One of the things that I see trending on social media to start the new year is the “Dry January” challenge. If you’re giving the challenge a try, you may also be considering trying some non-alcoholic beer to replace your usual drink. As someone whose only beer for the last 14 months has been non-alcoholic beer, I think I’m somewhat qualified to offer some opinions on a variety of non-alcoholic brews.
Athletic Brewing is the biggest company solely brewing non-alcoholic beer in the United States. At this point their beers are widely available in grocery stores, beer and wine shops, and I’ve even started to see Athletic Brewing beers in convenience stores. Athletic will also ship to your home. Shipping is free if you spend more than $50 or join their club.
I joined the Athletic Brewing club for a few months for a few reasons. First, I liked the beer. Second, it provided a small discount off the regular price. Third, it gives you access to their limited run beers. I got a few of the limited run beers early in 2022 and liked them, but the ones in the summer weren’t my glass-of-beer. The limited run beer that I liked the best was the Irish Red.
Athletic Brewing Run Wild IPA, Free Wave IPA, Upside Dawn Golden, and All Out Stout were the staples in my club subscription box. There is subtle difference between the two IPAs with the Free Wave having a bit of a haze to it, but it’s not so hazy as to feel like you dredge sediment out of it like you can with some west coast IPAs. Upside Dawn Golden reminds me most of the Molson Golden that I used to enjoy while ice-fishing in Socatean Bay on Moosehead Lake.
I always enjoyed good stouts and porters when I was drinking alcoholic beer. Pouring a good stout into my glass then sitting down to tie flies is how I spent many winter nights back before I had kids. A good stout still feels like a little reward at the end of a long winter day. All that to say, Athletic Brewing’s All Out stout hits all the right boxes for me. In fact, it’s the first beer that I poured into a cool new glass that I was given for Christmas.
Overall, Athletic Brewing’s beers are very good and the All Out stout is my favorite. The beers are widely available in grocery stores and through online ordering to ship to your home. You can learn more about the origins of Athletic Brewing by listening to Ted King’s podcast with Athletic’s founder Bill Shufelt.
I first saw Sober Carpenter in an Instagram advertisement last spring. I was excited to try something else besides Athletic Brewing. Not that Athletic wasn’t good, I just wanted to try something different. Unfortunately for me, Sober Carpenter is a Canadian company so they couldn’t ship to my home in the U.S. (ironically, their headquarters is 100 miles closer to my home than Athletic’s is). So I was very excited when in October I saw Sober Carpenter on the shelf in Bow Street Market in Freeport, Maine.
The Sober Carpenter that I tried was their Irish Red. I would describe it as a solid, but not spectacular beer. To me it seemed to have a bit of a juicy finish to it that some people like, but I only accept with an air of “okay, not bad.” I enjoyed it, but I didn’t run right back to Bow Street to buy more of it.
As I write this I’ve noticed that Sober Carpenter is now available for home delivery in the U.S. via Amazon, but the pricing is about double of what I paid in the store.
Surreal Brewing is a rapidly-growing, family-owned NA brewery in California. I haven’t seen any of their beers on the shelves in stores in my little corner of New England. That said, according to their social media updates, their distribution network is rapidly expanding to include some Walmart stores and other large distributors. While I wait for Surreal to appear in stores near me, I’ll order it online when I want it.
I ordered a variety pack of Surreal Brewing in the early summer and stored it in my cellar because Surreal says their beer is best enjoyed at temperatures between 55F and 65F. It just so happens that rustic 1850 farmhouses like mine have great cellars for storing things like beer and wine in that temperature range.
Surreal Brewing beers have fewer calories than any of the NA beers that I’ve tried in the last 14 months. I have to say that some of their beers definitely taste like they don’t have many calories in them. Surreal Brewing’s 17 Mile Porter has 50 calories. That was the most calorie-dense of all of their beers that I tried. Surreal Brewing’s 17 Mile Porter was also the beer that I liked the best from the variety pack that I purchased. The Kolsch with just 17 calories tasted like it needed another 17 calories to have a real beer taste. The Chandelier Red IPA was good and had a little bit of a juicy finish to it that you’ll like if you’re into that kind of flavor profile.
The story of Surreal Brewing’s founding is a great one. For that reason, I’ll support them by ordering their 17 Mile Porter online and I look forward to finding it on shelves near me in the future.
KIT NA Brewing
KIT NA Brewing is a brewery in Portland, Maine. Their beer is available via online ordering and in stores and restaurants in New England. I bought it at my local Hannaford grocery store.
KIT NA is the most expensive NA beer that I’ve purchased in the last year. It also tastes like the most expensive NA beer that I’ve purchased. KIT NA’s Get Set IPA has a very full IPA flavor profile that reminds me the most of the expensive hazy alcoholic IPAs that I used to buy. If you’re not concerned about calories and just want great beer taste without the alcohol, Get Set IPA is the beer for you.
Woodland Farms Brewery
Woodland Farms is another Maine brewery that is producing NA beer. In fact, they were the first NA brewery in the state. A friend of mine gave me an ice-cold four-pack of Woodland Farms’ West IPA for Christmas. Halfway through my first sip I thought, “where have you been all year?” It was that good!
Woodland Farms doesn’t publish information about the calories in their beer, so I’ll assume that the calorie count for their West IPA is “a lot.” It tastes too good to be low calorie.
Woodland Farms is available for online purchase and delivery to homes in most of the United States.
I tried two of Grüvi’s beers in the early autumn. One of them was very good, the other was downright terrible. Grüvi’s Stout was very good and tasted like it had a lot more than the 45 calories advertised on the can. I would buy it again if it wasn’t sold out.
Grüvi’s Pale Ale was undrinkable. In their defense, when I emailed their customer service to say that the beer tasted like Palmolive dish soap, they did admit that they had had a bad run with one batch of their Pale Ale. They refunded my money for that beer. I might try it again in the future if I come across it in store, but I’m not in a hurry to re-order it online.
Ceria Brewing Company
Ceria is a brewery in Colorado that offers two NA beers for online purchase. When I got the hankering for something a little different this summer, I ordered Ceria’s Grainwave Belgian White. It’s about once a year that I get the desire to have a beer in the Belgian White style. Ceria’s Grainwave hit the spot. When I get the hankering for that style of beer again next summer, I’ll probably order from Ceria again.
Eighteen Twenty Brewing Company
Eighteen Twenty Brewing Company is the third Maine-based NA brewery whose beer I tried in 2022. I first found it at Bow Street Market in Freeport, Maine and have since seen it in other stores. It’s also now available for online purchase delivered to your doorstep.
Eighteen Twenty Brewing Company has three things going for it that make it a winner in my book. First, as a former history teacher, I like the nod to Maine history (Google it if you don’t know the connection). Second, it was started by the same person who owns Geary Brewing Company who produces what was my favorite “classic microbrew pale ale” and still brings of pangs of nostalgia from my early 20’s whenever I think about it. Third, their Peek Interest Pale Ale tastes great!
I’ve only tried Eighteen Twenty’s Peek Interest Pale Ale so far. It has a very clean and crisp finish. It’s the beer that I’m packing with me for apres ski sessions at Mt. Abram this winter. I’m looking forward to trying some of Eighteen Twenty’s other offerings this year.
Thoughts About NA Beer in General
Every person has a different reason for quitting alcohol for a week, a month, or for good. And everyone has a different trigger that makes them want to grab a drink. Without getting into detail, for me that trigger was always the feeling of relaxing and shooting the breeze at the end of a fun day skiing, riding, or fishing with friends. Having good NA beer options lets me still hang out with some of that crowd without the various consequences associated with drinking alcoholic beer.
Finally, if you’re thinking about going for a Dry January, do it! You just might like it.