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 am so excited to finally try this beer! shipping was pretty quick compared to a lot of the other breweries i’ve been ordering from online – probably because it came from atlanta, closer to me than most of the others. i ordered a six of each of the citrus wheat and the IPA – not because i like IPAs (though i do want to try it, just out of curiosity) but because i got it for a friend who likes IPAs and has started dipping her toes into the NA craft beer world since she just found out she’s pregnant. (emree woods, the founder of this brewery, started rightside cuz she was looking for a good NA beer to drink when she was pregnant with her first child, so it seemed appropriate!) i’ll be curious to hear what she thinks.
i really like their logo and colors and their overall bright, sunny branding. (if you haven’t checked out their blog on their website, you should cuz it’s full of empowering and inspirational posts, while also discussing their brewing process and the launch of the company. and look at that cute handwritten note! nice touch, really.
it pours a really gorgeous golden orange color with a pretty good head that gives off a slightly tropical aroma. nice body, not as thin as i expected it to be, but smooth and goes down easy with a crisp finish. i shoulda put a wedge of orange on there! (i even had oranges!) oh well, next time. i gotta say, this beer has a lot more going on than i expected from a wheat NA. i think this is gonna be a spring-summer favorite for me. definitely feels like i could drink a couple of these at a time, which i don’t always feel about many NA beers i’ve tried. (i think the beer dudes call that “crushable.” lol)
i think i only have one more new-to-me beer to test out, after the rightside IPA, that is en route to me via UPS. (athletic‘s trailblazer.) probably won’t be til next week sometime. then i need to not order any more beer for a while and just drink what i already have! it’s fun testing out all these new brews but my bank account can’t sustain this level of support for the NA craft beer industry. i really only drink one beer a night – two if i’m really adventuresome – so what i have in my kitchen should last me for a while.
but next i wanna get serious about trying to figure out how to get more local retail and maybe even some of my favorite bars to stock some of these. (yes, my organizer brain is kicking in.) cuz once things open back up more and more folks (including me) are fully vaccinated, i am really anxious to be back out at a bar for happy hour again! and while i might be tempted to have one alcoholic beer just to see how i do with it physically – i’ve really been CRAVING second line brewing‘s coffee blonde, one of my all-time favorites – i want to be able to moderate with some delicious tasting NAs too. to me, that would be the ideal situation, to have access to both at my favorite hangouts. right now, that is nonexistent – the only place i can drink these yummy NAs is at home – but hopefully with a little targeted prodding, that will change.
“Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work – that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, emerged from their connection to female brewers.”
knowing this herstory really helps challenge the association of beer with men and masculinity which has become the norm in modern times. of course women were the first brewers! i’m not surprised by any of this information – fuck the patriarchy for ruining everything – but it makes me even more committed to writing about and diving deeper into the NA beer world as a woman.
it’s interesting to note that the stanford university study referenced in the article, though it is many years old (2014) and focused on the larger alcoholic craft beer industry, found “20 percent (399) had at least one female founder, of which 40 (2 percent) had an exclusively female founder(s).” it also cites “17 percent (349) had at least one female CEO — only 67 of those (3 percent) had an exclusively female CEO, the rest were co-CEOs with at least one male (typically wife/husband team).”
however, in 2019, the brewer’s association website craftbeer.com did a survey and found “only about 7.5 percent of brewers are women. The number of female staff jumps to 37 percent for women in “non-production, non-service” roles (like sales and marketing). the only area where women reach a majority is as brewery “service” staff — though at just 53 percent, it’s pretty balanced. furthermore, of the 54 percent of breweries that only had a single owner, 96 percent of those owners were male.”
these stats are pretty sad, and only get sadder when you start looking for ethnic/racial diversity as well. so i want to do what i can to lift up the women brewers, owners and other players i learn about.
in a previous post i mentioned rightside brewing, whose beer is en route to me this week, so it seems appropriate to mention it again here. it’s founder, emree woods, is not a brewer, but rather an entrepreneuer who had the idea when she was pregnant with her first child three and a half years ago. it took a while – another child and a pandemic might have slowed her down a bit – but her “third baby,” as she refers to it, is finally out in the world and i’m really looking forward to trying it!
when i posted a question wondering about other women-owned/founded NA craft breweries in the NABAS (non-alcoholic beer appreciation society) facebook group, i learned that several were co-founded by women, often with their husbands/partners or other family members: wellbeing brewery was co-founded by genevieve barlow; surreal brewing was co-founded by donna hockey; bravus brewing was co-founded by heather brandes; and gruvi brewing, co-founded by anika sawni, who also hosts a podcast about recovery called a sober girl’s guide.
i’m sure there are probably more that i don’t know about (if you know of any, tell me, cuz i’m new to this world and still learning about the players and history of the industry), but just knowing this much makes me feel like there’s maybe a slightly higher ratio of women involved in the NA craft beer world than the alcoholic one. this may be due to the fact that the NA craft beer world is smaller at the moment, but i hope it continues to be an inviting realm for more women to get involved in.
the pink boots society is one group that hopes to help more women get involved in the larger industry (not NA-specific). it was created “to assist, inspire and encourage women fermented/alcoholic beverage industry professionals to advance their careers through education,” with one specific goal to “teach women beer professionals the judging skills necessary to become beer judges at the GABF and other competitions.” their site has a lot of info on it, including some history of women and beer, a podcast, and offers scholarships to upcoming seminars on technical aspects of the industry. they even have a collaborative brew they are doing across chapters, with an exclusive hops blend. there appears to be a PBS chapter here in new orleans, so perhaps i need to check them out! i wonder if they have any NA stuff going on?
well that’s all i got for today, but i’ll keep sharing info as i learn it. happy international women’s day and women’s history month!
**edited to add: shortly after i posted this, i got the email from athletic brewing announcing their collab for international women’s day – trailblazer, a hoppy lager using the PBS 2021 hops blend, brewed by athletic brewer cara wilson, with 100% of the proceeds going to the pink boots society. i of course just ordered some.
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.