Craft NA Beers, Part One

Athletic Brewing

It was winter of 2020, and I was sipping on an Lagunitas IPNA (NAY) and visiting with friends on Zoom for a virtual happy hour when it occurred to me to check if there were craft non-alcoholic beers.

Craft beer has exploded over the US in the last decade bring delicious experimentation with it. Why not, I thought, experiment with NA?

A name came up a few times in my search, and because they were easy to order, were my first fore into craft NA beers: Athletic Brewing Company.

Most of the different NA beers I’ve had over the last two years have been from them, and there are two important reasons for this:

  1. They are easy to order from. Direct from their site, free shipping on two six packs, boom, beer at my house.
  2. They are tasty, which causes me to drink them and then go back to step one.

The ordering thing is such an important aspect, I want to mention it again. Despite being NA, most of the commercial stuff from the first post has to be bought from a store (and yes sometimes, Amazon), and despite being NA, most stores won’t ship beer to my state.

Athletic Brewing, Bravus, Partake, Wellbeing all let you order and ship direct. Easily. And while I’ve been lucky to find them in stores around the area (and even a local pub), that ease of ordering is why I keep going back.

We’ll get to the others next go. This post is going to be all about Athletic Brewing.

When I started, they had four staples, and would add on with lower run batches, either seasonal or experimental. There are six staples now, and the experimentation has continued. While that means most of the beer on this list is not currently available, it should show the variety that they brewery produced throughout the year.

I’ll start with the staples, you’ll be able to get them anytime. From there, onto seasonals and pilot programs. I’ll also start by saying that all of these beers are best described as light. I hesitate to say “thin” as that seems to have a specific connotation, but it also works. These are lower calorie beers designed with an active lifestyle in mind. That doesn’t mean they are lacking in taste.

That lightness works well for most of these, but not all.

All of these are <0.5% beer.

Staples

These brews should be available all the time. There are two new ones as well, but I have not tried them: the Athletic Light; and Free Wave, a hazy IPA.

Run Wild IPA

This is a light IPA, hoppy but not overtly so. My first of all of these, good to drink, but I found other flavors I liked more.

Upside Dawn Golden

This has a similar hop level as the Run Wild, but adds in the golden flavor to smooth it out some. All for 45 calories.

All Out Dark

This is their stout-like beer. Here the ‘lightness’ of the beers is a hindrance. It doesn’t taste bad… but doesn’t succeed quite either.

Cerveza Atletica Lager

This is supposed to be reminiscent of a Dos Equis type beer. But I found the copper taste a bit too much for myself. I did not mind drinking it, but did not seek out more of it.

Seasonal / Limited Edition

These beers had a full label on the can, so my assumption is they are in some rotation at the brewery, tho not always available. I will be certainly getting most of them again should they return.

Irish Red

Ah, this one wins. It is the Killian’s type red, malty and light to drink.

Soul Sour

Made for Black History Month by guest brewer, this sour was fantastic, and I ended up getting a second batch.

Trailblazer

Described as a hoppy helles, and I agree, it has a pleasant amount of hops with a slight peach flavor. This is what I was drinking when I posted this article.

Wit’s Peak

A witbier with some citrus, light and pleasant. They didn’t last long.

Stump Jump Brown

A nice English style brown ale. I quite liked this one. The malt and nut flavors were well balanced.

Lodge Life Fireside

A darker beer, this one has a slightly smokey taste that finishes with a hint of marshmallows. The goal is to have you think of smores around the fire, and it succeeded.

First Ride

A malty beer made with coffee? Yes please! It did have caffeine, so I only really had these during the afternoon. I suppose I could have had one for breakfast…

Pilot Program

The pilot program seems to be what it sounds like, as they brewery is trying out new and … interesting things. They are a risk (to both groups, brewer and drinker), but have had some interesting rewards.

I do not know if you’ll ever be able to buy any of these again, so this list may be more to interest you in future brews.

Brut IPA

This is easily my least favorite of any NA Beer I’ve had. It was an interesting idea, a brut type IPA, but the result of stripping all the sweetness out of the beer is just the bitterness of the hops. Even some fresh grapefruit slices did not help…

Lost in the Redwoods

A maltier red than the Irish Red, and quite tasty.

Athletic Hefeweissan

A light Hef with great taste.

Irish Dry Stout

While similar to the All Out Dark, this one has a much better flavor and succeeds in invoking a stout where the other doesn’t quite make it.

Next Time

More breweries, like Bravus, Wellness and Untitled Art!

A Journey into Non-Alcholic Beers

In the middle of everything else that was going on in 2020, I went on some meds that meant I would have to be dry for a few weeks.

Considering all things, it seemed like a long time.

So I decided to grab a six pack of O’Doul’s and sit outside and pretend like everything was fine.

What I found was… it was fine? Like for the afternoon I-was-probably-going-to-have-a-light-pilsner-anyway beer, it was fine. In fact, it was just what I was looking for, AND fewer calories.

And I could have one or two on a Tuesday night and not worry about Wednesday morning. I could have a few at a party and still drive home. If I’d had a real beer or two at dinner, an NA beer let me have one more to stay and visit and not worry.

Fewer calories, less worry, what else do you need?

Oh right. Taste.

But that’s the thing, I found that too. Especially when I stopped looking for beer that tasted like X, and appreciated the NA beer for itself.

I haven’t gone dry, but have added NA Beers to my personal menu, enjoying them for both what they are, and the extra freedom they give me when I enjoy them.

We’ll start with the easy to find stuff, and follow on with more craft beers in a bit. I made a list of the beers I’d had as I was writing this and was happy to see how long it was. The days of two NA beer choices are behind us.

Warnings about NA vs Zero Alcohol

There are, in general, two kinds of NA beers. Non-Alcoholic and Zero Alcoholic. Non- means that the percentage is %0.5 or less. So if for any reason you cannot have any alcohol, these are not for you, as they still may have trace amounts.

Zero alcohol beers (%0.0) are just that, completely free. For some of us this is an important distinction, so I wanted to call it out. I will do my best to label things, but always read the labels of what you are buying to be sure.

O’Doul’s (<%0.5)

Let’s start with the king of NA beers

You may think of O’Doul’s and NA Budweiser, but they taste different. O’Doul’s is smoother and a little sweeter.

It is easy to find, it fills the roll of other American lager/pilsners, and tastes just fine. O’Doul’s is probably my most common NA purchase.

O’Doul’s Amber (<%0.5)

O’Doules has a second version, their Amber, which is also a tasty light beer. Think Killian’s, rather than Dos Equis.

A little harder to find than the original version, I still grab it when I can.

Coors Edge (<%0.5)

While O’Doul’s is the one I get the most, this one is probably my favorite of this style of beer. The Coors has a crisper taste. Recommend giving this one a try, especially if you have an issue with the sweetness of O’Doul’s.

Bud Zero (0.0)

Showing up shortly after I started down this path, Budweiser Zero is a 0.0 version of Bud. It is more bitter than the O’Doul’s, which some may prefer. In the end, tho, I’ll grab O’Doul’s first.

Lagunitas IPNA

I lovingly refer to this as the IP Nay, which is probably funnier in my head. But say it aloud just in case (NAAAAAY!). This was my first step away from the standard American style beer. Lagunitas’s IPA is a good IPA for those who like the lighter side of the hops. (Like me!) And the IPNA brings that taste with it. Link

Heineken 0.0 (0.0)

The only issue I have with Heineken 0.0 is that it tastes like a Heineken. Quips aside, they should be commended for the faithfulness. If you like Heinekens, this 0.0 beer is for you. link

Kaliber (<%0.5)

This is a NA Pils brewed by Guinness. It has a bolder flavor than most of the others on this list, pushing closer in flavor to a Harp than the American style pils. I quite enjoy it.

Buckler’s (<%0.5)

I was introduced to this one because it was the NA beer my local pub carried. Like Caliber, it is bolder, more flavorful than the standard faire.

Guiness 0 (<%0.5)

(Despite the name, this is NOT a 0.0 beer)

Finding this was an epic quest. I had heard Guinness had a NA beer, but had assumed after my searches the rumors were about Kaliber… Until I started getting ads for this. It was not easy to find, despite the numerous places around that sell normal Guinness, I had to travel over an hour away to get it.

And.

It tastes like Guinness. To be specific it tastes like Guinness in a can. The cans have the nitro bubble in that pops when you open, the beer is smooth and creamy as you’d expect it to be.

I don’t know why this is so hard to find, and I hope that changes.

Santa Clausthaler Christmas

I’m going to end this one with this amazing thing. Those weeks on meds was going to cross through the holiday season, and while Pumpkin beers are still my favorite, a Christmas beer helps in the dark of winter.

One day in the store a red six pack called Santa Clausthaler showed up, and so I thought what the hell.

It was delicious.

Cinnamon and spice, it tasted like Christmas candles smelled.

I didn’t see any for sale in 2021, but hopefully there will be more this year.

Clasusthaler is a NA brewer with other selections as well. Link

Next time

I’ll start on the craft NA beers I’ve found, which is pleasantly a growing list.