Whether or not you’re abstaining from alcohol this month, there’s a variety of non-alcoholic beers in the marketplace now that deserve your attention.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Notice the non-alcoholic drink options, including beer, that have increasingly popped up on restaurant and bar menus. Check out the booze-free spirits behind the bar. (There was a liquor rep doing a tasting of some NA gin with a bartender just last night at a South Shore restaurant I was at.) Try not to walk into the giant display of non-alcoholic beer at the end of the Whole Foods aisle.
The data backs up what you’ve been seeing. Sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits are growing, reaching $395 million for the year ending in August 2022, a year-over-year increase of 20.6 percent, according to data compiled by the analytics company NielsenIQ.
Why are people seeking out more non-alcoholic options? While many may be abstaining from alcohol entirely, NielsenIQ also found that 82 percent of people buying non-alcoholic versions of their favorite beer, liquor, and wine are also still buying full-strength alcohol.
Of course, all the data in the world doesn’t tell the full story of why you, reading this, may be interested in non-alcoholic beer, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of your reason, here are six non-alcoholic beers that I think you’ll enjoy. Note: Most of these beers can be ordered online from each brewery’s website and shipped directly to you.
Pointer, Woodland Farms Brewery Last year, a reader named Bruce sent in an enthusiastic recommendation for a non-alcoholic IPA from Kittery, Maine’s Woodland Farms. The brewery makes beers both with and without alcohol; Bruce stopped drinking eight years ago, but writes that when he ran blind taste tests with his friends, they couldn’t tell the non-alcoholic Pointer IPA from other, full-strength brews. Made with Maine-grown ingredients, Pointer is as pungent as the state’s prolific white pines, with bright notes of grapefruit.
Life, Lord Hobo Brewing Co. Lord Hobo burst onto the scene in 2015 with Boom Sauce, a nearly 8 percent ABV IPA that no one would call shy. But the brewery has lighter offerings as well, including a session IPA called Life that is hop forward but easy to drink. The non-alcoholic version of Life is new, with Citra, El Dorado (think pineapple), Mosaic, and Simcoe hops that lend fruitiness to the brew.
Run Wild IPA, Athletic Brewing Co. Recently, I sent a message to Athletic Brewing founder Bill Shufelt asking him to choose just one Athletic Brewing Co. beer he’d recommend to readers. While Athletic has arguably been doing more in the NA space than anyone else — they’ve got a witbier, a brew mirroring a barrel-aged option, and many more — Shufelt’s answer came back quickly and definitively: Run Wild IPA. The choice of Athletic’s flagship IPA is in hindsight pretty obvious: the highly awarded beer is bitter, balanced, and as dialed in as it gets for the category. By dollar sales, it’s also a top-20 IPA in America, including among full-strength beers.
Just the Haze, Samuel Adams Founder Jim Koch’s approach to IPAs has always been sensible, in that he’s brewing them for everyone, rather than only the serious hophead. Non-alcoholic Just the Haze falls in line with that theory. There are four kinds of hops in here — Citra, Mosaic, Sabro, and Cascade — but the effect is not so much full-throated as it is complementary. There’s a rounded orange and lemon zest flavor, made fuller by the beer’s mouthfeel.
Mango Peach Hazy IPA, Go Brewing This Chicago-area brewery makes only non-alcoholic brews, ranging from a pilsner to an espresso beer to a witbier. A new offering is Mango Peach Hazy IPA, which tastes predictably like sucking the juice out of a ripe mango but is also creamy and just a little bitter.
On Your Mark, Kit NA Brewing Maine’s first all-non-alcoholic brewery is the product of co-founders Rob Barrett and Will Fisher (who also founded Austin Street Brewery). At some point, both founders reconsidered their own relationships with alcohol, and in 2021, they launched the brewery with On Your Mark, a blonde ale that’s got a solid, bitter backbone with nice citrus character.