The Best Non-Alcoholic Craft Beers on the Market

Hazy IPAs, rich stouts, and bold Belgian-style ales.

non-alcoholic beers
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

It wasn’t too long ago that the only available non-alcoholic beers on the market were seen as a sad afterthought of the big breweries. But, today, non-alcoholic beer is experiencing an unprecedented boom on the craft side of the market.

The target audience has expanded beyond people in recovery. These days, it might also be for pregnant mothers who miss the refreshing taste of a cold beer. It could also be for athletes who are training in endurance sports but have caught on to the idea of NA beer for its anti-inflammatory benefits and as a source of electrolyte replenishment. And it just might also be for someone who’s craving a stout with their dinner but has to drive themselves home. Whatever the case may be, the world of no/low ABV beer has changed drastically, quickly, and seemingly permanently.

But besides market trends, how do we know craft NA beer is here to stay? 2019 marked the first year non-alcoholic beers were represented as a style at the Great American Beer Festival (the largest beer competition in the world) since 2004. Back then, the five entrants yielded medals for Coors, O’Doul’s, and Old Milwaukee. Today, we’re looking at hazy IPAs, rich stouts, and Belgian-style ales, with many coming from exclusively non-alcoholic breweries—and their numbers are growing.

Whether you’re participating in Dry January or just want to try something new, we’ve come up with some of our favorites from this nascent boozeless beer boom so you can taste them yourself and see what all the fuss is about.

New York, New York
Whatever your reason for cutting back on or cutting out booze may be, it can be especially difficult if you’re one of the many who find comfort in the dim light of a solid dive bar. Alban du Pury noticed this when he made the decision to see what life could be like without alcohol and quickly learned that if his favorite watering holes or local restaurants stocked any non-alcoholic beer options at all, they were never anything that could replace the taste of a decently made brew. Instead of retreating altogether from the bars and social gatherings he loved, he took matters into his own hands by developing AL’s, an incredibly easy-drinking lager that was formulated to fill what he saw as a hole in the market. This refreshingly clean, crisp lager works as a perfect stand-in for your favorite full-strength dive bar staples.

Stratford, Connecticut
If you’ve been paying attention to the non-alcoholic beer boom, there’s a good chance that it’s thanks to one of Athletic Brewing’s beers. Since 2017, the brewery has been using a secret patent-pending method to produce some of the most noteworthy alcohol-free beers the world has ever seen. If forecasts are met, Athletic will outscale some of the most well-known regional breweries around the country. Besides the popular brewery-only releases, the Run Wild IPA has quickly developed a devoted following of fitness enthusiasts who are in search of something bright, hoppy, and malt-balanced to take down as they train for their marathons and Ironman races. The fact that it clocks in at just 70 calories doesn’t hurt, either.

Santa Ana, California
Getting in on a movement early on is one thing. But what about when you’re the ones who can lay claim to being the very first into the market? Bravus, which was founded in 2015, happens to be North America’s first brewery dedicated solely to the production of non-alcoholic craft beer. Since well before the idea of NA beer’s ascent was seen as inevitable, they’ve been perfecting a unique, secretive process that turns traditional production methods on their head. One such result of this method is the prized oatmeal stout, which picked up the silver medal at this year’s GABF (just ahead of their bronze medal-winning bourbon barrel-aged stout, no less). With flavors of cocoa, coffee, chocolate, and just a subtle hint of smoke over a smooth medium body, it’s just the kind of comforting sipper you’ll want to sip on after a winter jog.

Columbus, Ohio
Some call them the punk rock stars of the brewing world. Others call them deft marketers with a tendency towards gimmickry. However you choose to see them, there is no denying the global mass appeal of the staff at BrewDog and their ability to build themselves up as one of the strongest brands on the market. So it’s funny that what first brought the brewery into the non-alcoholic beer world with Nanny State back in 2009 was actually a response to criticism over making “the strongest beer in British history.” The result wasn’t just a soft media reply, but rather the creation of the fourth most popular product on the British market today, and its first non-alcoholic offering, which continues to add depth to the brewery’s lineup. With soft floral hop aromas and a fragrant citrusy kick of orange zest on the palate, Nanny State drinks like a nice session IPA with a clean, dry finish.

Brooklyn, New York
As one of the great originators of the craft beer movement in the United States, Brooklyn Brewery rarely passes up the opportunity to use its impressive brewing prowess to expand its already extensive offerings. Special Effects, the brewery’s first non-alcoholic beer, does just that by using a specially developed fermentation method that limits the amount of alcohol created while still allowing more traditional beer flavors to develop. Here, you can expect bright, zesty aromas thanks to the dry-hopping that takes place, with a clean citrusy palate that balances subtly sweet malts. The best part? Even though the beer has only seen limited distribution throughout Europe and out of their main taproom in Brooklyn, the beer is now available nationwide all year round.

Einbeck, Germany
While most of the breweries listed here have been in business for a few months to a couple of years at most, Einbecker can claim to have sold their first barrel of product in 1378. Of course, it was over half a millennia before their now world-famous Alkoholfrei would first start rolling out of the brewery, but the late start is no indication of how good this non-alcoholic import actually is. As one of the original options for those looking for a delicious booze-free beer on the shelf, this saving grace from abroad has a bright, light flavor profile that’s balanced with a minty German hop bitter finish. Nothing about this classic feels outdated: In fact, the recent switch from bottles to cans makes it an even fresher tasting one if anything.

Toronto, Ontario
After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Ted Fleming was left with a choice: Stop drinking beer, or take matters into his own hands. After opting for the latter, he founded Partake Brewing in 2017 with the aim to provide quality non-alcoholic beverages for people who love the taste of craft beer and were unsatisfied with the state of the market. Today, his lineup has made its way across Canada and the United States, making it relatively easy to get your hands on any of his takes on traditional styles. The pale ale is a standout choice in their group of offerings, with bright aromatics and soft fruity notes, making it a solid, easy day sipper.

Waunakee, Wisconsin
The explosion of the non-alcoholic beer sector has not only made it easier to find solid options on shelves but it’s also expanded what styles of beers are available to drink. Fans of sour beers who are in search of a booze-free brew are now in luck, thanks to options like this gose from Wisconsin’s Untitled Art. Made with ​​real watermelon, key lime, and sea salt, it’s a perfectly balanced and refreshingly tart beer that offers the fruity brightness rarely seen in in the category. Consider this a go-to when you’re looking for anything to stock your cooler with for your next beach or pool gathering.

Lawrenceville, Georgia
While pregnant with her daughter in 2017, Rightside Brewing founder Emree Woods suddenly came to the common realization that many beer-loving expectant mothers share when they first wade into the world of NA offerings. Motivated by the stigma she felt was placed on the category, she launched her now popular products, which rank among some of the most beloved on the booze-free beer market. She also learned that making non-alcoholic beer the right way involved investing in a process that wouldn’t use the traditional heat extraction methods used to remove alcohol from the finished product. As a result, Rightside’s offerings retain every bit of flavor—which is especially important for a beer like their Citrus Wheat. It’s a perfect dupe for a Belgian witbier, loaded with typical yeast-driven aromas like clove and banana and delivering plenty of bright citrus flavors on the palate. It’s the kind of refreshing beverage you could use to toast the end of a long run or bike ride.

Osaka, Japan
If we’ve learned anything over the past decade, it’s that there’s plenty of freedom in the beer world to experiment and try new things with recipes. For their non-alcoholic offering, Japanese beverage giant Suntory went so far as to tweak the formulation more than 400 times before finally settling down on All-Free. Not only is the beer completely alcohol-free, but it has absolutely no sugar and zero calories. As a result, the product is an incredibly light sipper that drinks more like barley and hop-flavored seltzer. While this may not taste like the blind taste test for full-strength beer like some other non-alcoholic brews, the unique offering still stands out as a refreshing option with light, rosy floral notes and brilliant effervescence.

Campbell, California
Operated by a husband and wife team, Surreal Brewing was born on the heels of a diagnosis and successful treatment of breast cancer. When the only non-alcoholic beers available to celebrate with were deemed subpar at best, founders Tammer Zein-El-Abedein and Donna Hockey decided to develop their own homebrewing recipes in an attempt to solve their problem. The resulting beers have helped turn their operation into a multiple-award-winning outfit not even two years out of the gate, with offerings like Juicy Mavs offering a rare alcohol-free take on the oh-so-popular hazy IPA. The bright tropical and citrus aromas here carry over to the palate, with mango and passionfruit coming through before a soft hoppy finish that lingers long between sips. It’s a great hiking accompaniment, beach beer, or pairing with a cheeseburger.

Copenhagen, Denmark
While there may be plenty of NA-focused breweries contributing to the latest surge in booze-free beers, there are also plenty of veteran players from the craft beer world who have taken an interest in the market. Denmark’s To Øl, who became an early imported darling thanks to their edgy and esoteric takes on traditional styles, appears to have put their savvy into developing their non-alcoholic effort, Implosion. Modeled after a modern American-style pale ale, the beer is bursting with floral hops, juicy citrus, and vibrant tropical fruit notes from start to finish with a medium body that never becomes too watery. Anyone fan of the hazies will be excited to have this option in their fridge to help them through Dry January and beyond.

San Diego, California
It may not come as a surprise that no-and-low-ABV products have found some of their most supportive audiences out west. Two Roots Brewing, which came to market in 2019, has swiftly come to prominence with a line of impressive takes on traditional styles. The beers are low in calories, fortified with Vitamin B12, and filled with electrolytes. And with the crisp German-style lager, Enough Said, earning their first GABF gold medal for non-alcoholic beer in 15 years, it’s clear Two Roots is on to more than just a healthy alternative to traditional brews. In addition to the non-alcoholic line (which they are careful to clarify is separate from their brewing operations), Two Roots has also developed a THC-infused non-alcoholic beer, which is one of the first of its kind in the craft industry. While these will only be available in California, it’s already helped establish the brewery as a household name in the cannabis industry as well.

Maryland Heights, Missouri
One of the biggest audiences for non-alcoholic beer comes from the running and endurance sports community. Enter WellBeing Brewing, whose Victory Wheat not only sees this potential but also helps bring it to the next level by fortifying it with Buoy (a formula of electrolyte supplements developed to meet the hydration standards of the World Health Organization), adding a touch of orange zest, packaging it in a thirst-quenching 16-ounce can, and laying claim to this being “the world’s healthiest beer.” The bright citrus flavors here do help create a refreshing flavor profile on the palate, finishing dry and long—just like the kind of beverage we’d reach for after a sweat session.

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Zach Mack is the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. and Governors Island Beer Co. in NYC, a Certified Cicerone, and absolutely nothing else. Follow him @zmack.