For more than 15 years, I’ve covered the craft brewing industry’s stratospheric rise in America, chronicling barrel-aged stouts, hazy IPAs, fruited sour ales, and most every beer category save for one kind: non-alcoholic.
Why bother? Non-alcoholic beers were mainly afterthought lagers lobbed into the mainstream, as inoffensive and uninteresting as side salads at a second-rate steakhouse.
Times and tastes have changed, though. Here are five excellent non-alcoholic beers for your next hang time, or anytime.
The Flavorful New World of Non-Alcoholic Beer
We’ve entered a new era of non-alcoholic beers. New-breed breweries are quickly reinventing the category and creating full-flavored, highly fragrant non-alcoholic beers.
They're do so by using unique yeast strains, high-tech equipment to remove alcohol via reverse osmosis or vacuum distillation, limiting or halting fermentation and the production of alcohol, and other proprietary techniques destined for a patent.
Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all lagers.
Today’s NA beers run the gamut from intensely hopped IPAs to stouts suited for sipping by a fire. They can deliver all the taste, aroma, and creativity that you’ve come to expect in craft beer, minus that hangover.
For Fans of Dark Beer: Athletic Brewing All Out Stout
Athletic Brewing cracked the code on making massively flavorful non-alcoholic beer.
The Connecticut brewery, which was founded in 2018 and has expanded to a San Diego facility, uses a multistep proprietary process to completely ferment beer to less than .5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), helping the beers taste remarkably close to their normal-strength craft counterparts.
The brewery’s far-ranging portfolio of non-alcoholic beers includes citrusy IPAs, Mexican lagers, tart and fruity sour ales, and this wintertime treat.
All Out brings bittersweet cocoa and dark-roasted coffee to the table, making the beer a great pairing with rich and meaty stews or a nicely seared steak.
For the Athlete: Bootstrap Brewing Company Strapless IPA
Last fall the Longmont, Colorado brewery released its first non-alcoholic beer: the 100-calorie Strapless IPA.
It’s custom-designed for the fitness-minded crowd, packed with electrolytes including potassium, magnesium, and sodium for a replenishing pick-me-up after a hike, bike ride, or your favorite exercise.
Strapless is more than a sports drink substitute. The addition of Citra, Galaxy, and Mosaic hops equip Strapless with a complete complement of tropical fruit fragrances that beer drinkers expect in full-strength IPAs.
For the Calorie Conscious: Partake Brewing Blonde Ale
If you’re curtailing your alcohol and caloric intake, look to Partake Brewing.
The Canadian brewery uses a top-secret brewing process to create an IPA, pale ale, red ale, and more that top out at 30 calories per 12-ounce serving.
The bright Blonde weighs in at 15 calories and just three carbs, a light ale with a sweetly refreshing malt flavor that would play well with salads, as well as roast chicken and fish.
For Fruit Fans: BrewDog Elvis AF
The rabble-rousing Scottish brewery built its name on bold flavors and outlandish stunts, once brewing the world’s strongest beer and stuffing the bottle inside a taxidermied squirrel.
Now the global company, which operates a U.S. brewery in Columbus, Ohio, is expertly exploring alcohol’s lowest extremes with its AF series of beers.
None stint on taste. Wake-Up Call is a coffee-packed jolt of a stout, while Hazy AF deploys oats, wheat, and tropical hops as a nonalcoholic stand-in for a juicy IPA.
One of my favorite BrewDog beers is the zesty Elvis Juice IPA, a pithy celebration of grapefruit. The nonalcoholic version, Elvis AF, is a sunny and citrusy refresher that would be right at home at brunch.
For the Lager Lover: Heineken 0.0
I’ve never been the hugest fan of Heineken, favoring other European lagers and pilsners over the green-bottled Dutch beer. Then I tried the company’s nonalcoholic analogue to its flagship beer, the 69-calorie 0.0.
Any absence typically means that you’re missing something, but 0.0 is the rare zero-alcohol beer that’s even better than its alcohol-filled analogue.
The nonalcoholic version drinks squeaky-clean and slightly fruity, a snappy stand-in for when I want something stronger—or simply nothing at all.