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As recently as a decade ago, non-alcoholic beers were nothing special. Breweries modeled most of them on mainstream lagers, the watery liquids lacking alcohol and striking flavors. If you wanted a robustly flavored booze-free beer, you were out of luck. Bars and restaurants even treated non-alcoholic beers as cursory additions to the menu, a lame-duck option amid exciting craft beer. Why order one unless you really wanted one?
Nowadays, non-alcoholic beers have gone from an afterthought to top of mind. Breweries across the country are developing new production techniques and recipes to create NA stouts, IPAs, and wheat beers that are as boldly flavored as anything containing alcohol.
Here are the best non-alcoholic beers to drink anytime you’re craving a cold one.
Best Overall: Athletic Brewing Company Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA
Athletic might be America’s most essential non-alcoholic brewery. Since it's launch in 2018, the Connecticut-based brewery has consistently released some of the most compelling non-alcoholic beer we’ve ever sampled, including the roasty All Out Stout, clean and floral Upside Dawn Golden Ale, and almost every other style of beer you can conjure. The secret is a proprietary brewing process that dampens alcohol production while retaining the massive and memorable flavors that customers expect craft beer to deliver.
Athletic offers many limited-edition beers that fast sell out online—the company expanded to a San Diego brewery in 2020 to meet demand—but we’re still big fans of the year-round Run Wild. It weaves rich malt character with American hops to create a pleasantly bitter IPA that, well, might just make you go wild.
Best Craft: Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects Hoppy Amber
Brooklyn Brewery is betting big on non-alcoholic beer with its Special Effects line. The brewery developed a unique approach to fermentation that promotes the development of flavor and fragrance, sans alcohol, allowing it to create character-filled non-alcoholic beers, such as the super-citrusy Special Effects IPA (think limeade, hold the extra sugar). We love the Special Effects Hoppy Amber, a clean-drinking lager reminiscent of pine, fresh toast, and a touch of black tea. It’s a great anytime beer, but we’re partial to lunchtime engagements with wood-fired pizza and crunchy salads crowned with grilled chicken.
Best IPA: Lagunitas Brewing Company IPNA
Lagunitas is one of America’s most important IPA makers. The California brewery helped define the style with its citrusy and grippingly bitter flagship IPA. Lagunitas spent more than a year refining the recipe for IPNA, its first non-alcoholic beer, using a mix of Pacific Northwest hops and malt from Canada and the U.K. to create a heady aroma of pine needles and citrus pith. Douglas Watters, the founder of Spirited Away, a New York City shop specializing in non-alcoholic wine, spirits, cocktails, and beer, likes the “clean taste, full body, and noticeably hoppy aroma. A Lagunitas NA IPA is a long time coming, and I think they nailed it.”
Best Fruit: Clausthaler Grapefruit NA Beer
Since 1979, Germany’s Clausthaler has created highly flavorful non-alcoholic beers using a patented brewing process that develops a minimal amount of alcohol. Last year, the brewery released this 50/50 blend of its original lager and grapefruit juice, resulting in a brightly citrusy beverage that you can sip by the bottle or slip into a Champagne flute for a bubbly brunch drink. It’s suited for Sunday mornings or sunny afternoons by a pool.
Best Stout: Bravus Brewing Company NA Oatmeal Stout
Bravus makes a wide range of non-alcoholic beers, including a tart and fruity raspberry gose, piney IPA, and lime-scented Mexican-style lager. Watters is a big fan of the brewery’s Oatmeal Stout, especially when the weather breaks cold.
“I’m a sucker for dark beer during the dark months,” he says.
The roasty Oatmeal Stout is a great substitute for fans of Guinness, flaunting hints of chocolate and caramel—a really good dessert without the sweetness. The stout is “extremely smooth and delightfully refreshing,” Watters says.
Best German: Einbecker Brauherren Non-Alcoholic Beer
Einbecker is one of Germany’s oldest breweries, its beer-making origins dating back to the 14th century. The brewery’s stock and trade are lagers, such as its best-selling beer pilsner—golden-toned with a gorgeous grassy scent and agreeable bitterness. The non-alcoholic version is nearly a carbon copy of the original, offering the signature snappiness and bitter bite, but none of the alcohol. This is a great beer to sip while watching sports and snacking on something salty and crisp.
Best Wheat: WellBeing Brewing Company Heavenly Body Golden Wheat
WellBeing founder Jeff Stevens knows firsthand how hard it was to find a quality non-alcoholic beer. He quit drinking in his early 20s, later spending several decades working in marketing for the beer and spirits industries. He launched WellBeing in St. Louis in early 2018, releasing non-alcoholic beers, such as Hellraiser, a “hop-forward amber with the perfect balance of floral aroma and spicy hops,” Watters says.
“This clean, crisp ale easily stands alongside classic American wheat beers like Widmer Hefe and Blue Moon,” he says. “The smooth, dry body makes it a deeply satisfying pint.”
Best Lager: Two Roots Brewing Co. Enough Said NA Lager
“Few non-alcoholic beers are as true to their full-strength equivalent as Enough Said,” says Allyn. The Southern California brewery’s “damn refreshing” Helles-style German lager is “perfect in every respect except alcohol,” Allyn says. “It captures the clean cracked barley and fresh bread aroma of the pale lager style, while also matching the kiss of hops that add a spicy layer without the bigger bitterness of a pilsner.”
Fun fact: Two Roots also makes a range of nonalcoholic beers infused with THC.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Joshua M. Bernstein, the author of this piece, knows beer. He’s written five books on the subject, as well as articles for The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Men’s Journal, and Imbibe. He interviewed two beer experts for this article.