The Quest for NA Beers

by | Jan 4, 2023 | Beer

A quest for NA beers (non-alcoholic) for those looking for a brew during Dry January or anytime you want a beer without the buzz.

Untitled Art Brewing - S'mores Dark Brew

The Quest for NA Beers

Many Michigan beer drinkers may be thinking about giving the Dry January challenge a try. For you, the quest for NA beers is on. The good news is that taking a break from alcohol doesn’t mean you have to give up on great tasting brew. Today there is a huge selection of non-alcoholic (NA) beers in a variety of styles. Sadly, none of these are from Michigan breweries. The only NA beer made in Michigan that I could find in the store was Two Roots which is made in Rochester. I recently read that Eastern Market Brewing has a new NA beer, so that could be an option in the future.

Dry January

This January 2023 marks the 10th year of Dry January. If this term is new to you, Dry January is a campaign to encourage people to abstain from alcohol for the month. The term Dry January and the campaign began at Alcohol Change UK in 2013. The intent of the campaign is to raise awareness about the hazards of alcohol. While many of us love a good drink, alcohol can have negative consequences. The health benefits of reduced alcohol consumption are impressive: better sleep, weight loss, and lower blood sugar and pressure. If you are interested in a great coaching app to help you meet your Dry January goals or to just manage alcohol in general, check out Sunnyside. They have a guide for successful Dry January and a guide for “dry-ish” January.

In Search Of NA Beer

With all this in mind, I went to some local stores in search of craft NA beers. My go-to stores in the Ann Arbor area are The Produce Station, Arbor Farms, and Withingtons (in Chelsea). For the greatest variety of NA beers sold by the can, The Produce Station wins hands down. Each of these stores has an incredible full strength beer selection as well. The mega-chain Total Wine has a great selection as well, but I found the others to have a better selection and more options for single beers. By the way, if you have a favorite beer store, be sure to tag them in the comments.

Tasting notes for NA Beers

What follows is a selection that is a tad heavy on the IPA and pale ale spectrum but still includes a few tasty options. You should be aware that none of these will taste like your favorite Michigan craft beer. A few come close to a nice session ale. However, they all lack the mouth feel you’d get from, say, a Dark Horse Brewing Crooked Tree or an Odd Side Baltic Porter. While NA beers aren’t quite the same, they can be enjoyable. Let’s take a look at the list.

Untitled Art  – S’Mores Dark Brew and Juicy IPA

My first NA beer was the Untitled Art Juicy IPA. It is a clean and crisp beer that pours out golden and hazy. The nose hints at orange and grapefruit. There isn’t much head retention. However, that is true for all of the NA beers I tried. The head will last for a few seconds, and then it’s gone. Overall, the Juicy IPA from Untitled Art is a fine beverage

Untitled Art Brewing - Juicy IPA

I picked up the S’mores Dark Brew from Untitled Art on a second reconnaissance run, and I’m so glad I did. This beer is delicious. As you pour, the aroma is full of chocolate, caramel, and a wisp of vanilla. The taste starts sweet and finishes with some chocolate bitterness. The S’mores Dark Brew is at the top of the list and will definitely be in regular rotation.

Partake Brewing – Pale

The Pale from Partake Brewing is fantastic and has only 10 calories. It pours a golden amber with a touch of malt in the nose. The taste is just like what you’d expect from a nice pale ale. I was astounded by how good this tastes at 10 calories per can. I could easily enjoy this brew on a daily basis and put it in the top three of the NA beers I’ve tried. 

Partake Brewing - Pale

Brooklyn Brewery – Special Effects IPA

The Special Effects IPA pours clear and golden. There is a whiff of grain at the start. As for the taste, it leans on bitterness with a hint of grain. This beer tries hard to be an IPA and does not quite hit the mark. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t that great. 

Brooklyn Brewery - Special Effects IPA

Two Roots Brewing Co. – IPA New West

IPA New West has a nice piney aroma. It is a visually appealing beer with the longest head retention on the list. The taste is crisp with a slight hop bitterness at the end. This is a fine beer that I could see in my fridge for enjoyment on a hot summer day.

Two Roots Brewing Co - IPA New West

Gruvi – Golden and Juicy IPA

Both the Golden and the Juicy IPA are excellent choices for those looking for a solid low, calorie NA beer. The Golden comes across like a slightly sweet pilsner. The Juicy IPA has an excellent citrus aroma. The taste here is a touch sweet and very smooth. 

Gruvi - Golden

Gruvi - Juicy IPA

Samuel Adams – Just The Haze

Popping open Just The Haze from Sam Adams ushers in the smell of orange juice. The taste continues the orange love. The orange juice taste is subtle, but it is there. As you would expect from a hazy, it pours cloudy and finishes on the sweet side. This is a solid beverage.

Samuel Adams - Just The Haze

Sober Carpenter – White

This is supposed to be a Belgian white. It looks like a wheat beer and even has a bit of the smell. However, the taste is not close. The main flavor is cereal or grain. The finish is dry and somewhat bitter. I wanted to like this beer, but by the end of the glass, I was done.

Sober Carpenter - White

Mikkeller – Limbo Raspberry Flemish Primitive Ale

This was the best NA beer of the bunch. It pours out in a cheerful rose color with plenty of raspberry aroma. The taste starts sweet but moves to more of a sour finish. It is a delightful beverage, especially if you enjoy sour beers. The only drawback is the calories which are up there at 100 per can. Not a deal breaker, but something to consider if that matters to you.

Mikkeller - Limbo Raspberry Flemish Primitive Ale

Ceria Brewing Company – Indiewave IPA

This beer is bitter with a capital B. Along for the ride is a fair amount of grain taste and smell. I have to be honest and tell you that I couldn’t finish this one.

Ceria Brewing Company - Indiewave IPA

Brewdog – Punk AF Hoppy Pale

I’m not sure how punk rock this beer is, but it tastes like a nice session IPA. There is a touch of pine when you open it. It pours out a light straw with minimal head. The taste is smooth and easy. Nothing fancy. The bonus is the low calorie count. It is a fine beverage, but others on the list are better.

Brewdog - Punk AF Hoppy Pale

Bravus Brewing Company – IPA

I had high hopes when researching Bravus as they claim to be the first NA beer maker in America. One taste and my hopes were dashed upon the rocks and splintered into a million pieces. I made it through a third of this beer before it hit the drain. The deal killer was the bitterness and grain taste. If that works for you, you’ll love this one. Sadly, it is not for me.

Bravus Brewing Company - IPA

Athletic Brewing Company – Sunset Stoke Red IPA

Athletic Brewing is probably the biggest name in NA beers right now, so I had to give them a try. Their Sunset Stoke is a red IPA. It pours out amber with a decent amount of head retention. The taste is malty, as you would expect, with some bitterness. This is a good beer, but others, such as the Mikkeller and Untitled Art, are better.

Athletic Brewing Company - Sunset Stoke Red IPA

Top Three

The top three for me are definitely:

  1. Mikkeller – Limbo Raspberry Flemish Primitive Ale
  2. Untitled Art Brewing – S’mores Dark Brew
  3. Partake Brewing – Pale

As I mentioned, none of these are going to give you the full-bodied mouth feel of a full strength beer. Especially when with the IPA, which in general, doesn’t come close to the real deal. However, the three listed above will definitely satisfy, and others on the list aren’t too bad (unless otherwise noted). I’d love to get your thoughts, so please leave a comment.

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