We here at Beer Me love our craft beer. Absolutely and whole heartedly have a healthy appreciation for the fermented alcoholic beverage category. That being said, it is alcohol and should be enjoyed in moderation after all, too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. This is why one month out of the year Jaxon here at Beer Me doesn’t drink any alcohol which spurred the topic of conversation on stream about non-alcoholic alternatives and dare we say, healthy alternatives.
Lets first talk about Non-Alcoholic beers and how they are commonly perceived by craft beer enthusiasts. Non-Alcoholic beers are very few and far between today but their numbers are growing as we as a people are leaning toward healthy alternatives to high calorie brews. The names that jump out are Athletic Brewing, and brewery specializing in NA beers, Lagunitas who perhaps make the best NA IPA on the market, and Odoul’s who, while not craft, make the most widely produced NA beer. They are all less than .5% alcohol which categorizes them as NA. For comparison, Kombucha is about the same level of alcohol as NA beer. These beers, taste aside, in the past may have been considered “pointless”. This coming from the mentality of “Why would I drink a beer if not to feel the effects of the alcohol?” This may have been more true when the majority of beer being consumed was macro brews like Budweiser and Coors and I would agree. If I am going to drink that piss I better be getting intoxicated because my goodness have you tried this garbage?! Today however with the increase in craft beer consumption, it is not too hard to see why some may want to drink the beverage without the consequences of drinking alcohol. This being said, NA beer is still not incredibly popular. Why is that?
In 2019 the US saw a tremendous rise in Hard Seltzer sales and it is not difficult to understand why. A easy drinking refreshing beverage with around 5% alcohol, gluten free and no calories? And fairly inexpensive? (for more information on this see http://www.sacbeerboy.com/blog/helter-skeltzer). This spurred further the public demand for healthy alternative alcoholic beverages. Craft breweries try to keep up by making low calorie beers with a lower ABV while avoiding the seltzer market instead producing Hard Kombuchas, Hard Teas and Hop Waters. The consensus is people want to be healthy sure, but give them some alcohol baby! Non-Alcoholic beer has grown a bit but not as much because at the end of the day the public wants a buzz. While the consumption of alcohol in of itself should in no universe be considered overly healthy it is still the driving force behind what is purchased today.
There are people who either can not drink alcohol, or wish to abstain. This is where craft NA beer should be shining. Unfortunately the research done by the cast has not brought amazing results. The best NA beer as decided by the Beer Me Cast is the Lagunitas IPNA. It doesn’t taste like a IPA but captures the flavor of a craft beer the best. After that, Athletic brewing falls in with pretty much any of their brews. The biggest downside and why they are not as good as Lagunitas lies in inconsistencies. Some of their styles are almost as good as the IPNA, and some taste like cold weak wort (unfermented sugar water made from soaking crushed malt in water which occurs during the brewing process). The there is Odoul’s which was surprisingly good. This still isn’t high praise, it tastes like a standard American Pilsner without that piss taste.
To conclude, NA beer right now isn’t a strong beverage category but is definitely more healthy than the alternatives like hard seltzers. We wanted to test Hop Waters side by side but they are so hard to find we omitted them from this “study” of NA and healthy alternatives to Craft Beer. At the end of the day, if you aren’t going to reach for a craft beer and want to stay healthy there just isn’t much that can match the flavor and experience. We here are of the mind that the IPNA isn’t a bad choice and that after a blind taste test gauntlet, Ranch Water is the next go to choice.
We hope this helps, come watch us on Twitch.tv and join the Carbonated Conversation every Tuesday at 6:30 PM PST. Just search BeerMeCast. Cheers!