Not long ago, there were just a couple of nonalcoholic beer brands on the market, none of which offered much in the way of flavor or style diversity. Now, big-box brands and craft breweries are getting into the game, pumping out NA options including lagers, IPAs, and stouts.
“With little to no innovation within the nonalcoholic beer category over the past few decades, this poses an exciting opportunity for brewers,” says Golden Road Brewing general manager Dan Hamill. “How can we bring full flavor to a historically bland product?”
The near-beer market in America is still relatively small, but experts see a lot of room for growth. “The current NA space is 1% of the U.S. beer industry,” he says. “But NA beer is expected to grow by double digits in the next few years with recent trends in health and wellness.”
Beer giant AB InBev, which owns Golden Road, has even set a goal for at least 20% of its global beer volume to be no- or low-alcohol by 2025.
Our personal pick for the best nonalcoholic beer is the Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects Hoppy Amber, which retains its rich flavor without the alcohol, but lovers of all beer styles will find a new favorite pour in this list.
To celebrate the new Golden Age of beers, we’ve rounded up the best nonalcoholic beers that deserve your sober attention.
Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects Hoppy Amber
Region: New York City | ABV: Less than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Bread, Hops
Brooklyn Brewery is a favorite of many craft beer drinkers around the country, but its crowd-pleasing lineup also appeals to those who can more often be found with a Budweiser in hand. Special Effects is made using a special fermentation method, according to the brewery, which allows it to retain flavor without the alcohol. The result is a citrus-forward brew with just the right amount of bitterness from the hops.
Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Alkoholfrei
Region: Germany | ABV: Less than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Wheat, Yeast, Citrus
Oktoberfest staple Weihenstephaner, based in Germany, dubs itself the world’s oldest brewery. It offers NA versions of its classic brews, like the NA Wheat Beer and NA Original Helles. The former is the better of the two, a very light and refreshing Hefeweizen with a touch of hops. It gives you the overall feeling that you are, indeed, drinking beer and not some barleyed version of White Claw.
Athletic Brewing Company Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA
Region: Connecticut | ABV: Less than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Hops, Fruit, Malt
Connecticut’s Athletic Brewing does one thing and one thing only: NA beer made with a craft-brewery mentality. That means you’ll find many different types of beer in its lineup, including this IPA. “The heavy malt in this brew is awesome because it actually tastes like a West Coast American IPA,” says Kevin Bradford, a partner of Harlem Hops. “It’s the best NA beer I have ever tasted.”
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Clausthaler Original Non-Alcoholic
Region: Germany | ABV: Less than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Citrus, Malt, Hops
Clausthaler is one of the original NA beer makers. The brewery got its start in the early ’70s with a focus on German-style beer that adheres to the Germany Purity Law, which dictates that only water, hops, and barley can be used to make beer. In addition to the Original, there are new styles such as a dry-hopped brew made with Cascade hops, as well as the brand’s upcoming release, Santa Clausthaler, a blend of the Original and a cranberry-cinnamon drink.
Related: The Best Beer Glasses
Heineken Non-Alcoholic 0.0
Region: The Netherlands | ABV: 0.03% | Tasting Notes: Malt, Bitter Hops, Lemon
The popular Dutch brand joined the NA beer game with 0.0. Diehard fans of the original might not mistake this bottle for classic Heineken, as the flavor is a bit on the thin side, but it does have that characteristic skunkiness and mouthfeel. And some writers claim they haven’t been able to tell the difference in a side-by-side blind taste test.
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Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops Unplugged
Region: California | ABV: Less than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Hops, Banana, Citrus
Cannabis-infused beverages, while not legal in every state yet, are becoming more and more popular. Lagunitas collaborated with AbsoluteXtracts to create two beers with different levels of CBD and THC, but both with an ABV of 0%. Unplugged is the tamer of the two, with 18 milligrams of CBD and less than 2 milligrams of THC, meant to calm without providing a psychoactive experience. For something stronger, check out the Tuner, which has 5 milligrams of both CBD and THC.
Related: The Best Beer Koozies
Region: Japan | ABV: 0% | Tasting Notes: Malt, Barley, Crisp Citrus
This beverage is not exactly a beer, but it’s pretty close—and it has zero calories and an ABV of 0%. Although Suntory ALL-FREE has been available in Japan for more than a decade, it is newer to the American market. The drink is made from two-row barley malt, aroma hops, and mineral water, resulting in a sort of half-beer, half-sparkling water hybrid that will be of interest to NA beer drinkers.
Related: The Best Beer Growlers
Best Hazy IPA
BrewDog Hazy AF
Region: UK | ABV: Less Than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Grapefruit, Malt
Looking for a hazy IPA with big, juicy tropical fruit notes? BrewDog has an NA beer that fits right into that wheelhouse. Hazy AF is bold and assertive, and, best of all, you can drink a few without worrying about slowing down. This brewery got its start in Scotland but now has outposts in Ohio, Berlin, and Australia, making its mark in the world of both NA and alcoholic beers.
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Bravus Oatmeal Dark
Region: California | ABV: Less Than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Coffee, Chocolate, Caramel
Just because you’re drinking NA beer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a hearty stout. This oatmeal dark stout from Bravus has rich chocolate, coffee, and caramel notes. It’s not too sweet and can stand up to food like BBQ and soft cheese.
Lagunitas Brewing Company IPNA
Region: California | ABV: Less than 0.5% | Tasting Notes: Pine, Hops, Citrus
Lagunitas has been brewing in California for decades, but this NA IPA (IPNA) is a newer entry into its lineup of beers. The flavor is pretty close to the regular Lagunitas IPA, with notes of pine and citrus and a dose of bitterness. Fans of IPAs won’t miss the alcohol when drinking this beer.
We found Brooklyn Brewery’s Special Effects (view at Drizly) to be the most impressive. It has just enough citrus and hoppy bitterness to satisfy IPA fans, but it’s not overwhelming on the palate for drinkers who prefer a less assertive beer.
What to Look For
There are as many styles of NA beer as there are regular beer, so it all depends on your taste—do you prefer a hoppy IPA, a dark stout, or a light lager? Also, be aware that many NA beers have a scant amount of alcohol (generally less than 0.5% ABV), which you might consider if you are looking to avoid alcohol altogether. Finally, big brands like Heineken and Budweiser have launched NA beers, but some of the most flavorful and innovative are coming from the craft world, with entire breweries devoted to the category.
How do they get the alcohol out of fermented beer?
There are several methods for creating NA beer that involve interfering with yeast during the fermentation process, inhibiting the creation of alcohol. Dealcoholization is another method for making NA beer, in which heat or reverse osmosis eliminates alcohol after the beer is made.
Are there any trace amounts of alcohol still left in NA beer?
There usually is a negligible amount of less than 0.5% alcohol in NA beer, which might be a factor for those looking to avoid alcohol altogether.
Is NA beer made the same way as alcoholic beer?
Many NA beers are made in the same way as regular beer, but they undergo one of the steps listed above to remove the alcohol. The basic ingredients usually remain the same, with some combination of water, yeast, malt, and hops.
Does NA beer naturally have less calories?
NA beer is generally lower in calories than regular beer, although calorie count can vary depending on the type of beer—and sometimes the difference is just a matter of 10 or 20 calories per brew. However, you’ll also find a market for very low-cal NA beer.
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Jonah Flicker is an experienced writer who has covered spirits for many years. His work covering trends, new releases, and the stories and innovators behind spirits has appeared in various national outlets. His first love remains whiskey, but he is partial to tequila, rum, gin, cognac and all things distilled.
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