted and dull flavor of Sharp's leaves much to be desired. Despite Sharp's lack of intensity, the beer retains a frothy white head and the flavor is instantly reminiscent of alcohol-friendly Miller products.

Sharp’s strong carbonation is clear and that in itself was enough to win the challenge. While I place Sharp's above Pabst NA, it’s not saying much.

Bobby Tanzilo
Managing Editor

Pick: Pabst NA

I'm not sure I get the theory behind near-beer. If I couldn't consume alcohol, I would probably opt for a soda or something else.

These don't taste the same, as I'd expected they would, but neither is all that great, either. The Pabst is malty and with a nutty color but without much body and a sweet, almost caramel taste.

Sharp's has a less distinctive taste and recalls High Life, but with less body and barely any flavor.

Since the Pabst at least has something going on -- albeit more of a soda than a beer taste -- I'm going with that.

We also tasted Clausthaler -- made by the Beck's people -- and that was considerably more satisfying, with a weightier body, a darker color and a bit more flavor.

Andy Tarnoff
Pick: Sharp's

If I didn't know I was drinking non-alcoholic brew, I would've declared these the two worst cans of beer I've ever consumed. Both entries are far and away the most putrid "beers" I've ever tasted, including my first attempt at homebrew and that case of expired Milwaukee's Best Ice Light I bought in college for $7.99.

Having said that, I'll tepidly endorse the Sharp's as the "better" of the two entries. It was weak and puny tasting, but at least it wasn't bitter. It tasted vaguely -- and I mean really vaguely -- of High Life, that is, if it was watered down by about 75 percent. The Pabst offering just tasted wrong. It was sugary and watery and only vaguely tasted like beer.

Though we didn't officially consider the Clausthauler part of this challenge, that entry at least had a little flavor. If I really wasn't paying attention, it's conceivable that someone could tell me it was a Becks and might fool me for a few sips. Still, if you ever see me drinking an NA beer "because I like the taste of beer but not its effects," please knock it to the ground and hand me a soda. I find neither the least bit palatable, and I hope I never drink another one as long as I live.