I really enjoy a nice beer. However, I don’t enjoy how having a beer or two impacts me. Anytime I have a beer:
- I get sleepy and stay sleepy for a couple of hours.
- If I finish the beer within ~4 hours of bedtime, it will disrupt my sleep. I’ll go to sleep quickly (see point 1) but after a few hours I’ll wake up and have a hard time getting back to sleep.
- I feel fuzzy and drowsy the next day. This may just be due to not sleeping very well or a lingering effect of the alcohol. I’m not sure and I don’t think the distinction matters.
For all these reasons and more, I don’t think habitual drinking is a healthy choice for me. However, I do just enjoy having a beer at the end of the day. As a result, I’ve found myself cycling back and forth between having a beer or two a few times a week versus deciding it’s not a good habit and going dry for a bit.
Enter Non-Alcoholic Beer
Prior to the last few months my only exposure to non-alcoholic beer was O’Doul’s. In the past, I’d seen non-drinking friends have an O’Doul’s in a setting where others were drinking. Intrigued, I’d tried O’Doul’s many years ago, but not been very impressed. I didn’t know anything else about non-alcoholic brews, so I had never given them much thought.
However, recently I’ve been listening to the Freetrail podcast with Dylan Bowman and non-alcoholic breweries like Athletic Brewing and Best Day Brewing have taken to sponsoring the podcast. This got me wondering about the taste of these beverages and I decided to give non-alcoholic (NA) brews a try.
Dipping My Toes in the NA Water
I first tried ordering from Athletic Brewing but quickly learned that Georgia is one of a handful of states where it appears you can’t ship beer (even NA beer) directly to consumers. Next I headed to Ingles, the local grocer with the largest beer selection. However, the options were quite limited. They did have a handful of NA options, but they were just the bare minimum basics: Heineken 0.0, O’Doul’s, St Pauli, etc. I gave them a try anyway. The Heineken I found to be ok, the rest were forgettable and didn’t do much for me.
Next, I noticed that a local package store carried Athletic Brewing, so I stopped in to check them out and discovered that they have at least a couple dozen different NA options in their beer cooler which I’ve been slowly sampling. It’s been a revelation.
I’ve tried several different varieties of Athletic Brewing NA beers, a few options by a Georgia-based brewery: Rightside Brewing, and most recently a few NA options from Clausthaler. These brews have been head-and-shoulders better than any of the mainstream options I found at Ingles. I’ve enjoyed some really solid and full-flavored brews and I’m excited to sample the rest of the options in the NA section.
NA Beer Works for Me
NA beer is never going to taste just like regular beer. It’s missing a key ingredient! If you insist that NA beer must taste exactly like regular beer, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed.
However, approached with an open mind and with the intent of enjoying the drink for what it is, I’ve found that good NA beers, like those made by Athletic Brewing, Rightside, and Clausthaler, scratch the specific itch that regular beers also scratch. At the end of the day, I can crack open one of these delicious NA beers and they have the same effect of helping me unwind while I enjoy a robust, complex, delicious brew, all without the drowsiness, loss of sleep, and next-day fuzziness regular beer hoists on me.
I’ll still have a regular beer on occasion. In particular, if I’m out to dinner or at some other kind of event I may have a beer or two. But NA beers have proven to be a great replacement for the post-work relaxation ritual. They bring all of the vibe I’m looking for without the baggage.