Top Five Non-Alcoholic Beers

The city's beer nerds are all excited for Houston Beer Week. But for some random reason, this brew celebration has just made me crave my favorite non-alcoholic "beers." Here are my Top Five:

5. Birch Beer. Earlier this year I blogged about my love for birch beer, a minty-sweet soda made from the bark of birch trees. Birch beer comes in a rainbow of fun colors; however, if you're looking to blend in with your fellow brew-drinkers this week, skip the clear or red and go for darker black and brown hues.

4. Butterbeer. The beverage of choice for Harry Potter and crew, butterbeer can be served hot or cold and, according to its creator J.K. Rowling, is supposed to taste "a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch." Since Houston is not a bastion of wizard taverns, I am usually forced to concoct my own with recipes from Mugglenet and other fan sites. (But if I were visiting Universal Orlando, I could belly up to The Three Broomsticks or The Hog's Head, both of which vend their own varieties for $3-4.)

3. Ginger Beer. The spicier, more potent cousin to ginger ale, ginger beer originated in England in the 1700s, but now is heavily associated with the Caribbean cuisine. Ginger beer's potential for throat-scorching can make drinking it straight unpalatable, so most temper it with dark rum, à la "Dark and Stormy" cocktails.

2. Root Beer. Root beer is almost as American as apple pie, but a hell of lot more refreshing. Alcoholic versions exist, but the oldie-but-goodie teetotaler soda served in a frosty mug with a thick head of foam goes well with just about anything.

1. O'Doul's. Because sometimes you need a malt beverage in your hand (and I'm not talking hard lemonade) to watch football without looking like a totally effete douchebag. Order O'Doul's when "beers" one through four on this list are unavailable or when the house wine looks like fruit punch...or when you already proved you love beer a little bit too much last night.

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