N/Air

Not only is N/A beer gaining on the ground but the air as well As Alaska Airlines has teamed with Best Day Brewing to offer their Kölsch on flights.  It is “the first non-alcoholic beverage to join Alaska’s premium beverage line-up. “

I know that taste buds and aroma is different at altitude which makes having any flavorful drinks a hit or miss proposition but will an N/A drink hold up better or will the weakened state get weaker?

Choco-Orange

Athletic Brewing gets a lot of business press for their rise into N/A stardom but they should also get some kudos for their increasingly clever and exotic flavors like their new Citrus Cacao Hazy IPA.

“This brew beautifully blends tart citrus flavor with a mellow sweetness of cacao fruit juice. This isn’t the dark chocolate brew you might be expecting – cacao juice is derived from the sticky pulp surrounding the cacao seeds of the plant that provides a subtle sweetness similar to coconut water, but more tropical. Aromas of grapefruit and lemon make an appearance, adding a sunkissed vibe.”

I suggest checking their beer selection at regular intervals.

Rick’s Near Beer

I am glad to see that the Non-Alcoholic beer realm continue to grow. The more that come in, the better your beer has to be or your branding has to be. I have reviewed many N/A beers (and I will review Rick’s Near Beer as well) but first let’s hear from Josh Hare about this new near to beer pilsner.

1. What do you think has been missing from non-alcoholic beers that Rick’s provides?

Among the current offerings of non-alcoholic beer on shelves, the vast majority of them just taste like a malty drink with some of the flavors you could associate with beer. Very few of them taste like actual beer. We’re incredibly proud that our product tastes like a beer because it is an actual beer and we think our customers will recognize that immediately. Our product begins just like any other beer, brewed with high-quality malted barley, hops, brewers yeast, and Rocky Mountain water. It goes through a standard fermentation cycle, and then the alcohol is gently removed to maintain the flavor and structural integrity of the beer. All of the flavor, mouthfeel, and refreshment that you expect from a high-quality beer is all there, the only thing missing is the alcohol.   

2. What has been the most challenging aspect of brewing near beer vs. the regular method?

The processes and equipment required to produce best-in-class non-alcoholic beer are incredibly expensive and difficult to access. Finding the right partners to access that equipment and produce our beers was a big challenge. The other challenge is shelf stability due to the lack of the antimicrobial nature that alcohol provides. In order to keep our product stable and tasting the best possible, access to top-of-the-line pasteurization was a necessity for us. In my 12 years of brewing beer, I’ve never needed to use any of the equipment required to produce Rick’s Near Beer. It has been a challenge but also a ton of fun and we’re so stoked with how the beers turned out!

3. Is there a Pint & Plow pilsner that is a cousin of sorts to the near beer?

Not exactly. At Pint & Plow our flagship beer, San Y’bon Lager has been our top seller consistently since we opened in 2016. I’ve been brewing lager beer for almost a decade and Rick’s Original is definitely a reflection of that experience and many lessons learned along the way.

4. Are there other N/A beers being made in Texas currently?

The only Texas breweries that I know of making a commercially available non-alcoholic beer are Karbach Brewing in Houston and Community Beer Co. in Dallas.

5. Los Angeles has a store that sells only N/A versions of beer, wine and spirits is that a sign that the market for this is ready to expand?

I think so! I’ve read of a few more stores just like that opening across the country and the trend is very exciting. Every grocery store chain is starting to dedicate more and more of their shelf space to non-alcoholic beer and I think that expanding those options for beer drinkers is a good thing all around. I believe in competition and can’t wait to get Rick’s onto grocery store shelves this coming Spring among the other options out there. I’m confident we’ll be able to stand up against the top NA brands in the country with both the quality of our product as well as the quality of our brand and engagement with our customers.

6. What has the initial reaction been to the beer, did you win over skeptics?

Initial reactions have been incredible! The most consistent comment has been, “this tastes like an actual beer when everything else I’ve tried is kind of bland”. Some of my closest friends even commented “I was preparing myself to try and give the most polite feedback that I could but I was positive that I wasn’t going to like it. You changed my mind!”

The reaction to our brand and design has also been exciting to see. Customers are really enjoying the nostalgia and the clean look and feel of our branding. It feels like something that has been around for decades but also feels fresh and new. 

Interview with Ted Fleming of Partake Brewing

I follow the nascent N/A beer market with interest so I was glad to be able to ask a few questions of Ted Fleming, the CEO & Founder of Partake Brewing.

1. Why did Partake want to do an N/A beer?  What did they think was missing from the market?

 Over a decade ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease which has led to many changes in my life. One of the biggest changes was my decision to give up alcohol and with that one of my favourite things and social activities – craft beer. As I began to explore the world of non-alcoholic beer as an alternative I realized that there was a significant lack of variety and high-quality NA beer like I had come to love in the craft beer experience. Every non-alcoholic beer I tried made me feel like I was compromising on something, which is why I wanted to launch Partake to bring authentically great tasting craft beer to the NA beer drinker.

2. Is the calorie counting drinker market the same now as it was last year or have attitude shifted?

 Overall, we have seen a significant shift in the market over the past few years with consumers wanting to see lower-calorie beverages across all areas. This is likely reflective of the increase in wholistic diets, the keto diet, as well as a decrease in desire to consume sugary beverages. Due to this, and since our launch in 2018, we have seen an increase in low-calorie beer across the non-alcoholic beverage category as well as the alcoholic beer category. There has also been an increase in more sessional beers with a lower ABV from brewers across North America.

3. What is the best-seller of your range and why do you think that is?

 Our best-seller in stores is our Pale Ale, coming in at 10 calories a can with zero carbs and won the World Beer Award for Best Non-Alcoholic Beer (2018). Our customers love it for it’s citrusy aromas and crisp finish. It also has our biggest distribution across the USA and Canada. The Pale Ale is a very accessible flavour profile for a variety of beer drinkers and is a great beer to always keep stocked in your fridge for any occasion. However, a very close 2nd overall is our IPA which is our best-seller online (drinkpartake.com). 

4. What is the biggest challenge in crafting a non-alcoholic beer?

 The biggest challenge is the delicacy of our beer to create the right balance of aromas and flavors. In full-alcohol beer the alcohol provides a flavor buffer that can hide a lot more potential imperfections and gives the brewer a larger margin for error. We also have a lot more to prove, we aren’t just trying to prove we make a great beer but we are also proving that we make a great beer without having to compromise on calories or having to consume alcohol to enjoy a great beverage.

5. Are there special one-off beers in the pipeline?  N/A pastry stout or double dry hopped IPA?

We definitely have some exciting new beers in development right now. One of these is our new Radler that we are working on launching sometime this July as an online exclusive (drinkpartake.com). The best way to stay up to date on when our new beers are launching is to subscribe to our newsletter as we usually release these in a very limited run to gain feedback and insights from our community.