Blake Dowling: NA beer cheer is here
Aluminum can of non-alcoholic beer.

Beer can.
While geometry never made any sense, NA beer does

In high school, I remember saying something like this: “Non-alcoholic beer makes about as much sense as geometry.”

I think my geometry teacher can confirm I knew nothing about math, and I also knew nada about beer. Anything in a bottle was high class, and I considered Keystone Light and Rolling Rock to be elite labels in those days. In hindsight, I suppose in that era I did not know much about anything.

Fast forward from the halls of Maclay School in the 1990s to post-pandemic. I consumed enough beer for a lifetime in 2020. Thick, heavy beers, like Big Nose from Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville and LaLa Land from Proof here in Tallahassee. We put in an outdoor TV, and it was often beer-o’clock at Dowling Sports Bar Patio and Pub.

By 2021, I think I had tasted every IPA on earth. It was a hoppy awesome ride. Some of the finds were delicious, some awful and everything in between. Those ABV (alcohol) percentages also were all over the place, from double digits to less than 4%, like Terrapin Station’s Recreation Ale, which is still one of my faves. Perhaps 12% beer is overkill?

As 2021 dawned, I thinketh it would be a good time for a fresh perspective.

Put down the IPAs. Shed some pounds, maybe even hit the gym once or twice for good measure. The post-pandemic awakening, we will call it. Two friends mentioned to me that some great NA beers were being made and I started stocking the fridge with those low-cal and non-alcoholic beers.

The last time I looked there was one NA beer on the market, O’Doul’s, and it tasted like hoppy Windex.

These days, Athletic Brewery, Bud, Peroni, Corona, Coors, Guinness, Heineken, & Sam Adams all have NA options.

The global NA beer market is now in the billions thanks to this wave of choices. In the U.S. one of these beers mentioned above, Athletic, is responsible for over half the NA beer sales domestically. They have rocketed to the top since they opened their doors in 2017.

How did they achieve “near beer” market dominance in the blink of an eye? Simple. Their products are awesome. I know this because I am a customer and specifically, their Vacation Reminder IPA just came in the other day and it is superb. Athletic also has memberships, so they are shipping something to your house every month, ready or not. No trip to the store, low calories, winning. You can read and listen to their meteoric rise here.

Here in the Sunshine State, we have some breweries also focusing on alcohol-free offerings. Leader Brewing is one of those and I sat down on the virtual bar stool with owner Max Green (who served 12 years as a Marine — thank you for your service) and let him tell his story.

“The idea for Leader Brewing started in 2019 and we opened for business in April 2022. I have been a craft beer enthusiast for most of my adult life. I loved the variety of the styles, home-brewed my own batches over the years, and just appreciated the culture that American craft breweries brought above and beyond the typical drinking scene.

“About six years ago though, I decided to take a break from alcohol. I felt at that point that the everyday drinking was keeping me from being my best, at work, at home, everywhere. I wanted to sleep better, get in better shape, be more capable of handling the hectic schedule of the modern adult. So I stopped drinking and it was fantastic. It took a little getting used to the habits of having a drink after getting home from work or socially hanging out for happy hour with friends, but it improved my life immensely. Once I got past the fear of missing out, I didn’t feel the need for alcohol.

“I did start to drink the European non-alcoholic beers to replace the alcoholic ones, but after a while, I realized that I missed the variety that American craft beer gives us. All European NAs are the same light lagers, which are good, but they’re the same. I wanted something with more hops punch. I wanted a good roasty stout and a malty amber ale. Those didn’t exist.

“When I started looking to see if any American NA was out there, I found a couple of startups, ordered online, gave them a try and thought, not bad. Not great, but not bad. But it did get my home-brewer mind going to start researching how to make non-alcoholic beer and begin experimenting. After a while, I realized this was a real possibility, both technically and financially, and began building the brewery. ”

 The Leader beers are available all over Florida and you need to pick some up or check out their tasting room in Palm Bay in person.

Mrs. Dowling shows off her Leader Brewery gear as she celebrates nine months of being alcohol-free — nice work Jeanne, you are awesome and inspiring.

The Leader beers have military terms in the names, like Tracer Fire and Night Strike, and the one I tasted was called Carpet Bomb. My review is as follows. The ale gleamed with hints of mulberry, and elegant whisper of pine, and baked honey as if brewed off a moist fig leaf at dawn.

Just kidding.

No highbrow reviews here.

It was awesome. It tasted like beer. Really good beer. Comparable to any alcohol-fueled IPA.

Max Green, owner of Florida based Leader Brewing. Image supplied.

For those of you aged 40 and above, we have seen some crazy evolution/revolutions in the beer industry in our lifetime. We had a couple of major brands in the 1980s (kind of like TV channels — ABC/CBS — Coors/Budweiser). From a broader view in the 1900s, where there was light everything, platinum this or that, Icehouse, to a revolution of options in the 2000s to today’s market, where there is something for everyone, including tasty NA options.

While geometry never made any sense (thank you for trying, Mrs. Obrecht), NA beer does. I bet you would be shocked how many people are cutting back or putting down booze these days.

Even more shocking, some of these brews have better flavor than their high-octane counterparts. The 1992 me does not approve or endorse any of these statements — but he was not that bright, anyway.

To my friends Sharp and Gleason, thank you, as you two gents were the first to mention these options to me. Nice job by you and cheers to the near-beer revolution.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies; he can be reached at [email protected]

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at www.aegisbiztech.com


2 comments

  • Defund Florida dot org

    February 10, 2024 at 5:53 am

    Are you for real, Peter?

    Running ads as an article?

    NA beer? You know, of course, 2% beer was actually water in Europe for the 1600-1900s. Lacking clean water delivered reliably, they even had it for children because it was more pure than water.

  • Math Made His Head Hurt 🧮

    February 10, 2024 at 5:55 am

    From a person that admits he doesn’t know all 26 numbers, maybe alcohol-avoidance is the right choice.

Comments are closed.


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