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’ve been doing this NA beer thing since november so have drunk a LOT of it by now – 33 different kinds, to be exact! (good thing NAs tend to have a lot fewer calories/carbs than regular beer!)
i thought maybe a top 10 list was in order. i am finding that my opinion of some of these brews changes over time and upon repeated consumption, perhaps differing greatly from my first impression. i’m making this list for my own purposes, to refer to when restocking once i drink through all that i already have. and of course, there’s still so much i have NOT sampled – this is just a “faves so far” list.
i’m offering these in no particular order. i like different beers for different reasons at different times and though i might really LOVE a particular beer, it might not be the style that i want to drink a lot of or often. or conversely, the beer i grab most often might not be the one i think is the absolute best beer, it’s just the easiest to drink or the one that fits more moods/situations. for right now, from all i have tasted, this would be my top 10:
we’ll see how these hold up over time. i mean, the trailblazer and irish red are not always available, so that might limit my ability to keep drinking them. and i might break down and order some samples from some of the breweries i’ve yet to try, so next list might be totally different.
here’s my top current wants that i haven’t tried yet:
there are a few others on the want list as new NAs keep appearing in the wild, but i’m pretty happy with what i’ve been able to sample so far. i sure hope when things return to more “normal” times that i can find some of this deliciousness on local bar/restaurant menus so i can stop stockpiling them at home – i only feel compelled to do so since they are all so hard to find. or maybe one (or more) of my local craft breweries will jump into the NA game. a girl can dream!
but i finally just did and i’m here to report that i really do think it was a freshness issue with the stock at total wine. because one of the new fresh ones they sent (see date stamp pic above) tastes fine, delicious even. i get a good slightly sweet aroma that is the hallmark bravus smell (what is that?!!!), but it’s not bad here. it’s balanced. i get a whiff of caramel, a little coffee, a little chocolate, a little nutty. it’s smooth and creamy, subtle well-distributed carbonation. had a nice head on it when poured though didn’t stick around long. it’s a rich dark brown almost black color you’d expect for an oatmeal stout. i’m not really getting the oatmeal very much, but it’s a good complex flavor that reads stout. they compare it to a guinness on their website but it’s a little sweeter than a guinness; but it’s yummy and shares a lightness and easy drinkability with it.
so check those date stamps and don’t buy it if it’s not fresh! (this is the hazard of being in a market where NAs are not turning over quickly at retail. also the offending cans did not have a date stamp so i had no idea how old it was.) again, thanks to bravus customer service for sending me replacement beers so i could clear their good name.
when i ordered from rightside brewery recently i got one six of their citrus wheat, which i’ve already exclaimed my delight about, but i also got a six of their IPA to share with a friend. i kept two of them even though i was not expecting to like them, but i’m trying to expand my palette and for the sake of having more things to write about i figured i’d give it a go. i have now drunk both of them and neglected to take a picture of the pour both times because they were both at night while i was socializing and i forgot. so here’s an artsy pic of the can. (my living room is my “studio” so excuse the mess.)
in both sampling situations i drank this IPA following one of their citrus wheats, which maybe wasn’t the best plan. i feel like it set me up to be disappointed because i love the citrus wheat so much and find it to have a delicious complex, refreshing flavor profile. this one simply did not read IPA to me at all. i didn’t smell a strong hops aroma; it was similar to the citrus wheat but maybe just a tad more of the hops and less of the tropical. flavor-wise, it was not as complex as the citrus wheat, seemed thinner and simpler, not as interesting. and the flavor weirdly evaporated as soon as it hit my throat. so i guess if you’re looking for a lighter beer, maybe this would work for you. it was fine as a second beer in both situations but it was noticeable to me how different it was than their other beer and i don’t think i’ll be buying it again. (i will however be placing another order for two sixes of the citrus wheat! that’s gonna be my summer beer!)
i just got home from walking dogs all morning and it’s a beautiful spring day outside, warm but not hot with a cool breeze. my landlord was fixing my wooden gate that leads to my apartment around the back of the house. the gate fell off one of its hinges yesterday, making it hard to open/shut, so i was glad to see him working on it. we had a lovely chat. i came home to the delivery of my latest impulse purchase from athletic brewing – the irish red (no longer available, one of the pilot program brews) – so a few of those went right into the fridge. but i was dreaming of a beer on the way home, so i decided to pop something that was already cold but new to me, the bravusblonde.
hmm. i’m not quite sure what i think of this beer. i am quickly realizing that all bravus beers have a unique and common aroma/taste that i can’t quite put my finger on – is that the hops they use? the malt? something about their brewing process to achieve non-alcoholic beer? i really don’t know. i’m not skilled enough of a taster to isolate or know what it is. all i know is that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. in the case of the peanut butter stout, it REALLY works. in the case of the oatmeal stout, it sometimes works but appears to be a delicate balancing act that can go horribly wrong. in this blonde, i’m not sure if it works.
it poured a nice light golden color (they call it straw yellow but that doesn’t seem very complimentary) and had a little sudsy head to it. i get a little sour, funky smell that isn’t really pleasant to me. upon taking a sip, it’s pretty thin and the carbonation is light, so mouthfeel is a little weak but it is smooth. i’m getting a little citrus (though that might just be that i ate an orange when i first came home and the acidity is still in my mouth), a little banana (though not much). it’s got a light malty sweetness to it. i can’t quite decide if i like this or not. it’s not so bad that i won’t drink it but i’m not sure i will feel like i want to reach for this again anytime soon. and i feel like “blonde” as a descriptor doesn’t really work because this doesn’t taste like any blonde beer i’ve ever had before… though i really don’t know what i would call it.
i’m grateful i had a chance to try it. maybe i will experiment with mixing this with their raspberry gose and see what happens! but i don’t think, on its own, that this beer is for me.
i wrote about my weird experience with bravus brewing‘s oatmeal stout in a previous post, the upshot of which is that after contacting customer service, they had me send back some of it that i thought was off and sent me a mix-pack of fresh beer to replace it: 2 oatmeal, 2 blonde and 2 peanut butter stout, so i could try some of their brews i can’t find locally in stores. well it arrived today and i promptly put it in the fridge to chill.
8 hours later and i am currently enjoying their peanut butter stout enormously! i’ve read so many great reviews of this beer, and i am totally a stout person and have yet to have a really satisfying NA stout experience, so i’m really psyched to finally try it and love it so much. (i love athletic’s all out stout but it doesn’t really compare to this one in richness and body/mouthfeel. it almost reads more like a porter to me.)
as you can see in the pic, this beer pours a nice dark brown almost black color with a good head that gives off an amazing sweet peanut butter/chocolate aroma. the carbonation and body of this beer is appropriate for a stout, though probably not quite as thick as an alcoholic one. but pretty good for an NA, especially since it does NOT have lactose in it. the flavor is really rich – creamy, chocolatey, a little hazlenut in with the peanut butter. i was worried it would be overly sweet but i don’t find it to be at all. it’s just right, though i would certainly classify this a dessert beer and probably couldn’t drink more than one in a sitting. i can hardly believe it only has 106 calories cuz it sure tastes like it has a lot more!
i’m looking forward to trying (another night) the fresh oatmeal stout that they sent me, to see if i have a different experience than the last ones i had to send back to them. i wonder if it’s just a freshness issue? (the ones I sent back were purchased at total wine, so who knows how long they’d been there – i can’t find any dates on the cans.) i did notice when i first opened the can and smelled it, i did get a very faint whiff of the smell that turned me off so hard on the brews i sent back. but that whiff did not convert to a taste when i took my first sip, and the other aromas quickly overpowered that faint smell. so not sure what that is – the hops? the malt? i dunno. but it’s like the ones i thought were “off” were really unbalanced, and that nasty smell and taste just overtook the rest of the beer. i’m really hoping they tell me what they find when they get those beers back so i can understand more what it was that went wrong. but drinking this one tonight confirmed to me that something was not quite right about those beers, so i’m glad they let me send them back and grateful they replaced it with some delicious fresh beer!
so thanks brendan, at bravus customer support! i will certainly be buying more of this peanut butter stout!
no new NA beers to sample this weekend since the stump jump and cerveza atletica arrived, but i have plenty to keep me busy. (my kitchen floor is littered with NA beer stock cuz i can only fit so much in the fridge at one time!) i did end up buying a six pack of the partake pale at total wine as i liked it enough to want to drink more of it. they were out of a lot of things and didn’t have anything new, so that’s all i got.
my friend allison went out there and asked at customer service for them to order brew dog NAs, and they said they would. (i hope they get the wake up call and nanny state, though i’m sure she asked them for the ipas cuz that’s what she drinks.) so maybe that is the route i will take in the future, instead of trying to find the beer manager who never seems to be available when i go. i’m gonna make a list and ask them to order a bunch of stuff because it will be cheaper for me to buy from them than ordering it online. (they need to restock wellbeing amber and coffee cream stout, and add their victory wheat; i’d love it if they added bravus peanut butter stout and blonde to the other bravus beers they already carry; and it would be great to be able to sample NA offerings from untitled art (mostly interested in the chocolate stout), two roots (helles), sober carpenter (blonde, white, red), gruvi (peach pie ale, stout, lager, pale ale), big drop (pale and stout) and ceria (i’m interested in the belgian white but they also have an ipa that would probably do well). i know, it’s asking a lot. but if i don’t ask, they’ll probably never order it and i know all of those are carried at other total wines around the country so they shouldn’t have trouble getting them.
meanwhile, i always look at every new retail food/drink store i’m in to see what they have. this past week: target doesn’t carry ANY NA at all; neither does the random circle k by tulane, though they have a pretty extensive beer cooler; lakeview grocery had minimal macro offerings and the lagunitas IPNA was randomly stuck in the middle of the alcoholic section next to the other lagunitas stuff; and i went back in to rouses on carrollton just to see if i could find the beer buyer (wasn’t there). this pic below is of their sad NA section.
however, i do have several new brews on the way to me. i couldn’t resist ordering the athletic st. patrick’s day offering of an irish red, which is one of the pilot brews; i’m not a big red drinker but i’m looking for variety right now.
i also “discovered” rightside brewing, randomly, from a post in one of the NA fb groups i’m in. i’d heard the name before but hadn’t been curious until a link to an interview with the founder/owner was posted. turns out it’s a woman-owned brand and southern, out of atlanta, georgia. they have a great website with a blog that tells the story of the beer/company and offers inspirational and informational posts. how could i not support this business? so i immediately ordered a six pack of each of their citrust wheat and ipa, as they are smartly offering the two six packs = free shipping promotion that is quickly becoming the standard in the NA beer world. i’ll let ya know what I think when they get here.
the other thing that happened was that i reached out to bravus brewing‘s customer support after my experience revisiting their oatmeal stout left me confused as to whether my taste buds had just done an about face on their beer, or if it was a bad batch. they immediately wrote back, offering to give me a pre-paid return label if i’d send them back some of the beer in question. i’d bought two four packs so i tried some from both and both tasted off to me, so i sent back two of each. i mentioned how i was hoping to try some of their other beers (pb stout and blonde) and they offered to send me a free fresh mix pack of oatmeal, pb stout and blonde to try! now THAT’S customer service! so that is also on the way. i hope they don’t get the beers i sent back and tell me there is nothing wrong with them, cuz that would just mean a) my taste buds are wack, and b) i don’t like their beer. but i will remain hopeful until i try them.
ok, that’s all i got for this week. and yes, i am clearly obsessed at this point and this is becoming quite an expensive habit. but i’m also not spending nearly as much money as i used to on food and due to the pandemic i never go out and spend money in bars or restaurants or anywhere else, so i figure it’s ok for now. and at some point, when i’ve sampled all these beers, i will know which ones i like enough to want to keep on hand and it will be a much smaller number of beers. but for now it’s a fun adventure that takes my mind off this fucked up world we are living in and at least feels like a semi-healthy choice to be making in my recuperation.
i’ve been at this non-alcoholic beer exploration for about four months now, with mixed results. i keep thinking i’ve found 5-star beer choices *for me* (cuz everyone’s taste buds are different), but then when i go back and try the same beer a few weeks later, i’m experiencing that beer in a totally different (and usually more unpleasant) way.
the latest example of this was last night with bravus brewing‘s oatmeal stout. i’d bought a bunch of singles at total wine in metairie a few weeks ago, so i could sample a bunch of different NA beers without having to buy full six packs in case i didn’t like it. and bravus’ oatmeal stout was one of them.
my experience drinking it then was a great one. i thought it tasted remarkably like a “real” stout, was full bodied, slightly sweet, and didn’t have any kind of weird aroma or aftertaste, as some NA brews do. “a little chocolatey, a hint of coffee and lots of creamy dark goodness,” i said in my IG review in the moment. i thought i’d found a winner!
i then spent the next several weeks trying to find more of it to purchase to have on hand in the fridge to drink, but total wine was out of stock and nowhere else in town had it. (i will make a whole ‘nother post about my retail adventures seeking out NA beer and talking to beer managers here in new orleans.) i contemplated purchasing online but bravus only gives free shipping if you buy a case and i wasn’t convinced i liked enough of their beers to mix and match a case; i really wanted to try their peanut butter stout but prefer to get a single to sample it before investing in a lot of it. and purchasing less than a case at a time means paying crazy shipping charges, making the beer very expensive. so i just kept holding off on the mail order, hoping the oatmeal stout would come back in stock at total wine.
yesterday was my lucky day – i drove out after work in the mid afternoon on a whim. they hadn’t restocked everything i wanted (wellbeing brews, aside from their IPA, were still out of stock and my total wine doesn’t carry big drop or ceria or any of the other new breweries i want to sample), but the bravus oatmeal and raspberry gose which i also had liked were back in stock. so i got 2 four-packs of the oatmeal stout and one of the gose, plus a few more random singles to test out.
i had one of the goses as soon as it cooled down in the fridge – it wasn’t ice cold like i like it but it wasn’t warm either; it was sufficiently cold for drinking. this time the aroma was more overpowering than i remembered and the extremeness of both the sweet and the tart were magnified, making me enjoy it a little less than i had before. it almost felt like i was drinking a kombucha! i still drank it and i think i will enjoy drinking the others in the right circumstances, but it’s not an everyday kinda brew.
later in the evening, after i’d had some food (though the taste of the gose was still on my palette a bit i have to admit), i cracked open one of the oatmeal stouts. i let it sit for a while to warm up and air out, and for my food to digest a bit more. but when i finally went in for a taste, the aroma really overwhelmed me! i’m not great at identifying smells with much specificity but it was a weird off-putting smell. someone in one of my facebook groups described it as sour or beets/vegetables, and i can’t say i disagree with that. it was definitely not what i was expecting – for an oatmeal stout i expect something more sweet or at least malty or grainy. and i couldn’t taste any of the chocolate or nuttiness i had previously with this beer. i kept drinking it thinking it would get better but it did not. the taste was tainted by the overpowering smell and i can’t say i enjoyed it all that much.
i will give it another shot perhaps with a clean palette and a glass that i don’t have to stick my nose down into to drink. (i was dog sitting so had to use the glassware on hand instead of a regular pint glass, which i usually use.) and maybe i just have to accept more inconsistency with batches of the non-alcoholic brews, because without alcohol as a preservative, i imagine it’s much harder to keep things consistent. i dunno. i’ll report back next time i try it. but i’m pretty bummed since i still have 7 of these to get through.
more NA beer reviews! these are the fourth and fifth beers from my singles purchase last week at total wine. yesterday i had the bravus brewing oatmeal stout and it was delicious! a little chocolate-y, a hint of coffee and lots of creamy dark goodness. maybe a little sweeter than i anticipated but it went down very smoothly. will definitely buy some of these the next time i see a six pack.
and then just now i decided to try their raspberry gose. this is not a style of beer that i generally like though i’ve had a couple that were ok. but i’d read some really good reviews of this one so i gave it a shot and was delightfully surprised that i actually really loved it. it doesn’t really taste like a beer and not at all like the goses i have had, but it’s a really delicious refreshing drink. the sweetness and tartness of raspberries is balanced very well here. it’s likely to be a favorite in the summer months or anytime i want something fruity, crisp and light.
so two thumbs up for bravus brewing here! now if i can just get my hands on their peanut butter stout which I’ve read nothing but good things about i will be a happy woman. hopefully my total wine in metairie will start stocking it soon. going to have to make friends with their beer manager to make some suggestions.