Dry January bled into February, then into spring and the alternative beverage movement seems to be a permanent fixture rather than a health trend. The world of non alcoholic beer has evolved from the days of flat, sweet and syrupy knock-offs to craft creations worth enjoying, whether or not you regularly drink alcohol. The below breweries are making some of the best tasting non alcoholic beer available in the US.
What is non-alcoholic beer and how is it made?
There are many ways to make beer, but generally the method is this:
- Malt a grain, such as barley or wheat. This process involved heating, drying and cracking a grain to prepare it for the next step.
- Create the wort by mashing. Mashing is steeping the grains in hot water in order to break down the grains into sugar. The wort is the final result, sticky and sweet, ready to be turned into beer.
- Boil the wort, while adding hops and any other spices. Then cool, strain, and filter the liquid.
- Put the liquid in a fermentation tank or vessel along with yeast. The yeast will eat up all the sugar, creating alcohol and CO2.
- Bottle it: either let the natural CO2 create the bubbles, or add artificial carbonation before it’s bottled.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how beer is made, how does this translate to non-alcoholic beer? In the past, some breweries have gone through the whole process of crafting a beer, then boiling the alcohol out. Others have stopped the process mid-fermentation to gain some of the characteristics, but not allow it to build enough alcohol to call it beer.
Many have failed trying to reproduce beer without alcohol, resulting in too-sweet and flat tasting drinks. In this guide, we will investigate what methods these breweries are using to create their non-alcoholic versions of craft beer.
In order for a beer to be classified as non-alcoholic in the US, it must contain less than .5% alcohol. Due to the fermentation process, none of these beers are zero proof, but they are very low in alcohol content, much like a kombucha.
According to Athletic Brewing Co, “you’d need to drink 8 non-alcoholic beers in under 5 minutes to reach near the same alcohol level as 1 regular beer.” So unless you have an alcohol allergy, I think it’s safe to call these “non-alcoholic.”
BEST NON-ALCOHOLIC WHEAT BEER
Brewed in St. Lous, MO, Heavenly Body Golden Wheat is our pick for best non-alcoholic wheat beer. It’s a light, American-Style wheat beer and has a slight citrus character. Wellbeing Brewing Co. starts with a pure craft beer, then uses a vacuum technology that lowers the boiling point in order to remove the alcohol gently. This helps it retain all the characteristics you love in beer. It’s low in calories too (only 68) so you can feel better about that midweek beer with lunch. This NA wheat beer is so good, it will fool all of your beer-loving friends.
BEST NON-ALCOHOLIC IPA
The beers at Athletic Brewing Company are crafted in Stratford, CT, and brewed for the modern beer drinker. They are brewed just like craft beer, except there are 10+ changes to the process, so the brewery can monitor and control the natural variables. Through this monitoring method, they can control the alcohol content without having to put the beverage through an alcohol-removal process. Run Wild IPA is our pick for best non alcoholic IPA beer. At only 70 calories, it’s smooth with a balanced level of bitterness. It’s clear the founders have put love into their craft.
Best Non Alcoholic Stout Beer
Gruvi says it brews its non alcoholic beers just like a craft beer, with its own unique fermentation process. Their non-alcoholic stout is our pick for best stout beer substitute. It’s toasty and rich, with mild coffee flavor, and Gruvi recommends pairing it with brownies and campfire – yes, please! Based in Denver, it’s only fitting that Gruvi addresses cannabis culture and encourages partaking in their beverages alongside cannabis.
BEST NON-ALCOHOLIC PALE ALE AND LOW CARB NON ALCOHOLIC BEER
This award winning take on a non-alcoholic pale ale is impressive. Partake Brewing is based in Canada, and uses a proprietary brewing technique to achieve non-alcoholic success. Their beers are very low 10 calories and a great choice for low carb non alcoholic beer – a favorite for beer lovers on a keto diet. Partake Pale is crisp, with flavors like grapefruit and orange zest, perfect pairing for Mexican food for a summer outdoor BBQ.
BEST NON-ALCOHOLIC SPECIALTY BEER: NEUTRAL PILSNER
Mikkeller Henry and His Science
I love Mikkeller and their bars that have popped up all over the world. They are 100% beer culture, crafting lots of different styles and even hosting a beer festival. They are devoted to crafting excellent beers that compete with wine in restaurants, and cultivating community. Naturally I got excited when they started making non-alcoholic beers. Brewed in Belgium, Henry and His Science is unique, especially for non-alcoholic beer. It’s Flemish Primitive style, brewed with their own strain of yeast, it has passion fruit aromas, considered a neutral Pilsner. Can’t help but love the branding either. Try it in a mixed pack with all their non-alcoholic craft beers.
Whether you are just trying to dial back the alcohol consumption, need to stop drinking altogether, or are just curious about how these taste, I believe you’ll find an alternative beer you like from these recommendations. Who knows, maybe even your beer drinking friends will love it too.