Athletic Brewing Free Wave Review

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr. Jennifer Hughes, MD

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Our review team awards the crisp, mouth-watering, and naturally calorie-reduced Free Wave (NA) IPA from Athletic Brewing an A+.

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Our Rating:


» Rating Methodology


Our Rating Methodology

We determined this rating by evaluating the following factors:

  • Ingredients and Nutrition Quality: A+
  • User Experience: A+
  • Brand Experience: A
  • Value: A+
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Welcome to our Athletic Brewing Company Free Wave IPA review!

Treasured among both the IPA community and much of the non-IPA crowd (we call them infidels) for its smooth, citrusy, and perfectly bitter flavor, the hazy IPA is one you don’t want to mess up.

And boy, is “not messing up” an understatement for the Free Wave IPA from Athletic Brewing Company, which very quickly won over our review team with its juicy and mouth-watering deliciousness, earning an A+ overall in our Athletic Brewing Free Wave review.

What’s better, every sip can be taken with the knowledge that you’ve made the wise choice to back off the alcohol and cut the calories in half or more, and Athletic Brewing backs their product up with solid customer service and online shopping experiences. 

If you’re looking to step back from that sneaky alcohol habit without sacrificing the taste of the beloved hazy IPA, we highly recommend Athletic Brewing Free Wave IPA.

Athletic Brewing Free Wave
  • Description

    Smooth, bitter, juicy, and somehow not confusing to your mouth – the Free Wave IPA is a perfect example of sound brewing techniques at work.

  • Ingredients

    Water, Organic Vienna Malt, Malted Barley, Wheat, Hops, Yeast

Pros and Cons

  • Pros
  • Superior taste
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Significantly fewer calories than alcoholic IPAs
  • Cons
  • Site content issue (see brand experience)

Ingredients and Nutrition Quality


Grade: A+

Organic malt, no sneaky additives, and of course, a lack of alcohol bode very well for the Free Wave IPA when comparing to both NA and alcoholic beers of the competition.

Here is the ingredient list for Athletic Brewing Company’s Free Wave IPA: 

Water, Organic Vienna Malt, Malted Barley, Wheat, Hops, Yeast.

Each 12oz can contains 70 calories and 16 grams of carbs.

Very similar to the Run Wild IPA and many of Athletic’s other beers, this ingredient list leaves very little to criticize in the way of low-quality grains/fillers or undesirable additives.

Considering the public perception of beer and those who drink it, it comes as a surprise to many that hops are actually semi-nutritious, but hey, they are derived from a plant after all.

You won’t be outperforming a highly concentrated supplement on nutrient density here, but still, hops provide noteworthy amounts of B vitamins, vitamin E, antioxidants, and an ironically liver-friendly compound called xanthohumol.

Between the malt, barley, and wheat, both alcohol-free and more spirited imbibers will have access to fiber, potassium, and more antioxidants (that’s why we drink, right?).

Neither beer snobs nor nutrition reviewers will have too much to wag their fingers at here, since the lack of undesirable additives and ingredient quality are optimal (organic malt is a big plus). 

Of course, Athletic Brewing Free Wave IPA is by no means going to surpass an actual supplement or superfood, but respecting the context (beer), there’s no way around an A+ for ingredient and nutrition quality in this Athletic Brewing Free Wave review.

User Experience


Grade: A+

There’s no getting around the superb taste, which was heavily reminiscent of alcoholic hazy IPAs of renown, and the rest of our experience was without a hitch.

Regardless of their stance on IPAs, our review team was unanimously impressed by this full-bodied, yet light and citrusy beer.

A rush of bold, but not oppressive citra and mosaic hops is followed immediately by a wave of fruity flavor with every gulp, each perfectly complementing the other.

For those not in the know, the “draw” with hazy IPAs is their approachability, meaning the bitterness has been dialed back (tweaking the malt-hop ratio, less filtering, it’s a whole thing) while at the same time giving way to citrus notes.

Oftentimes, the brewer doesn’t even need to add fruit to bring the citrus flavor out—as is the case with the Free Wave IPA—because it arises naturally from the hops.

Athletic Brewing Free Wave Hazy IPA
Athletic Brewing’s Free Wave Hazy IPA in a glass.

If you’re unsure about IPAs but willing to give them a shot, this is a perfect place to start.

At the same time, there’s still enough bite and more than enough flavor to entice even more hardcore IPA drinkers, which is why we think this is one of their most well-positioned selections in terms of pleasing the crowd.

As for the other aspects of our experience, we had no issues with ordering/purchasing in this case, nor did our beers arrive with any damage or quality issues.

The label succinctly provides all the major information you’d want to know (ingredients, nutrition, etc.), and the cans weren’t flimsy or hard to open.

Without question, it’s an A+ for user experience in this Athletic Brewing Free Wave review.

Brand Experience


Grade: A

Save for a bit of confusion (haziness?) around the return policy, Athletic Brewing makes a substantial effort to inform, engage, and respond to their customers.

Even a best-in-class product can lose its place on your shelf/fridge if the maker of the product doesn’t support its customers, which is why we take a moment in each review to assess the overall brand experience.

It can vary slightly depending on product and brand, but in most cases, we look closely at customer support, the website experience (content quality, product/category page quality, and more), and shipping/return policies at a minimum.

Athletic Brewing Company makes it easy to shop their site, thanks to filters that allow you to shop by product type, beer type (dark, wheat, etc.), and other attributes.

athletic brewing free wave hazy ipa brewer's notes

Product pages were equally well-designed and informative, offering fluff-free descriptions of each beer, a nifty graphic showing a slider of each beer’s hops/malt/body level, and more.

The checkout process is seamless; no clunky pop-ups or convoluting splash pages broke the immersion.

As for general site content, Athletic Brewing Company adds a personal touch when introducing the team and the brand philosophy, but they don’t dive deep into the (proprietary) brewing process.

athletic brewing beer selection online

We had no reason to contact Athletic Brewing customer service for the Free Wave IPA review, but in our Athletic Brewing Brand Review, we noted how both the email and phone systems provided quick, accommodating responses to our questions.

Finally, our two major complaints center around returns, as the return policy isn’t clearly delineated on the site, and there is no satisfaction guarantee.

Athletic Brewing CEO Bill Shufelt did clarify for us that the general policy is to usually issue full refunds when issues arise, as there obviously is no ability to return/exchange a perishable product, which softened the ding a bit. 

Balancing these issues with the rest of our experience with Athletic Brewing Company (accounting for all our purchases/reviews), we arrive at an A for brand experience in our Athletic Brewing Free Wave review.



Grade: A+

No doubt a premium is built into the price, but when weighed against the quality of Free Wave IPA (and with the help of subscription savings), it’s totally justified.

Note: prices accurate up to time of publication.

Athletic Brewing went with their almost fully standardized price point of $13.99 for a six-pack of Free Wave (12oz cans).

Signing up for their Athletic Club—a subscription service for regular customers—can net you a steady $2.10 discount (so, $11.89 per six-pack) in addition to free shipping.

Still, even $11.89 for a six-pack of cans is a noticeable step up in price from most craft IPAs, alcoholic or otherwise, which means the burden is on Athletic Brewing to justify the premium.

As we see it, Free Wave has four pretty solid excuses, including the following:

  • Superior taste
  • Significantly fewer calories than most IPAs
  • No alcohol
  • Organic and non-GMO ingredients

If it weren’t for the subscription, we probably would have been closer to B territory, but there’s simply no substitute for discounted beer of this caliber sent to your door free of shipping charges, so it’s an A+ for value. 


How many calories are in Athletic Brewing beer?

Thanks to the lack of alcohol content, most Athletic Brewing Beers have a reduced 60-80 calories. The Free Wave IPA has 70 calories. 

Is Athletic Brewing beer zero alcohol?

As a non-alcoholic brew, which is different than a completely alcohol-free drink, Athletic Brewing beers may contain up to 0.5% alcohol.

What makes a hazy IPA?

The cloudy, opaque appearance of Hazy IPAs, which are typically brewed with less malt than standard IPAs among other differences (e.g., hops are added after the boil with hazy IPAs), is what earned this style of beer its name.

What is the difference between a Hazy IPA and a regular IPA?

Aside from the visual difference (hazy IPAs are cloudy where regular IPAs are more clear), hazy IPAs have far fewer (if any) hops added during the boil process, and they are unfiltered.

Our Verdict

If we didn’t fanboy (and fangirl!) hard enough to get the message across—merited fanboying, mind you—we were extremely fond of the crisp, juicy, and perfectly bitter taste of Athletic Brewing’s Free Wave IPA.

But they aren’t the first company to make a tasty NA brew, which is why they needed more than great taste alone to float to the top of our rankings.

Indeed, Athletic Brewing backs up this NA beer and the rest of their selection with quality customer service, site user experience, ingredients and manufacturing quality, and more.

We would like to see a few points tightened up on the return policy, but honestly, that’s about all we’ve got.

Whether or not you’re into IPAs, whether or not you like beer, and whether or not you drink alcohol at all, Athletic Brewing Free Wave IPA only needs taste buds to impress.

Both the Free Wave Hazy IPA and Athletic Brewing earn an A+ from our review team; we will recommend this beer to anyone looking for a guilt-free, sudsy departure from the norm.

Athletic Brewing Free Wave
  • Description

    Smooth, bitter, juicy, and somehow not confusing to your mouth – the Free Wave IPA is a perfect example of sound brewing techniques at work.

  • Ingredients

    Water, Organic Vienna Malt, Malted Barley, Wheat, Hops, Yeast

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