Tag Archives: stout

the na beers of 2021

what’s in my fridge right now

well as you likely noticed (or maybe no one noticed cuz i’m pretty sure no one reads this blog), at some point last year i lost steam with my non alcoholic beer reviews. i’d even made a spreadsheet and everything to keep up with all the beers i’d tried and managed to get to 70 before completely abandoning it all. (i’ve definitely tried at least a dozen more since then.)

what happened? well nothing really. i guess it just got so routine to be able to order a wide variety of na beer from various craft breweries online and have it all shipped to my door that perhaps it wasn’t as exciting as it was when i was first starting out. it also got REALLY expensive and i had to curb my habit a bit. (there was also the matter of a little hurricane called ida and its aftermath, which definitely derailed me for a few months.) but it doesn’t mean i ever stopped trying new brews or drinking my favorites, i just slowed down a bit and simultaneously stopped writing about it.

so here at the beginning of a new year, and prompted by one of my facebook na beer groups, i thought i’d do a top 10 of 2021 list. i’m not gonna rank them in order cuz that feels too hard but on the facebook group they asked for a top 5 and once i’d written it down i kept thinking of others that i thought should be on the list… so i’m just gonna go for 10.

athletic brewingcerveza athletica: i love this beer because it is smooth, light, easy drinking, malty and not hoppy, and goes great with every kind of food. to me it reads like a light amber kind of beer. abc calls it a copper. i’m really not sure why they gave it a mexican name because it does not remind me much of mexican beer (dos equis amber would be the closest but this is much better!), but whatever. i have found over the past 12 months that it is the beer i run out of fastest, that i grab for the most in the fridge, and that never disappoints me. it has even eclipsed athletic’s upside dawn as my favorite of their beers!

wellbeing brewing / 4 hands brewery – liquid rain: this collab was brewed as part of the things we don’t say IPA campaign, for a mental health/suicide prevention project called hope for the day. they call this an ipa but as with many ipas in the na world, it doesn’t taste like an ipa to me. it’s not bitter hoppy and in fact the IBU is only 10! instead it’s fruity (pineapple, peach, apricot) but not overly sweet. smooth but complex and just really unique. i was so glad they kept making this beer after the initial batch sold out as it’s been a staple in the rotation. (sadly not currently for sale on their site but i still have a few in my fridge.)

rightside brewingcitrus wheat: i love a good wheat beer and a citrus wheat even more. this one just does it for me on every count. you immediately get the citrus in the nose as soon as you pour it, and it’s got a solid malt backbone to make it smooth going down. and that color! just gorgeous. i love supporting a woman-owned brewery and a sister southerner too. (they are based outside atlanta.)

athletic brewingrainbow wall: i almost forgot about this one until i saw others putting it on their lists. rarely do i like a beer that has a bit of a bite to it but this one just worked for me. of course i loved that it donated all proceeds to an lgbtq+ group called athlete ally. and i love a blood orange beer. more of my thoughts on this beer here. really hoping they bring it back for pride month this year.

athletic brewingdave’s american dark malt: when i was drinking alcoholic beer, i always loved a dark beer. porters and stouts and black lagers were my favorites. so i was super psyched this porter turned out to be awesome. not overly sweet, a little dry, just perfectly balanced. chocolatey, hints of roasted coffee, and a low IBU = perfect for me. i think i’m on my 3rd or 4th six pack of it already. sad to see it currently out of stock.

ceria brewinggrainwave: definitely one of my staples of the year, from the brewmaster of blue moon. this non-alcoholic belgian white definitely has some blue moon vibes but isn’t a clone; it’s got its own unique thing going on. i don’t always keep it in my fridge but i sure would be delighted to find it at my fave local restaurant or bar. it pairs really nicely with all manner of food. my initial thoughts here.

mikkellerraspberry limbo: i like fruity beers but am not entirely a fan of the sour genre, so it’s hard finding one that i like or that i don’t have to cut with ginger ale. i got the opportunity to try this one thanks to NA Brews (RIP) as they sold singles and i was really glad i did. full review here but i do wish it was easier for me to get my hands on.

wellbeing brewingintrepid traveler coffee cream stout – this one is a seasonal beer only available in the winter months. this dark brew has a lot going on, including dark roasted coffee vibes (including caffeine!), cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and lactose. i have to kind of be in the right mood for it but when i am, i really love it!

wellbeing brewingvictory wheat: this beer literally got me through the hottest of the summer months. sometimes i’d bring one along with me in the car while dog walking, as it’s chock full of electrolytes, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. but also, it tastes great! thirst quenching, hydrating and delicious!

athletic brewingcream ale: this one was part of athletic’s pilot brew program and so was only available for a short time. but i really loved it and wish it was available more often. smooth, malty and refreshing, it was everything a cream ale should be, just without the alcohol. hopefully they will make this one again.

there’s probably a handful more beers i could add to this list but i will stop. can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store!

big drop – galactic extra dark (milk stout)

this has been billed as the holy grail of dark NA beers, the most stout-like, by a lot of folks. so of course i had to try it.

big drop is a UK brewery that recently opened a brewery in chicago. so far the american HQ only offers this stout, their pine trail ale which i previously reviewed, and the most recently added paradiso IPA.

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.

gruvi – stout

my first taste of this brew a week or more ago was a little disappointing, so i decided to give it a bit of time and try again before reviewing it. i am definitely finding that there is a lot of variation in how NA beers taste to me – sometimes that is a variation between batches or even cans or other issues with the actual beer, but other times i think it’s more about what other food or drink has recently been on my palate. so it’s good to not always trust my first opinion. i am having my second taste of it as i type this, accompanying my lunch of brazilian black beans. it’s a great pairing!

as a 45 calorie, 12 carb NA beer, it has the kind of mouthfeel and body you might expect. it’s a little thin, especially for something called a stout, but it’s not bad. i think the first time i had it the lack of sweetness took me by surprise – i’m kind of used to stouts being sweeter, and all of the NA stouts i’ve tried so far have been sweeter than this one. this beer has a mild nuttiness and a roasted, chocolate maltiness. definitely some coffee in there too. but i think the thing that sets it apart from other NA stouts and porters i’ve tried is its dry finish and very minimal carbonation.

i don’t really know what to compare it to as i can’t say i’ve ever had anything that tasted quite like this. and while i didn’t like it the first time, i like it ok this time around. i’m not sure i’d ever crave this or want to buy it again, but i will drink the other two in the 4 pack. and at some point down the road i might give some of gruvi’s other beers a shot. (i haven’t tried their lager or their pale ale. and the peach pie ale, currently out of stock, certainly intrigues me.)

bravus brewing – peanut butter stout

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!

bravus oatmeal stout

on sampling NA beers

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.

lesson learned, i guess.

bravus brewing – oatmeal stout and raspberry gose

copied over from my instagram:

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.

first batch of singles!

copied over from my instagram:

well my tasting adventure with the nine new single NA beers that i got yesterday started off rather disappointingly last night. during my weekly friday night zoom happy hour i decided to randomly pick a few of my new stash to try.

first was the hairless dog black ale. i’ve seen a lot of bad reviews but i wanted to try it for myself because i’ll never learn what i like and what i don’t like if i don’t sample things. but apparently all those people who hated on this brew were right! this was gross and i think the wording i used while drinking it was “garbage water.” 😂 it had a really pungent overpowering foul smell that was not in anyway enticing and sadly the taste was not much better. i had a few sips and let it sit for a while, and then came back to it but it was still bad. i couldn’t drink it so i poured that one out. (80 calories, no yeast used, basically an unfermented wort, if i’m understanding the criticisms i’m reading about it.)

next i figured i would try the surreal brewing kolsch, thinking it would be a good palate cleanser. i had read some good reviews and the brewery definitely has its fans in the facebook groups i’m in. it has an interesting but strange nose to it, some kind of subtle fruit smell. it says honeydew melon on the can but i’m not sure that’s what i was smelling. it’s not offensive but a little weird. good mouthfeel, it felt like i had a real beer in my mouth, but sadly the taste was just sort of not there. like not much taste at all. i felt like i was drinking air. i ended up drinking that one and it was fine but i’m not sure i really want another. but i guess if you are a fan of really light beer, maybe you would like this. (17 calories!!! and there is yeast in this one though i’m not exactly sure of their process.)

after that one i was really hoping partake brewing’s stout would end my evening on a high note. wah-wah. this canadian brewery has a lot of fans in the groups i’m in and maybe i was just primed for disappointment but this one didn’t work for me either. thin and fairly flat in carbonation. wasn’t offensive but as the third attempt in the evening to have a satisfying brew, it just did not deliver what i was looking for. i don’t even remember now what the flavor profile was but it was enough to make me pour it out. i would maybe give this one another try another time but definitely without much expectation. this one has 30 calories and also does use yeast.

so it was an unsatisfying evening all around. three down, six to go. hopefully some of the others are better. but at least now i know!

wellbeing brewing – intrepid traveler coffee cream brew

copied over from my instagram:

tonight’s NA beer indulgence was this delicious coffee cream stout from wellbeing brewing. i drank a little bit so i’d know what it tasted like – my kinda stout, exactly as described, creamy, coffee-y, good mouthfeel – but then decided what i really wanted was dessert. so i turned it into an ice cream float, which was really delicious!

this was right before the spoon fell down into the glass, causing an eruption of foam which spilled out all over the place, wasting perfectly good beer and ice cream and making quite a mess! too bad the second one of these from the sample pack had a can defect and leaked in the packaging, making it not drinkable. (they did refund me for it, though.) will have to wait til i can procure a six pack to drink anymore. but i will definitely have this one again!