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Near Beers: Perfect for Boaters?

by Greg Van Belle

Nonalcoholic beerThere is no arguing that boating culture and beer culture overlap quite a bit, especially here in the Northwest where the true craft beer culture got its start and marches forward with few signs of slowing down. There is a brewery on every corner and at nearly every marina, and we sailors do love a cold beer on a hot day. But operating a boat under the influence, in addition to being seriously dangerous, is a serious crime. What is a beer-loving captain to do? Not that long ago, the options for the beer lover who wanted a break from the alcohol were very slim and not that appealing. Luckily, craft brewers are catching on, and a nice selection of non-alcoholic craft beers that taste like craft beer are hitting the market.

These “near beers” have less than .5 percent alcohol and are very low calorie while still packing the flavor of true craft beer. Each brewery achieves the very low alcohol content in their beers through different processes, but the emphasis is on retaining true beer flavor. The “near beer” you know achieves its non-alcoholic status by heating alcoholic beers to the point where the alcohol dissipates. New craft near beers are brewed from scratch to be non-alcoholic, leaving them with a true beer taste. In the name of science and journalism, we loaded the icebox on Kokua, our trusty CHB 34 boat, with a variety of non-alcoholic beers and did some serious testing. Here are the results.

Partake Brewing

Canada’s Partake Brewing makes several alcohol-free craft brews that are available in the U.S. and can be ordered directly from the brewer. Partake’s IPA is a very flavorful, hoppy beer with strong citrus notes and a fresh finish. The consensus is that this IPA tastes the most like a true IPA, and it has a refreshing, crisp flavor.

The Pale Ale from Partake is a classic American Pale Ale with a smooth finish. It is a little thin compared to a true pale, but at less than .3 percent alcohol and only 10 calories, we’ll take it. We eagerly await the brewery’s two newest additions, a lager and a stout, which at press time were still “coming soon.” Partake’s beer can be purchased online and shipped to the US: drinkpartake.com.

Athletic Brewing Co.

Athletic Brewing Company, located in Connecticut, puts out several high-quality non-alcoholic brews.

The “Upside Dawn” golden ale is flavorful and crisp, and just screams for a hot summer day onboard. The “Run Wild” IPA has hoppy notes and a bitter finish but doesn’t drink heavy. It won’t satisfy the typical West Coast IPA drinker, but it sure comes close. And the “No Doubt Stout” is rich and satisfying. Athletic Brewing has done an excellent job with their beers, and they promise more are coming soon. Their beers can be found at some local bottle shops and ordered directly from their website: athleticbrewing.com/about-athletic.

Surreal Brewing

Surreal Brewing, based in California, produces an excellent red IPA and porter. The Red IPA feels like the non-alcoholic beer that is most true to its “real” cousin. The porter is rich and drinkable and will certainly satisfy dark beer lovers onboard. Surreal is available in California or by ordering straight from the brewer: surrealbrewing.com.

Bravus Brewing

Bravus, in Southern California, takes pride in being the first non-alcoholic craft brewer in the United States. They currently offer an IPA, stout, and a stellar amber ale. The IPA has a true hoppy flavor and is indistinguishable from full alcohol brews with similar profiles. The stout is rich with coffee and caramel flavors, and the amber ale has the malty character you would expect. Order Bravus brews from their website: bravus.com.

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