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Non-alcoholic beer is having a bit of a moment, and we’re here for it.
Gone are the days when your wise choice to cut back on alcohol is “rewarded” with one or two flavorless options, thanks to an industry that is investing more into inclusivity.
Of course, not everyone has infused the same amount of love and care into their NA offerings, so to help you slosh through the growing range of NA options out there, we’ve put together a list of the best NA beers in our book.
Athletic Brewing Free Wave
Crisp, flavorful, and unapologetically hoppy, we simply could not find a tastier NA beer than the Athletic Brewing Free Wave Hazy IPA
Best For: As with the entire ABC catalog, the Free Wave (and the Run Wild IPA) is perfect for the IPA-head who wants to transition from alcoholic beer to NA with imperceptible, if any, loss in taste or quality.
It’s no secret around here that Athletic Brewing Company—the first brand of any kind to receive an A+ review from us—is our non-alcoholic brewer of choice.
And we use “non-alcoholic brewer” intentionally because, where the idea of NA beer is tokenized by big brewers into one or two often underwhelming selections, non-alcoholic (craft) beer is all Athletic Brewing Company does—well, that and sparkling water.
In our interview for the review, ABC Founder Bill Shufelt informed us that the Run Wild IPA and Free Wave Hazy IPA are their #1 and #2 sellers, respectively, but we prefer the hazy for its perfectly balanced pairing of hoppy bitterness and bold, citrusy notes.
Like most non-alcoholic beers, the dual benefit of Free Wave and other Athletic Brewing Company brews is a whittled-down calorie count due to the lack of alcohol, but ABC stands out with organic vienna malt and no cheap grains/fillers.
We could dither on all day about ABC’s ingredient quality, brewing process, etc.—and trust us, we did—but at the end of the day, you just need to try the Free Wave to see what we mean.
If IPAs aren’t your thing (said while peering judgmentally at you over horn-rimmed glasses), don’t worry, because ABC has lagers, golden ales, stouts, pales, and more.
Best for: Folks who like refreshing, fruity, less hoppy beers, and/or those who prefer a totally alcohol-free (versus NA) beer.
Set apart from NA beers—which can contain less than 0.5% alcohol—Ceria Brewing’s completely alcohol-free brews mirror the “craftiness” of Athletic Brewing with a 0.00% ABV Belgian Witbier they call Grainwave and a 0.00% IPA dubbed Indiewave.
Of course, we’d like to see their selection grow beyond these two offerings, but it’s very clear upon tasting that “beer doctor” Keith Villa, the man at the helm of Ceria who also created Blue Moon, knows what he’s doing (seriously—he has a PhD in brewing sciences).
Indeed, the explosive tapestry of citrus that plays across the tongue immediately after that first sip of Ceria Grainwave feels like a spiritual successor to Blue Moon, but with deeper and more nuanced flavors to explore.
Ceria Grainwave makes the orange peel and coriander pop so potently, but in a way that doesn’t drown out the malty, slightly tart base that defines all good Belgian witbiers—and with no added sugar, by the way.
We haven’t tried the Indiewave IPA yet, but Grainwave has certainly earned our vote as a delicious wheat beer fit for some serious summer-evening-on-the-porch vibes.
Best for: Hardcore IPA lovers moving to the NA side of things and hoping to hang on to that hoppy goodness.
Despite our favorite selection from our favorite NA beer brand (Athletic Brewing) being an IPA, we still have to give the actual title for best NA IPA to the Lagunitas IPNA. That was a lot of acronyms.
For those not in the know, Lagunitas is a California-based brewing company that has been cranking out cult favorites in the IPA game for decades now, including such ironically named, albeit alcohol-containing gems as Lagunitas Sucks, Super Cluster, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, and more.
But fear not, NA crowd, because Lagunitas has mustered up two seriously tasty NA selections, of which the IPNA is our favorite.
Lagunitas describes this bold IPA as “massively dry-hopped and delicious,” and as self-proclaimed beer doctors (yeah, we’re stealing that, Ceria), we heartily concur.
The IPNA is extremely clean, hitting you with very little else in terms of citrusy or other notes—it’s just an explosion of hops, and Lagunitas is undeniably one of the best in the biz when it comes to hoppy creations.
Lagunitas uses the same ingredients used in their other IPAs for the IPNA, and if you’ve tried their other brews, you’ll notice the lack of dropoff in taste or quality.
If you do ever dabble in the alcoholic side of hoppy brews, we’ll point you to the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ for starters, but this is the best NA IPA in our book.
Best for: Non-craft-beer folks who simply want a cold, crisp NA beer that doesn’t taste like water.
We know we low-key shaded big brewers at the beginning of this article, and we still stand by our claims when it comes to their unconvincing investment in NA beers, but Heineken 0.0 earns exempt status with its surprisingly tasty, totally non-watery flavor.
As we suspected, Heineken removes the alcohol after the fact instead of reinventing the brewing process like some of the above NA brands do, but on taste alone, Heineken 0.0 is definitely our favorite alcohol-free beer from a major brewer.
The fact that they kept it to 0.0% alcohol and less than 70 calories is certainly a win as well.
As for how the taste relates to standard Heineken, the base is there (they use a special form of A-yeast in both kinds), as is the subtle fruitiness, but it seems a little maltier.
Perhaps our only legitimate nitpick here is the fact that the Heineken 0.0 label is way too similar to their standard lager (true story, one of our writers accidentally went NA for a night).
Big brewer bias aside, Heineken 0.0 is a fine choice for anyone who likes a refreshing, uniquely flavorful brew.
Best for: Anyone who enjoys a fruity, slightly hoppy, NA beverage that can help you wind down for a chill evening.
On a nutritional level, HOP WTR exceeds every choice on this list with their use of nootropics and adaptogens to mimic the calming effects of a beer in a healthy way, but we have to keep them at “honorable mention” status because their drinks are much more on the sparkling water side of the spectrum.
If you’re specifically looking to replace the flavor of beer, the closest thing HOP WTR offers is their Classic flavor (nothing in the way of the few hops that are there), but this isn’t really the application HOP WTR is shooting for.
Rather, their hopped-up sparkling waters create their own niche that rests between sparkling water and beer, functionally replacing the latter while drinking like the former.
HOP WTR offers Classic, Lime, Blood Orange (our favorite), Mango, and other flavors of subtly flavored and hopped beverages, all of which are easy to have several of.
And you can actually feel the L-theanine and ashwagandha—adaptogens that fight stress and more—gently calming you down after an active day at work or what have you.
Best for: When only an NA stout will do, and it’s dinner time, Guinness 0.0 is an excellent addition to the table (note: our Guinness-loving managing editor forced us to include this).
We realize choosing a beer as basic as Guinness for our favorite NA nitro might provide meme fuel for beer snobs, but we’ve got two major reasons for singling Guinness 0.0 out:
It’s vegan, thanks to the isinglass-free brewing process.
Darn it if it doesn’t pair well with pretty much every food.
What is it about Guinness? Stews, steak, bread, chocolate, desserts, all the good stuff—Guinness 0.0 pairs just as effectively with these foods as does its boozier progenitor.
It’s brewed using the same natural ingredients as regular Guinness, but the alcohol is removed with a cold filtration process, which prevents excess heat from messing up the flavor/composition.
We’re still prioritizing ground-up NA brewing, of course, but if you’re going to sap out the alcohol after the fact, this is among the best ways to do so.
All this being said, if you’re a Guinness expert especially, the fullness of the flavor definitely seems to have dropped off a bit. Everything’s there (roasty/coffee notes, etc.), but noticeably muted.
One common and generally preferred method (Guiness 0.0 uses this method) involves cold filtration, whereby a membrane is used to filter out the alcohol at low (usually under 60 deg Fahrenheit) temperatures.
A less desirable, but common method includes adding steam or water to the beer, boiling it under pressure, and allowing the alcohol to evaporate into a condenser.
Is there any alcohol in NA beer?
Any beer officially designated as non-alcoholic must contain less than 0.5% alcohol, and most NA beers contain more than 0.0% alcohol while remaining under this limit.
This article contains more information on the alcohol content of NA beer, as well as the main alcohol removal methods brewers use.
Does NA beer have fewer calories and carbs than regular beer?
NA beer often contains fewer calories than regular beer, thanks to the removal of alcohol (which contains calories in itself), but there is no guarantee that an NA beer will have fewer carbs, considering NA brewers can still go as crazy as they want with the hops.
An important note: some lower-quality NA beers can even have more calories/carbs than regular beer because of added sugar.
You don’t want the calories or the cheap taste in that case, friend!
Which non-alcoholic beer tastes the most like beer?
This is of course highly subjective, but as for our list of favorites, most of Athletic Brewing’s Beers as well as the Lagunitas IPNA were extremely—pretty much indistinguishably—close in taste to their alcoholic counterparts.
Is it worth drinking non-alcoholic beer?
If the alternative means drinking an alcoholic beer, yes. If you use the lack of alcohol as an excuse to drink ten NA beers (and/or replace water), then certainly not. Alcohol or not, responsible use is always the answer.
That said, beer is actually more nutritious than you might think (alcoholic or otherwise). This article explains many of the potential health benefits of NA beer, including inflammation control, sleep improvements, and more.
Does non-alcoholic beer give you a hangover?
It would be extremely difficult to have an alcohol-induced hangover with NA beer, considering you’d have to drink 20-30 NA beers to equal a single lager in many cases.
However, if you drink too much of anything containing carbs, you absolutely can experience adverse, sometimes hangover-like effects (fatigue, sluggishness, etc.).
Food is for physical wellness, and pharmaceutical products are for mental health conditions—that’s where most of us land when it comes to nutrition psychiatry.
Nutrition is understandably not priority one in the chaotic moments immediately following a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but as soon as the patient is stable, nutrition therapy shares center stage with other key tenets of TBI rehabilitation.
Normally, we’re content to bounce around new and/or controversial theories on nutritional concepts all day, but every so often, we have the luxury of seeing in black and white.
This may seem like a fun-killing exercise at first, but we’re not interested in coddling or pandering to our readers, so let’s get the harsh reality out of the way: most of us haven’t earned the right to binge on vacation.