Overdoing it on beer was too easy as the pandemic and pugnacious politics upended 2020. Cold IPAs were accessible salves for frayed nerves. One could quickly lead to two, four, or more—today’s stress relief bringing tomorrow’s hangover. But in a world off its axis, people are increasingly looking to assert control when it comes to drinking. There’s a real trend toward abstaining from alcohol and moderating intake. Luckily, that no longer means giving up great-tasting beer.
“Shifts in drinker perceptions and advancements in brewing technology suggest we’re on the brink of a nonalcoholic beer renaissance,” says Jim Koch, chairman of Boston Beer Company. These nonalcoholic beers prove that when it comes to flavor, nothing really is something.
Top craft breweries are now including premium zero (or near-zero, see below) ABV offerings in their lineups—as are many major beer festivals, which proudly slate “nonalcoholic” as one of their most lauded categories of late. In other words, NA no longer stands for “not applicable” for serious beer fans. Keep ‘em in your fridge, so you can enjoy them crisp and cold. Also keep in mind that some NA beers actually do have a very (very) low alcohol content, which will be specified on the label. In the U.S., beers with less than 0.5 percent ABV are considered “nonalcoholic.” Okay, ready for your NA happy hour? Here are some of our favorite picks.
17 Nonalcoholic Beers That Taste Like the Real Thing
1. Athletic Brewing Company Upside Dawn Golden Ale
Meet one of America’s fastest-growing nonalcoholic breweries, thanks to a proprietary brewing process that leads to boldly flavored bevs. Upside Dawn unites organic German and American malts in a floral, 50-calorie package that drinks light and easy. As such, it’s become popular among the adventure set.
2. Suntory All-Free
Japanese brewers ran through more than 400 formulas before cracking the code on All-Free, a beer-inspired refresher made with malt barley and hops. It’s reminiscent of a seltzer, full of strong carbonation and flavor, but with zero calories, sugar, and alcohol since they nixed the fermentation process altogether. What’s more, there are no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
3. Lagunitas Brewing Company IPNA
Clever name, eh? Lagunitas spent a year refining its first nonalcoholic brew, which was just released this December. Like its flagship IPA, this dank little number packs a pungent profile of citrus and pine trees, since it’s dry-hopped with several Pacific Northwest hops like Citra and Columbus from the Yakima Valley. It clocks in under 100 calories to boot.
4. Samuel Adams Just the Haze IPA
Hundreds of yeast strains were tested to create this nonalcoholic hazy IPA (nationwide release early 2021). Wheat and oats amplify the body, while Citra, Mosaic, Sabro, and Cascade hops impart a fragrant profile of pineapple, peaches, and grapefruit. The head retention and gold color are similar to Samuel Adams‘ New England IPA. How wicked is that?
5. Ceria Brewing Company Grainwave
Blue Moon creator Keith Villa’s second act is Ceria, a Colorado brewery focused on nonalcoholic beers made with (and without) THC. Grainwave is a medium-bodied, Belgian-inspired witbier flavored with blood orange peel and coriander and just 77 calories per serving. THC-infused brews (5mg) are available at licensed dispensaries.
6. Surreal Brewing Company Natural Bridges Kölsch Style Ale
Surreal Brewing Company‘s 17-calorie bev is named after a California marine preserve and based on a German kölsch—an ale fermented at colder temperatures for a balance of subtle fruitiness and refreshment. The beer’s soft malt profile goes great with salads and roasted chicken.
7. Heineken 0.0
Heineken has pulled off a delicious magic trick: This gently fruity 69-calorie lager tastes nearly identical to the full-strength original thanks to a unique process of brewing several batches of beer, then blending them.
8. Bauhaus Brew Labs “Nah” Helles Lager
After Bauhaus co-owner Matt Schwandt was hospitalized with acute pancreatitis and had to give up alcohol, he began developing the “Nah” line of nonalcoholic beers. This bright take on a German-style helles lager (meaning pale in color) is made with German hops and malts for a traditional character of fresh-baked bread.
9. BrewDog Wake Up Call
BrewDog‘s brunch-ready stout offers a different kind of buzz. It’s brewed with coffee for a pleasant pick-me-up, while oats and a sprinkling of milk sugar lactose lend smoothness to the roasty sip. FYI: The beer contains 39 mg of caffeine per 12-ounce serving (a bit more than a can of Coke).
10. Clausthaler Santa Clausthauler
For a jolly, alcohol-free holiday tipple, sip Santa Clausthaler. The latest nonalcoholic beer from Germany’s Clausthaler—a leader in the category since 1979—is flavored with cinnamon and cranberry for a festive kick.
11. Bravus Blood Orange IPA
There’s a lot to love about this NA craft beer, which is brewed and dry-hopped with Columbus, Centennial, and Simcoe hops for nuanced depth of flavor. A refreshing choice with citrus-forward notes, this tempered IPA is mellowed by a mild bitterness from hops and blood orange peels.
[$13 per six-pack; bravus.com]
12. Rightside Brewing Citrus Wheat
This classic wheat beer has a nice tropical aroma, with notes of fresh tangerine juice, banana, and a bit of spice. The medium-body beer has a crisp and invigorating finish, making it a go-to pick to slip into our hiking pack. Along the same route, check out our favorite 17 best summit beers, which include several NA choices in the mix.
[$13 per six-pack; rightsidebrewing.com]
13. Partake Brewing Lime
Enjoy a hint of lime in your brewski? This light and refreshing near-beer boasts notes of zesty citrus with a clean finish. Founded by biological engineer turned award-winning craft beer guru, Ted Fleming, Partake Brewing has been on a focused mission to create top-notch NA beer from its inception.
[$30 per 12-pack; drinkpartake.com]
14. Clausthaler Grapefruit
Germans know beer—and alcohol-free German brewery Clausthaler certainly knows how to make some very tasty suds sans booze. A great combo of brewski and juicy, this citrus-infused drink is as light as a feather and perfect for happy hour.
[$8 per six-pack; totalwine.com]
15. Bravus Breakfast Dark (Stout)
You don’t need to take the “breakfast” moniker too literally for this stellar stout beverage brewed with cinnamon, chocolate. and coffee. But if you do, your usual non-fat latte won’t be the least bit offended. Rounded out by caramel and mocha notes, we especially love this medium-bodied beer during cooler months.
[$13 per six-pack; bravus.com]
16. Rightside Brewing American IPA
This superb NA IPA knows the most direct route to our hoppy hearts. A moderate hop aroma, slight malty flavor, and fruit-forward waves of pineapple, mandarin orange, and citrus define this heady beverage. Also featuring hints of stone fruit and earthy spices, it’s a fave of ours particularly with Mexican and Indian food to mellow out the heat.
[$13 per six-pack; rightsidebrewing.com]
17. Aurora Superior Sparkling Hops Aurora Sparkling Hops
Yeah, we know, it’s technically not a beer, but this hops-infused nonalcoholic beverage is so good we’d be doing you a disservice excluding it. Available in Pomelo Sage and Yuzu Orange Blossom, these nonalcoholic beverages are great for awakening your taste buds before a meal. Pomelo Sage showcases Citra hops, with bold grapefruit-esque flavor complemented by piney sage. The Yuzu Orange Blossom is a mix of Mosaic and Citra hops, bursting with citrus, a touch of floral notes and earthy peppercorn. Buy the gift set for two of each flavor or spring for the hops multipack 12-pack.
[$16 per 4-pack; auroraelixirs.com]