Beers Reviews

Beers to help with your New Year’s Resolution

With January resolutions still in their infancy, I figured I could lend a hand to people who are having trouble sticking to their guns. Personally, I’m trying to drink smarter, focusing on lower abv and caloric offerings. With that in mind, I set out to grab a few non-alcoholic beers and taste them. I ended up getting eleven different beers from six different breweries, two breweries that produce normal strength beer and four breweries that only do non-alcoholic. My main criteria for picking these beers was that they are available here in Houston, and I could find them in singles sets at different retailers. I went in expecting them to taste like thinner, less flavorful versions of their alcoholic counterparts and was pleasantly surprised by a few.

I approached the tasting with two goals or tasks for the beers. One was could this beer help in a long session of beer drinking like a football game by interspersing with the full strength brews. The other, and more difficult, task is could this beer actually replace a full strength beer for me on a weeknight, or even for the whole football game. 

It is important to note a couple things about these beers. While they are marketed as non- alcoholic, they do still contain trace amounts of alcohol. Most of these are below 0.5% abv, which is all the USA requires to be able to be sold as non-alcoholic. The exception to this is Partake Brewing, which is from Canada, so is under 0.3%. The other interesting thing to note is they all have fairly low caloric content. The highest in the 11 beers I tried was 103, which makes them all eligible to be called light beer.  Now that all that is out of the way, let’s get to the tastings!

Athletic Brewing

I had three different beers from Athletic, the All Out extra dark, the Run Wild IPA, and the Upside Dawn Golden. The Upside Dawn golden was my least favorite of the three. It was the closest to what I expected a n/a beer to taste like. It had a great candied orange aroma, but that was almost non-existent once I tasted it and had an extremely thin mouthfeel that emphasized the lack of flavor and therefore fails at both of my challenges. 

The Run Wild IPA was a little better, I think because an IPA just starts with a little more flavor to begin with. I got that same candied orange on the nose, but with some strong grapefruit and mint as well. These came through very nicely on the palate with the addition of some cracker from the malt. The bitterness on the backend was reminiscent of old school west coast IPAs, although not as in your face. The mouthfeel left something to be desired though, making this beer a great one to fit into the middle of a long drinking session, but i don’t think it could replace beer completely. 

The best from Athletic, and one of the stand outs of all of the beers, was the All Out Extra Dark. While they called it an extra dark, I would call it a brown. The nose had tons of malty sweetness with hints of chocolate and a little bit of roast. This all carried through to the taste and was accompanied by a slight minerality that disappeared as the beer warmed up. The mouthfeel was helped by that residual sugar, making this beer one that could replace regular strength beer for me any night.

Brooklyn Brewing

I have had the Special Effects from Brooklyn before, and remembered being somewhat disappointed with it. I think I must have had an old can at that time, because it was much better than I remembered. It had notes of lemon zest and pith on the nose that was balanced by some cracker sweetness. The main word for this beer is balanced. A little bit of citrus balanced by malty  sweetness, balanced by a little bit of bitterness all put together with a nice light mouthfeel. This beer could replace a beer or two during the week, but i don’t think it has a strong enough flavor profile to stand up to the middle of a session.

Lagunitas Brewing

IPNA is a new non-alcoholic offering from Lagunitas. It is an IPA so I went in very hopeful, since their hoppy beers tend to be great. The nose had tons of grapefruit and dank hop notes, which was a great sign. Unfortunately, that didn’t carry through, with only a little grapefruit that quickly left my palate. When that is combined with a mouthfeel that is almost as thin as water, this beer left much to be desired.

Partake Brewing

I had two beers from Partake brewing. Interestingly, these two were the lowest in calories, with both the Pale Ale and IPA at 10 calories.The Pale had lots of lemon zest on the nose, with a little orange as well. The lemon carried through to the flavor, but was so light with absolutely no malt flavor or bitterness that it reminded me of a lemon flavored sparkling water. Needless to say, while it wasn’t a bad beer, it can’t really do either of the things I would want from a non-alcoholic beer. 

The IPA smelled of grapefruit and orange zest, which were balanced out by a light biscuit malt flavor. It finished with a light bitterness, making you want the next sip. Overall, while lighter than a typical IPA, the fact that it has a great balance and is only 10 calories makes it a great beer to help space out a long day of drinking.

Surreal Brewing

I had two beers from Surreal, their 17 Mile Porter and their Natural Bridges Kolsche. They also have a hazy IPA I really wanted to try, but I didn’t get a chance to try it. The 17Mile Porter had a great aroma of roasted nuts and bitter chocolate. Sadly the most overwhelming flavor was a minerality that I didn’t enjoy. There was a little aftertaste of those nuts and chocolate, but not enough to overcome the minerality. There was also much more sediment in the can than I would typically want. This one was very underwhelming and didn’t really step up to my needs. 

The Natural Bridges Kolsch had a very interesting nose. It almost smelled of apple juice. Not the green apple of acetaldehyde,  but like an apple with just a hint of baking spices. The flavor was exactly what I want in a kolsche, biscuit and white bread with an aftertaste that just drops off the tongue. This is a great beer for an event like a football game or backyard BBQ. 

Wellbeing Brewing

I had two beers from Wellbeing, the Victory Wheat and the Hellraiser Dark Amber.  The Victory Wheat was one of the most memorable beers I tasted. The can boasts that it has hints of orange, making me expect their version of something like Blue Moon. When I smelled it, all I got was an almost artificial lemon smell that reminded me of those canned Iced teas from the early 2000’s. That tea note carried through to the flavor, with lots of lemon and a slight astringency that reminded me of an over brewed tea bag. Overall it wasn’t a bad flavor, just not a beer. 

The Hellraiser Dark Amber was the exact opposite. The nose was full of graham cracker, with just a hint of candied orange and baking spices. That all carried through to the flavor and was balanced with just a hint of bitterness of the retrohale, making you want to go back for the next sip. The mouthfeel matches the flavor perfectly, just enough body without being heavy. Of all the beers, this one is the only one that if you had told me it was 5% ABV, I would believe you.

When I first started grabbing beers for this, I thought I might find one that I could drink. The fact that I found five beers in different styles that I want to put in my beer fridge amazes me, and makes me think my resolution is a much more attainable (and enjoyable) task. 

Cheers, and Happy Drinking!



Josh is a Houstonian, born and raised. He loves all styles, from crispy pilsners to leathery wild ales. Follow him on Instagram at @AManandHisPint.

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