Beer sold with little or no alcohol has definitely been buzzing harder during the pandemic. Here are some numbers via IWSR, a global expert of data and intelligence on the alcoholic beverage markets:
No/low alcohol beverages overall are on the rise globally, but some markets proved more resilient than others over the last year. Germany, the largest no/low alcohol market by volume, experienced almost a -5% drop in consumption in 2020, due to reliance of the no/low beer segment in the on-trade at bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, the US, as the next largest market, is currently the most dynamic, with the no/low segment registering over +30% increase in 2020 despite the enormity of the challenges faced by the industry.
Thirty percent is impressive, but how big is the non-alcoholic beer segment overall? For some perspective: According to this excellent Dec. 2019 article by Kate Bernot on Good Beer Hunting:
Non-alcoholic beer represents a minuscule sliver of the overall American beer market, and holds just .37% of total beer dollar sales in grocery, convenience, liquor, and other chain stores tracked by market research company IRI.
Well, with lots of room to grow and the market actually growing, progressive beer makers are rethinking their approach to the non-alcoholic segment. In the last 52 weeks ending on Nov. 1, 2020, market research firm IRI found that NA beer sales rose 38 percent in the United States to $181 million compared with the same period a year earlier. With the current rate of growth, it could bring the non-alcoholic market to a more robust 1.5 or 2 percent of total beer sales within another few years.
NA news has definitely been filling up my inbox — new brands, new distribution news and new milestones. Here are some of the big haps.
Sam Adams and Dogfish Head will market big NA brands in 2021
In a big move to bring beer lovers a craft non-alcoholic hazy IPA, Samuel Adams announced plans last year to introduce Samuel Adams Just the Haze in 2021. The announcement came after two years of brewing work at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery, overcoming the trepidations of its founder.
“I may have once said that we would never brew a non-alcoholic beer, but I’ve learned over the years never to say never,” said Jim Koch, founder and brewer of Samuel Adams. “The NA category has been both fascinating to watch and a unique brewing challenge that the Samuel Adams brewers have taken on with pride and ingenuity. I’m extremely proud to enter the NA race, and we’re ready to take it to the top.”
Christina Hahn, manager for brewing research at Samuel Adams said, “We’ve kept a close eye on the international non-alcoholic beer space for years, recognizing its significant growth as a wellness option, and we saw the opportunity for a full-flavor craft version in the U.S. It’s no secret that it’s a challenge to remove the alcohol from beer without losing the rich, complex and balanced flavors of craft beer. We visited some of the best NA breweries in the world to learn more about the existing technology; we reviewed hundreds of yeast strains; and we brewed countless iterations before arriving at what we, as brewers, believe is an uncompromising world class IPA.”
After two years of thoughtful research and brewing, Samuel Adams brewers created a perfect union of recipe, ingredients and proprietary NA brewing methods to successfully maintain the flavor and aroma of a juicy hazy IPA while producing very little alcohol, just .5 ABV. Unlike the watery mouthfeel and unfamiliar taste of many today’s NA options, Just the Haze is full-bodied with a smooth finish. Savvy IPA drinkers will recognize the use of U.S. Sabro, Citra, Mosaic and Cascade hops. The grains are 2-row summer barley, white wheat, and oats purposefully selected to create a full-bodied, easy drinking NA IPA. Visually, Just the Haze is almost identical to Samuel Adams’ popular New England IPA and features consistent IPA foam character, deep head retention, a golden color, and medium haze.
Just the Haze packs an upfront citrus aroma with hints of grapefruit, tangerine and lime, complemented by tropical and stone fruit notes like pineapple, guava, melon and peach. Samuel Adams Just the Haze will begin its national roll-out in early 2021, line priced to Boston Lager. It will be available exclusively in 12-oz cans, sold in six packs, and single cans.
Boston Beer’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will also be embracing the NA sector in 2021 with Lemon Quest, a fruited wheat beer under 0.5 percent ABV. It will even come in a slim can. Read more about here!
Brooklyn Brewery expands non-alcoholic portfolio with Special Effects IPA
Global craft beer innovator Brooklyn Brewery has also expanded its non-alcoholic line with the introduction of Special Effects IPA.
Coming off the success of its first non-alcoholic brew, Special Effects Hoppy Amber, Brooklyn Brewery is taking on IPA — the most popular craft beer style out there — and welcoming it to the non-alcoholic space. This Special Effects IPA release expands the Brewery’s portfolio of non-alcoholic brews, and like its predecessor, Special Effects IPA’s full, hoppy flavor tastes exactly like a regular beer, but therein lies the special effect: It’s not.
“During development, we held ourselves to the same quality standards as any other beer in the Brooklyn portfolio, but Special Effects IPA posed an alluring technical challenge; could a non-alcoholic IPA actually be delicious? People will be glad to see that Special Effects IPA tastes like IPA! In this case we’re a bit closer to a classic, West Coast IPA, with a light to moderate body, good fruit, a nice hop bite and a floral, citrus hop aroma,” says Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster and James Beard Award Winner, Garrett Oliver.
Proving yet again that flavor doesn’t always have to correlate with alcohol content, Special Effects IPA brings the bright citrus hop aromas of a classic IPA to consumers seeking better non-alcoholic beverage options. The new non-alcoholic IPA comes in at under 100 calories and is brewed to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere.
Special Effects IPA is the second release in Brooklyn Brewery’s non-alcoholic portfolio. Since its launch in 2019, Special Effects has grown to the Brewery’s No. 5 largest brand globally and deemed one of the best non-alcoholic beers by teetotalers, beer geeks, and everyone in between.
“When we first developed Special Effects Hoppy Amber, we were determined to show the consumer that non-alcoholic beer doesn’t have to be about taking something away, but rather that it adds to the experience,” says Brooklyn Brewery’s CEO Eric Ottaway. “Since that launch, craft non-alcoholic beers have seen triple digit growth this past year. In sticking with our belief that non-alcoholic beverages are for everyone, and given that IPA’s are by far the most dominant category in the craft beer industry, it made natural sense to focus our attention on craft’s most popular style as we are expanding the Special Effects family.”
London’s Big Drop launches in U.S. market with non-alcoholic beers brewed in Chicago
Big Drop Brewing Co., one of the world’s first craft breweries dedicated to non-alcoholic beer, makes its U.S. debut, brewing its most-popular NA beers in Chicago. Big Drop is recognized for its naturally brewed NA beers that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with full-strength beers, offering a new world of options for beer lovers.
Big Drop was founded in London in 2016 and has expanded internationally by partnering with contract brewers to ensure freshness and minimize its carbon footprint. In Chicago, Big Drop is being brewed at Great Central Brewing Co. The first two beers are Pine Trail Pale and Galactic Extra Dark, with Paradiso IPA following this month.
Big Drop has broken new ground in the NA beer category, winning international accolades and multiple global beer awards, including Gold Medals for Pine Trail Pale and Galactic Extra Dark from the U.S. Open Beer Championship. Both also were named “World’s Best” at the 2020 World Beer Awards.
“The interest and demand for NA beers is on the rise,” said Big Drop CEO Rob Fink. “Consumers are more conscious of their own health but they don’t want to compromise on quality or taste. With Big Drop, beer lovers can enjoy a full-flavored non-alcoholic beer whenever they like – no compromising.”
By engineering a brewing technique using special yeast and controlling the temperature during brewing, all Big Drop beers are naturally non-alcoholic, clocking in at .5 percent ABV or less. “We don’t remove alcohol from conventionally brewed beer, because when you remove alcohol, flavors often go with it,” adds Fink.
In Chicago, Big Drop NA beers are available at Great Central Brewing Co. for curb-side pick-up and soon at retailers across Illinois, western Michigan and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Big Drop brews also are available online at https://us.bigdropbrew.com/. Six-packs of 12-ounce cans are $12.
Athletic Brewing showcases its celebrity and athlete investors like J.J. Watt, David Chang and Lance Armstrong
What do all these famous folk have in common? Legendary athlete, investor and philanthropist Lance Armstrong, famed Chef David Chang (Momofuku/Fuku), TOMS founder and social investor Blake Mycoskie, two-time National Football League Super Bowl-winning Defensive End Justin Tuck (New York Giants) and NFL Defensive End, recipient of multiple Player of the Year awards and philanthropist J.J. Watt (Houston Texans)? They have all joined Athletic Brewing Co. as investors in their quest to fulfill an unmet consumer thirst in the beer category, where nonalcoholic beer hadn’t seen any innovation in over 30 years, even as brewing technology and drinker tastes shifted dramatically with the rise of craft brewing.
“When we began Athletic Brewing, we knew that we had the potential to take nonalcoholic beer out of the penalty box and open up new occasions for the beer industry,” said Athletic Brewing Cofounder Bill Shufelt. “The fact that Lance, David, Blake Justin and J.J., who are leaders in their own professional and personal endeavors, would see the value in our pursuit to offer a life without compromise, greatly validates our mission and sets us on the path for mammoth success in 2021 and beyond.”
“I feel fortunate to have discovered Athletic Brewing during their early days. Bill and his team at Athletic have not only created an incredible tasting nonalcoholic beer, they have also shown an immense commitment to philanthropic efforts and protecting the environment,” said J.J. Watt.
The nonalcoholic beer market in the U.S. is up 38 percent YTD tracking towards $184 million from $132 million in 2019 and, despite the pandemic, the nonalcoholic craft beer market is up over 300 percent year-to-date with Athletic Brewing holding a 60 percent share nationwide (Nielsen). The company was uniquely positioned for a post-COVID world, claiming the only true e-commerce in the beer world coming into the crisis. Athletic Brewing surpassed its 2019 brewing levels in May of this year and its sales are up 500 percent year-over-year. In just its third year of operation, the company has outgrown the 12,000-bbl capacity of its brewery headquartered in Connecticut and expanded its capacity by adding 125,000 barrels in its new San Diego facility.
“Athletic Brewing has been leading the charge in carving out a new space on retail shelves for high quality craft non-alcoholic beer. Not just for folks who strictly want to drink non-alcoholic beers, but also for those who still enjoy a hearty Hazy IPA but want to taper off the evening with something more mellow, but with a ton of flavor! I look forward to growing our partnership and getting this delicious beer into the hands of more customers,” said Taylor Cathala, Whole Foods NorCal Regional Beer & Spirits Buyer.
Athletic Brewing jump-started the “Without Compromise” movement in 2017 which opens beer to new occasions and is more inclusive to mindful, healthy adults like Athletic’s community. Named by Fast Company Magazine as one of the “World’s Most Innovative” companies in 2020, craft-beer fans can find Athletic Brewing’s revolutionary Upside Dawn Golden Ale and Run Wild IPA at major retailers in the U.S. They also ship directly to consumers at www.athleticbrewing.com where craft beer lovers can purchase Athletic’s full portfolio of flagship, seasonal, and specialty beers plus join the brewer’s subscription offering — The Athletic Club.
Athletic founders Bill Shufelt and John Walker took significant inspiration from Mycoskie, who wrote the book on social entrepreneurship with TOMS and now, Madefor. Beyond an excellence in their craft, all the prominent investors are united in their concern for greater society. J.J. Watt raised over $40M for Hurricane Harvey relief, Lance Armstrong created the Livestrong Foundation to fight cancer, and David Chang has done incredible work for mental health awareness (as outlined in his recent memoir).
Athletic Brewing proudly donates two percent of all sales to trail and park cleanups through their “Two for the Trails” program and expects to contribute more than $500,000 to this program and other charities across the nation this year.
Weed beer experts Two Roots Brewing brings its non-THC and non-alcoholic brews to Massachusetts
Canna-beer and non-alcoholic craft beer brewing pioneer Two Roots Brewing Co. recently announced its continued expansion across the United States with product now sold in Massachusetts. The company has signed an agreement with local wholesalers Craft Beer Guild, L. Knife & Sons, and Seaboard Products, to cover the entire State. Retailers are currently placing orders and will have product on shelf before the end of the month.
Two Roots is the only non-alcoholic craft brewer to win back-to-back medals at the Great American Beer Festival. In 2019, their Enough Said Lager won the Gold Medal and in 2020 Straight Drank IPA won bronze in the Session Beer or Non-Alcoholic Beer category.
The launch includes three non-alcoholic craft beers. Enough Said, a crisp lager brewed in the German Helles style, New West is an East meets West style IPA that is well-balanced with fruit forward hop flavor, and Straight Drank, a hoppy, dank, West Coast-style IPA. All three styles will be available packaged in six-packs of 12 oz. cans.
“Entering the Massachusetts market with the combined drive of our organizations will result in a successful partnership – and marks a key step in our strategic expansion plan,” said Ron Goodson, President and CEO of Two Roots Brewing Co. “As the popularity of non-alcoholic beer continues to accelerate, we are strongly positioned to meet consumer demand that will exceed our customer’s expectations.”
“The non-alcoholic craft beer category is quickly emerging as consumers continue to seek alternative adult beverage options,” said Michael Bernfeld, General Manager, Craft Brewers Guild. “Craft Brewers Guild of MA and The Sheehan Family Companies are excited to partner with Two Roots, bringing their non-alcoholic beer line to thirsty consumers across the great State of Massachusetts.”
Hairless Dog Brewing expands distribution of its 0.0% ABV brews to Colorado
Hairless Dog Brewing Co. is expanding its footprint to include Colorado after announcing partnerships with Culture Beverage. The company recently announced the additions of Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee to its map.
Consumers who want to avoid alcohol without compromising flavor seek out non alcoholic beers, but some brews contain as much as 0.5% alcohol. Unlike category competitors who brew their NA beers with alcohol and then boil it off (a process which leaves some alcohol behind but also changes the flavor of the beer in the process), Hairless Dog Brewing Co. invented an innovative brewing process in which alcohol is never introduced, making them the first 0.0 percent ABV craft NA beer in the county.
Hollander and Pirner established the company after both deciding to opt for a life free of alcohol and their desire to make an NA beer that people wanted to drink for what it was rather than what it wasn’t. Hairless Dog Brewing currently has four styles of craft beer available, all of which are 0.0% ABV, including an IPA, Citra Lager, Coffee Stout, and Black Ale – with new flavors slated for release in early 2021.
Shipping to the lower 48 states, Hairless Dog’s brand new four-can sampler packs are the perfect COVID-friendly gift for that family member, close friend or indispensable coworker you want to treat (even if you can’t drink one with them).
We’ll keep you updated as more NA beer news comes in.