How Could I Forget?


It’s finally January 2021, we’ve made it to a new year, but it’s still cold out there
and we still can’t move around as freely as we would like, but hey baby steps are
good. Around the 10th of the month, I saw my first reminder of Dry January.
Forgive me if I’ve forgotten to remember it, but there are a few other things going
on. I did write about this auspicious event before; I didn’t like it then and I like it
even less now! Yea I get it, maybe you went to numerous holiday parties and
then New Year’s Eve and you drank a lot more than other months so you’ll take
some time off and detox; wait what?!? …with Covid there weren’t a lot of holiday
parties and there weren’t nearly as many holiday family getogethers so if you
were overindulging you were doing it in smaller confines. And let’s be honest,
Covid gave many of us a good reason to imbibe a little more and it hasn’t gone
away so I just want to keep enjoying my craft beer, wine and cocktails; I don’t
want or need a break right now!

I saw another article that Dry January expected a slight increase this year from
11% to 13%, who “plan” to go sober during January. And you get the usual that
they’re “trying to be healthier,” “trying to drink less” and almost half said they
were drinking too much during Covid. We’ve all seen the stats that off premise
sales are so much higher, but duh, the corollary is on premise sales are so much
lower because we couldn’t or didn’t want to go sit in bars, restaurants and tap
rooms. And by the way, this is a lot like New Year’s Resolutions when many of us
“plan” to do this or that and don’t quite get it accomplished…a month is a long

For those who are interested this was certainly a much better year to try it than in
the past. Why you say, well because the NA or non-alcoholic craft beer offerings
are coming in droves! And if you want to broaden your base there are even NA
spirits now, but more on that later. We all remember the few constant NA beers
on the shelves for years (well maybe those bottles have been on the shelves for
years but I meant available for years); Kaliber, Buckler, Clausthaler and O’Doul’s.
Most of us have probably tried at least one of them and yea it tastes like a fizzy
lager but that’s the problem, we don’t want any more of those fizzy lagers which
was the vast majority of what we got for years. Thanks to legislation that opened
up brewing and some of our pioneers who knew it was possible to brew much
MUCH better tasting and interesting beer we have a movement and 8,000+ craft
beer breweries.

Although we probably could have gotten there on our own, I think we should
probably thank a couple of the commercial brewers who made big splashes last
year; yes, I’m talking about Heineken who came out with 0.0 and our old favorite
AB who released a new version of their Prohibition beer named Bud Zero. They
both have the bucks to spend on advertising and that advertising, although not
appealing to us craft drinkers, does put the idea of non-alcoholic beer
somewhere in our conscious so when we start hearing about NA craft beer, we’re
much more likely to try it as we do other styles that craft breweries make.

As for Heineken, they had us convinced for years that skunky beer was super
premium (boy were we gullible!) but I’m about as interested in non-alcoholic
skunk beer as I am cod liver oil. I read a review of Bud Zero that said it was thin,
watery and flat with no nose or taste; I’m thinking not even those who like Bud will
drink this. Basically, the only Bud Zero I’m interested in is ZERO IN MY GLASS.

Since this is the first time I’m really looking at the non-alcoholic category, I’m
surprised to see so many major breweries with an offering; Stella Artois Alcohol-
Free, Beck’s Blue, Samuel Smith’s Sam’s Brown Ale, Guinness “Pure Brew”,
Mikkeller “Racing Beer”, Bitburger “Drive”, Free Damn, Schneider Weisse
“Alkoholfrei”, Saintsbury’s Low Alcohol Czech, Birra Moretti “Zero”, Lowenbrau
“Alkoholfrei”, San Miguel 0.0 and there are a lot more! So yes, I’m definitely
surprised to see so many name breweries have jumped into this market. Of
course, with the consolidation that’s taken place over the years many of these
aren’t independent breweries anymore, so the big-wigs at companies like InBev
and SAB are basically directing them to offer an NA or Alcohol Free.

We probably should step back a minute to acknowledge the slight distinction
between non alcoholic and alcohol free. Free as in 0.0, nada, nothing, etc.
means the brewer has supposedly removed all the alcohol from the beer. Non
alcoholic is defined as 0.5% or less ABV, so yes there is a hint of alcohol in those
beers but I think you could get more alcohol walking past the cologne section in a
department store than one of these beers. I’m obviously viewing them in the
same boat.

Our craft brewers have taken notice and it’s also probably some feedback to the
burgeoning supply of craft beers >10.0%. A few of those big boys and you should
be careful driving home.

Let’s start with some of the bolder ones that are completely non-alcoholic:
•   Athletic Brewing in Stratford, CT. The owner decided to give up alcohol but
wasn’t happy with the limited options he had so partnered with a great brewer in
2017 and developed two great NA beers (they also have some seasonal and one
offs); Upside Dawn Non-Alcoholic Golden and Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA. The
reviews I read are pretty good; Upside Dawn- citrusy hop notes, clean and light
body, solid bitterness on finish, juicy and balanced and Run Wild- the same juicy
hop quality with a huge IPA aroma, balanced with great mouthfeel and 70
calories. I’d love to try both of these but you never see them around so I’ll try
ordering from the brewery. They’re doing so well they’re projected to brew 10,000
barrels this year which is quite a feat. They’re obviously popular with
lifestyle/fitness folks but I don’t think they’ll be challenging Mich Ultra any time
soon, as those folks want to be seen drinking a fizzy lager and impressing each
other with how well their workout went…

•   Bravus Brewing, out of California, founded 2015 because of a health situation
and limited options, is considered the first US non-alcoholic craft brewery. They
have a current nice selection of Amber Ale, IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Peanut Butter
Stout, Raspberry Gose and Cerveza. They’ve also been brave enough to try a
bourbon barrel aged NA stout, which has gotten some very good reviews.

•   Surreal Brewing also out of California and also because of health and options
opened in 2018 with their Red IPA. They also make a Kolsch, porter, juicy IPA,
West Coast IPA and a Milkshake IPA.

Our well-established breweries are also expanding their lineups to include NA;
Bell’s has Light Hearted Ale, Brooklyn has Special Effects, Sam Adams has Just
The Haze, Firestone-Walker has Flyjack and BrewDog has Nanny State to name
a few,

It’s interesting to note you read a lot of mixed reviews on many of these, some
love them, some not so much. But is this any different from other styles of beer??
Absolutely not, I tasted many a craft beer I would never consider drinking again.
The good point is we have more options and the even better point is the non-
alcoholic options may encourage some who aren’t interested in alcoholic options
to go out and join others at bars and taprooms. And isn’t that also much of what
craft beer is about, the social aspect.

And it gets better for those folks and the rest of us because we’re starting to see
non-alcoholic wine and spirts also! Mind and Body Wines offers “premium” low
calorie and low alcohol wines. Spirit wise there are entries like Borrago, which is a
steam distillation of six botanicals, Free Spirit which offers a gin, tequila and
bourbon, New London Light which is a London style dry gin, Proposition Smokey
Margarita and Seedlip, who offers three distilled herbal elixirs. Sounds like most
of these are designed for mixing rather than straight up which makes sense. This
is the first I’ve heard of these so can’t say I’ve ever had any of these and to be
honest probably wouldn’t buy a bottle without tasting it first just to be sure.

Clearly the non-alcoholic options are expanding and that’s a good thing for us.
I would love to see some creative marketing at the end of this year come up with
mixed 6, 12 and 24 packs of non-alcoholic brews. That would be a great gift,
although hopefully you’re not trying to send the message they drink too much, to
a beer drinker.

I would definitely consider a version of Dry January 2022 if I had a selection of
these to try when I’m ready to have a brew at night, of course I’m not worried
about driving to the bedroom later that night, but I could be “trying to be healthier.

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

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Glenn DeLuca
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