hey i don’t know who keeps using my 10% off code from NA Brews (MARGARET893) but thank you! the kickback to me is tiny on each order (5%), but hey, it adds up! there have been three orders so far which together have amounted to almost enough to cover the cost of one six pack of NA beer! given how much i spend on NA beer, i’ll take it!!
i’m a little behind on reviews but i’ll get some new posts up this week. happy memorial day relaxing everyone!
i haven’t much felt like sampling new beers lately. i still have a few from that last delivery from NAbrews that i haven’t gotten to (the raspberry limbo from mikkeller and brew dog’s wake up call), but most of the time when i open the fridge to grab a beer, i find myself just wanting the ones i already know i love. so after about six months of intense NA beer sampling my rotation has come down to this short list at the moment, in no particular order:
i do really enjoy dark beers but so far i have to admit to not really being satisfied with many of the NA options i’ve tried. many of them are ok, not awful, but i don’t find myself craving them in the same way that i do the lighter and brighter beers. i think they just don’t hit the same “i’m drinking a beer” feeling that the lighter NA brews do – many of them just make me feel like i’m drinking a sweet malty chocolate soda. maybe there’s a dark NA out there for me yet but for now, especially since it is summer, i’m happy with the lighter options i’ve got. and at least athletic’s upside dawn, ceria’s grainwave, and wellbeing’s amber can be bought locally at total wine so i don’t have to wait a week to have it shipped if i run out.
(i did join the athletic subscription club and have received a few monthly shipments but am re-evaluating that since i mostly want upside dawn and it’s cheaper locally. but since i can pause my membership, i will do that for a little while until i see if it’s worth it to get the cerveza or other limited run beers occasionally.)
there are still many brews i haven’t sampled yet that i’m interested in trying but i’m not going out of my way to find them now and i’m definitely not paying crazy money to get them delivered anymore, including:
if any of these should find their way to me or for some reason go on some kinda great sale i can’t refuse, then maybe. but until then i will be happy keeping my faves stocked at home and might even try an alcoholic beer sometime soon to see how it makes me feel. i don’t envision ever keeping real beer in my fridge anymore but would like to feel like i can have one or two occasionally out with friends. though honestly, if athletic or one of my other NA faves was available at bars or restaurants locally, i probably wouldn’t ever drink alcoholic beer again.
all this being said, i should mention that i did sample the heineken 0.0 last week. i figured since it was likely to be one of the only options on bar/restaurant menus locally, i should know what it tastes like and if it could work for me in a pinch. but sadly, it was awful and i could only drink a few mouthfuls before pouring it out. the first whiff took me back to my childhood, to smelling my dad’s and uncle’s cans of some kinda shit beer i can’t remember. it was slightly sweet and malty but just really unappealing to me, in the same way that penn’s best was. i never liked regular heineken so this isn’t surprising to me but i do like to try to keep an open mind about the macros. but so far i haven’t found one i can make due with. i guess i’m just a craft beer snob at heart.
it has taken me a long time to figure out how i feel about bravus‘ NA beers. at first, i really liked the oatmeal stout, the very first time i tried it. then i had some really off ones, returned them, received a sampler pack from them them to help make up for it, and realized there’s just a lot of inconsistency with bravus’ beers. (the replacement oatmeal stouts were fine, i liked the peanut butter stouts they sent, but did not enjoy the blonde at all. i have since then bought a case of oatmeal stout and peanut butter stout and after a few that again tasted weird to me, haven’t touched the rest of them and am now not sure i will.)
all of this backstory brings me to a recent total wine excursion when i bought this single of their amber – one of the only flavors of their beer i hadn’t yet tried and one i’d heard a lot of positive reviews about. so i just cracked it open, feeling a jonesing for an amber-like beer.
it certainly is the right color. didn’t have much of a head or aroma – a little caramel, a little malty, but once again that weird sorta sweet smell all of their beers have. i crossed my fingers and took a sip. it does indeed have that same sweet kinda flavor all their beers do too. great mouthfeel and the rest of the flavor is pretty good (caramel, nutty, malty) but i just can’t get past that weird taste. it’s not necessarily bad but it’s just not what i want. and it leaves an aftertaste that’s akin to an artificial sweetener, not what i want lingering in my mouth after a beer.
it’s a pity because without that weird sweet flavor, it would be really great. i am just still so perplexed about what it is. some in the facebookgroups say it’s diacetyl; some think it’s a proprietary yeast strain or malt producing this taste. i don’t know what it is but i think i’ve now decided i won’t be buying anymore of their beer because i am clearly sensitive to it. (it apparently does not bother some people. some don’t notice it at all.)
i think this is one of those things that everyone will have to figure out for themselves. give a few of their beers a try – maybe they will work for you. maybe you will be one of the people who don’t notice this weird taste that a lot of us do.
(and if anyone wants a six pack or two of their oatmeal stout or peanut butter stout, just holler.)
i know, i know – what am i doing drinking an IPA? well, i have heard from a few different folks that run wild isn’t all that IPA-like, more like a pale ale. and since i’ve been finding that i don’t mind some hops in my NA beers, i thought i’d give it a go. i was at total wine the other day and since they had it in the singles rack, i thought, why not? it’s good to know in case at some point more of athletic’s beers become available locally in bars, in case they have it and not one of the ones i like more. it’s good to know your options.
so what’s the verdict? perfectly drinkable. a little hoppy but not overly so, with a nice malty backbone. kinda reminded me of the big drop pine trail ale and a bit like partake’s pale ale, though with much more body. (this one has 70 calories vs. partake’s 10.) athletic refers to it as a session IPA with a blend of five northwestern hops. it pours a nice golden orange, good head, good medium body but still pretty light. not so bitter i couldn’t enjoy it and went down smooth. felt frankly refreshing with my veggie stir fry lunch.
i don’t really have a lot to say about it but i drank the whole thing and enjoyed it. i wouldn’t keep that stocked in my fridge but i liked it more than i thought i would! thumbs up!
i had high hopes for this stout but my first impression is that it is lacking. not sure if i got a bad can or if this is how it always is, but there’s a weird metallic kinda taste to it that i just can’t get past.
the aroma is rather faint, a bit roasty, a little chocolatey. poured a very dark almost black with a small head that disappeared immediately. it is smooth but the carbonation is minimal, almost non-existent. i wouldn’t really say it’s “creamy” which is sad for something called a milk chocolate stout. and the flavor is kinda subtle, again roasty, almost burnt, nutty-chocolatey.
as i drink through the glass, i am getting used to the metallic taste and don’t notice it as much. it has kind of a dry finish and is almost light in a guinness kinda way, for a dark/stout. i like it more as i drink more of it. the chocolate comes out more too, the more you drink.
this brew does have lactose in it, in case that’s a concern. ingredients are listed as: water, lactose (milk), barley, malt, oats, rye, hops, yeast, cacao nibs, and the hops used is bramling cross. 99 calories and 21g of carbs. not bad for a stout. 36 IBU though honestly i don’t taste that. (i think the lactose balances out the bitterness.)
i dunno. i think the jury is still out. i like it ok, but not sure i like it as much as i thought i would or as much as everyone else seems to like it. don’t know that i need to keep it on hand but wouldn’t be sad to see it on a menu at a restaurant or on a bar beer list. i’m just a tad disappointed it didn’t knock me over. maybe i need to give it another go another time.
i’ve wanted to try this one for a long time as it gets consistently good reviews from folks who like wheat beers, so thanks NAbrews for offering singles so i could check it out.
mikkeller was founded in cophenhagen and now has breweries and brewpubs in multiple locations around the world. in 2016 they opened a brewery in san diego, and they’ve since also opened a spot in new york city. they make several different NA beers – i got this one and the raspberry limbo series which i think is like a sour/gose style but i’ll let you know when i get to it. today felt like more of an “american style wheat ale” kind of day.
it pours a nice light golden yellow with a small fluffy head that dissipated quickly outside on the back porch. (it’s really humid today, maybe that affects it?) nice compact carbonation though.
my nose is pretty stuffed up (thanks allergies) so can’t really say much about the aroma except that it’s a little funkier smelling than most NA wheats i’ve had, and i don’t smell much in the way of hops. though most wheat beers aren’t very hoppy so i guess that tracks for the style. i’m just not getting much aroma at all. maybe a little citrus. a little bready.
the taste is pretty unique. it’s got a slightly sweet malty background that most of the other NA wheats i’ve tried don’t have, with a little funky bitterness on the backend as it goes down. it has almost a sort of wortiness but not really; and it’s not off-putting. (mikkeller developed their own yeast named “mikkellensis” in order to make their NA beers, one that basically does not produce alcohol in the fermentation process and is responsible for their signature flavor not attributed to hops or malts.) mouthfeel is pretty great, a little light but creamy smooth. definitely feels like a beer in my mouth.
i like it but i think honestly i’d have to drink a few more to know if it’s the kind of beer i’d want to have on hand all the time. i do think it’s interesting and if it was offered at a bar or restaurant i’d be inclined to order it. seems like it would pair well with food. it’s a little more mellow than some of the brighter citrusy wheats that i’ve had (like rightside), but i think mikkeller did a good job naming this one cuz i could see it being a great lazy summer beer.
apparently over the years different varieties of this beer have been brewed, with different low ABVs. the current incarnation says .3% – more specific than most NA beers in the US which usually just generically say “less than .5%.”
i have not historically been a super huge fan of sours or goses but in the spirit of trying to widen my palate and be adventurous, i’ve been trying a few here and there and actually liking some of them. i’d never had anything from the british-born brewery-of-the-people brew dog before, and usually you can tell from drinking one NA flavor from a brewery if it’s worth trying their other flavors – you can get a general sense of style. i’d seen a few good reviews of this one so i thought i’d give it a try. i figured, i like raspberries.
well sadly, i’m disappointed. as you can see by the head on this, it’s pretty carbonated, with big fat bubbles and lots of them. it feels much more like a soda in your mouth than a beer. this to me tastes more like a beer-flavored seltzer. and while that is a thing now and lots of folks like that concept, it’s not what i was expecting and not what i personally enjoy.
it’s tart for sure – they weren’t kidding about it being a sharp raspberry. but it’s so thin and bubbly i can’t even really enjoy it. it’s got 29 calories and 4g of carbs, putting it in the “diet beer” category with brands like grüvi, partake and surreal. if you are a fan of bubbly waters and fruity sodas, you might like this. but i don’t. as pretty as it is in the glass – and it smells pretty great too – i’m not even gonna finish this one. sorry brew dog.
i have one of their coffee beers in the fridge from my recent sample order, so i guess i will give them another try another day. but this one is definitely not for me. maybe their leaded beers are better?
this one poured very dark brown almost black with a small tight tan head that did not stick around very long. it is thinner in body than i want it to be but still has a smooth mouthfeel due to very compact carbonation. it has a roasty coffee aroma but it’s kinda subtle. athletic’s website says it’s a mix of medium and dark coffee roasts, and that is basically what it tastes like. a slightly sweet (but not overly so) malty backbone, a little nutty, and kind of a burnt coffee worty flavor.
i like it OK but i think i like their smooth ascent coffee brew better. (which was probably a one-off production.) I will happily drink the rest of this six pack but i would not ever need to order it again, even if it was available. (it’s currently out of stock.) sometimes it’s nice to have a little caffeine in your NA beer so this will serve that purpose for me i guess til it runs out.
so after a brief break wherein i tried hard to drink up some of the stock of NA beer that was overtaking my fridge, i got a shipment from NAbrews yesterday with six singles of new-to-me beers.
NAbrews is a reseller that has alternating stock of lots of the popular and limited release craft NA beers in the US. i am learning that it’s just not worth buying a whole six pack of something you’ve never tasted before, especially if you are paying for shipping, so sites like NAbrews let you buy singles for a premium price so you can try stuff out. (you can also buy full four or six packs too.) it’s hard to pay so much for a mixed six pack of beer, but i rationalized that if i was buying these one at a time at a bar i would have paid more. and this is really the only way for me here in new orleans to get to taste some of them, since total wine hasn’t ordered (or maybe can’t order) any of these, which were all on my list i sent to their beer buyer.
(NAbrews also has an affiliate program which they offer to anyone who makes a purchase, so, ya know, if you decide to check them out you can use my code MARGARET893 for 10% off and i get a little kickback.)
it was sweaty and hot out today walking dogs, so when i got home i wanted to try one of my new brews. i chose two roots brewing’s enough said helles, which was a fine choice to accompany my veggie burger lunch. i had to actually look up what a helles lager was to make sure i knew what it was supposed to taste like: a helles is a german-styled malty, bready beer that has a little sweetness balanced with a spicy hops that’s only mildly bitter. i’m sure i’ve drunk many in my time but it’s not a style i would necessarily think to order on the regular.
as you can see by the pic, this two roots NA version pours really nicely, a beautiful golden yellow color with a great head that lingered and laced nicely along the edge of the glass as i drank it. it has an herbal and bready aroma, and great light body – it really feels like a regular beer in my mouth. and i have to say, it is text book helles. everything i said above about what a helles should be, this is. it’s delicious, refreshing, smooth, light but complex in flavor. i don’t know how they did this but it’s no wonder they won a gold medal at the 2019 great american beer festival for this brew. and as they tout on their site, it has only 80 calories and is rich in vitamin B12 and electrolytes.
so yeah. i would drink more of this if total wine ever started carrying it, making it easier (and cheaper) to procure. aside from this helles, they have two different IPAs and just this week released their version of an NA michelada. (not something i’m interested in but definitely adventurous in the NA beer world.) i’m glad i finally got to try this and now know what the hype about this san diego-based brewery is all about.
if you’ve been following my adventures in #NAcraftbeer over the past few months, you’ll know my biggest complaint is how hard it is to find any of this stuff locally here in new orleans. total wine is pretty much it right now, in terms of buying any of the smaller craft NA breweries, though the more commercial craft and macro NA options are getting easier to find. (i.e. sam adams just the haze, brooklyn brewery special effects and lagunitas IPNA are regularly carried in local grocery stores now, next to all the heineken 0.0, bud zero, coors edge, odoul’s, sharps, buckler, etc. and heineken 0.0 and lagunitas IPNA are starting to pop up on restaurant menus and bar beer lists too. so if you like any of those, then i guess it is getting easier to find NAs. but i’m a craft beer snob and want the good stuff from the smaller indie craft breweries, so i won’t be happy until NA beers from breweries like athletic, wellbeing, bravus, rightside and ceria can be found readily around town.)
i’ve been reaching out via email and fb messenger to a bunch of the local craft breweries to find out if anyone has an NA in the pipeline. most haven’t responded to me but the few who have did indicate they are aware of the trend/buzz in the industry and are intrigued by the idea but due to equipment costs and other additional costs of brewing an NA, don’t have one scheduled anytime soon. but it was at least nice to hear it’s on their radar. (zony mash and faubourg were the two who have responded to me so far; nothing from the rest of them. as i start to make my way back out into the world, now that i’m vaccinated, i will try to stop by places in person and ask.)
earlier today i sent emails to pelican craft brands and crescent crown, two of the biggest craft beer distributors in the city. i’m not alcoholic beverage industry savvy, though, so if there are other local beer distributors i should be reaching out to, please let me know in the comments. (as far as i can tell, glazers only does wine & spirits here in new orleans, but correct me if i’m wrong.) i don’t really know any other ways to lobby those in the industry here to make more good craft NAs available to consumers, and i don’t have any clout whatsoever – i’m just a random NA beer drinker who writes a blog that no one reads – but i’m doing what i can. maybe if we all start requesting our favorites everywhere we go, we’ll make some headway.
i have however been pleasantly surprised since i started writing about NA beer how many friends and social media contacts have reached out privately or commented publicly that they too are refraining from or cutting down on alcohol and are either interested in or are already drinking NA beer! i really thought i was alone in this when i first started and i just decided to write about it to document my journey mostly for me. but i was also hoping it might be helpful to others – and maybe it has! definitely gives me a little inspiration to keep going.
but, come on y’all, do chime in and tell me what YOU are drinking? what NAs are YOU enjoying?