Still in its infancy, the world of non-alcoholic (NA) beer is progressing rapidly. Scoffed at by some and enjoyed by many, NA beer is serious business.
There are NA beers that taste great. They offer a healthy alternative to traditional beer without sacrificing quality. Flavorful, complex, refreshing, it’s beer at 0.5% ABV or less.
NA beer must have an alcohol content of 0.5% or less. Governmentally speaking, anything with 0.5% or less alcohol by volume does get treated by the IRS as beer. But we think flavor counts for more than what they say.
For those concerned about consuming 0.5% ABV, you can find that much in certain bread or a ripe banana. Your body will metabolize that amount of alcohol in a matter of minutes.
The Non-alchololic beer landscape in North America has been pretty much the same for 30 years. However, in the last few years we’ve seen some craft varieties hit the market. There is a move towards health and wellness and this is reflected in how much beer is being consumed.
There is a market for NA beer. It can be consumed pretty much anywhere, on any given day, and is healthier than traditional options. It’s a nice alternative to the staples of coffee, water, and soda. A typical NA clocks in at about 50-70 calories.
A great NA brew should taste like beer. This seems simple but it’s not, at least from a brewers perspective.
If the label says, “IPA” it should taste like it…not remind you of it. It shouldn’t be a watery version of the style. This level of quality and flavor doesn’t come easy. The folks out there killing it in terms of flavor are thinking outside the box of traditional methods for producing great NA beer.
If I’m honest, there are quite a few not-so-good NA beers out there. Some of which are coming from craft breweries. Anecdotally, the distinct NA beer flavor I get from a lot of the versions out there are the result of how the alcohol is removed from the beer.
The best NA beers I’ve had were brewed to strength. They were not diluted, heated, or filtered.
While certain styles may be near impossible to make. Beer styles that rely less on ethanol as a flavor enhancer and more on malt, hops, and yeast are great for NA applications.
Athletic Brewing is leading the NA beer scene, at least in terms of flavor. They only brew NA beer and their focus is reflected in their products. They are passionate about producing healthy and flavorful alternatives to traditional beer.
Upside Dawn is a beer that you could pour for an unsuspecting victim and they wouldn’t know it was NA beer.
The nose is greeted by a lot of hops. More hops than a traditional golden would have but no one’s complaining. They use Cascade among other hop varieties and you definitely pick it up in the aroma. The malt shines through on the palate and there is a slight honey like sweetness. Great white foam. A great beer for the summer.
Mouth watering isn’t typically what comes to mind when you think of NA beer. But that’s only if you haven’t had Run Wild. It stands up to the name IPA. That said, it isn’t a double or triple IPA…think sessionable.
Great fruity hop bouquet on the nose. Firm biscuit malt backbone. Great hop flavor and no lingering-harsh bitterness.
Bitburgers NA offering doesn’t disappoint. It first came out in 2007. So, it’s a tad newer than some other offerings.
There is a nice floral hop component in the nose and it comes through with a firm clean hop bitterness on the backside. Clean with little malt character. It’s brilliantly clear, has medium carbonation, and ends appropriately dry.
It really does taste remarkably close to it’s full strength counterpart. It’s light and refreshing while remaining surprisingly complex.
Finding this one fresh is important and may be challenging. I’ve had some that really lacked the hop character you’d expect. I attribute this to poor storage and lack of freshness. Fortunately, there are a “best by” and packaging dates on the bottle.
This one is brewed with a controlled fermentation to only produce a low amount of alcohol. It pours hazy with an orange hue. Slight floral aromas are mixed with fruit notes and malt. It’s slightly sweet.
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier NA
Tart, refreshing, a bit thin on the mouthfeel. It smells like a typical Hefeweizen with some nice clove and banana coming through. It starts on your palate with some bready maltiness and ends with a little tartness. Very light and refreshing.
Guinness Draught 0.0
A very recent addition to the NA beer scene. It was a long time coming. Rumor is that Guiness spent over 4 years working out the details.
It may be a while longer before we can get our grubby American hands on this due to a recent recall. Beer without alcohol is highly susceptible to contamination and it seems that the first releases of Guinness 0.0 fell prey to some microbes.
Keep your eyes open for this one. It makes sense that they should be able to produce a decent NA version of what is already a very low ABV beer.
Brooklyn Brewery “Special Effects”
Brewed to strength. It’s an American amber lager with dry hops. Dark Amber hue with a white head that laces nicely. Fruity hop character in both the nose and mouth. A touch of sweetness, presumably coming from caramel malts.
This one will appeal to pale ale, as well as, hoppy lager fans.