Nonalcoholic beers are here to stay

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

According to Forbes, 2022 sales of no- and low-alcohol beverages grew by more than 7% in volume across 10 key global markets, surpassing $11 billion in market value.

What’s more, nonalcoholic beer and cider account for 70% of the NA category’s growth in the last year. That means stores are stocking more NA beers than ever before.

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Some of the better known brands include Athletic, Brooklyn, Clausthaler, Heineken, Lagunitas and Untitled Art. Even Guinness has joined with an NA stout.

At Atlanta’s Hop City stores, owner Kraig Torres stocked nearly quadruple the number of NA beers in 2022, compared to 2021.

“This time last year we probably had five or six NA SKUs. Now we have 20 or so,” Torres noted. “For the first two weeks of January, NA beers were 20% of our overall beer sales in our Westend store. That’s a lot of product.”

The best-selling brand is easily Athletic, Torres said. But his favorite is Untitled Art.

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Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“Athletic Brewing has done a great job positioning themselves in the market,” he said. “It outsells everything else about 5-to-1. But I love Untitled Art. They taste like you’re drinking a beer, and they have texture and mouthfeel, too.”

Recently, I grabbed a random round of NA beers to sample. Here are are a few of my tasting notes:

  • Rightside Brewing in Lawrenceville is a homegrown favorite with both its Citrus Wheat and India Pale Ale standing as solid examples of the NA category, but I preferred the IPA, mainly because it tasted like beer-flavored beer.
  • Golden Road Brewing Mango Cart Wheat Brew is a wheat beer brewed with fresh mango, plus wheat malts and Bravo hops, giving it lots of fruity flavor and aroma and a crisp, clean finish.
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Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

  • Athletic Run Wild is billed as the ultimate sessionable IPA. With a combination of Vienna malt and a blend of Northwest hops, it is easy to drink, but still has enough bitterness, along with bursts of citrus aromas and flavors.
  • Despite Torres’ enthusiasm, I wasn’t quite as keen on Untitled Art West Coast IPA. Although it is brewed with palate-pleasing Cascade, Centennial and Simcoe Hops, the nose got funky, and not in a good way.
  • I’ve always been a fan of Brooklyn Brewery, and the perfectionism of brewmaster Garrett Oliver, so I wasn’t surprised that Special Effects Pils was “clean and crisp” as promised — though it could be a bit hoppier.
  • From Canada, Sober Carpenter’s Irish Red tallboy was a nice surprise with a classic blend of malts and East Kent Golding and Fuggle hops, a lively head, a beautiful red hue and a clean ale character.
  • Packaged in a tallboy can with a nitro widget, Guinness 0 (Zero) pours just like a Guinness Draught, and it mostly looks and tastes like it with a creamy head, dark ruby color and fine-tuned bitter, roasted flavor. It was my favorite.
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