New year, no booze? Broken Bow, other brewers are making non-alcoholic beers

·4 min read

Dry January can be a tough slog for beer lovers, but some local breweries are providing abstaining sippers with flavor-forward options.

Just as breweries sought to build big, bold IPAs not long ago, several are now focused on mastering alcohol-free brews.

Broken Bow Brewery of Tuckahoe introduced a non-alcoholic (NA) pilsner and an IPA around the middle of 2021, available on tap, and plans to put the brews in cans in the near future.

“It’s a good way to not only have a new product, but also to speak to different people and different crowds,” said Kasey Schwartz, head brewer at Broken Bow. “People that don’t want to drink alcohol or can’t drink alcohol, and want something refreshing in the middle of the day.”

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Brewer Kasey Schwartz at Broken Bow  Brewery in Tuckahoe. Broken Bow introduced a non-alcoholic (NA) pilsner and an IPA in 2021.
Brewer Kasey Schwartz at Broken Bow Brewery in Tuckahoe. Broken Bow introduced a non-alcoholic (NA) pilsner and an IPA in 2021.

A stroll through the aisles at beer retailer Half Time in Mamaroneck displays just how vast the market is getting. The offerings range from global brews such as Heineken 0.0, Coors Edge and O’Douls, to craftier alcohol-free counterparts from the likes of Lagunitas, Brooklyn Brewery and Brewdog.

Half Time is selling “tons” of NA beer, according to Adam Wolloch, director of purchasing. In fact, the brews have outgrown their display space and will soon move into a more expansive aisle. “The pandemic gave [the NA trend] its legs, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon,” said Wolloch.

Indeed, many quaffers turned to NA beer (while it is called non-alcoholic, an NA beer typically has a trace amount of alcohol) during the pandemic, when they found they were simply drinking too much booze.

Non-alcoholic beers for sale at Half Time in Mamaroneck.
Non-alcoholic beers for sale at Half Time in Mamaroneck.

“They saw it as a way to cope, to be honest, with some of the challenges of the pandemic,” said Ted Fleming, founder of the Canadian NA brewery called Partake. “People started to experiment and switched to non-alcoholic.”

Drafting up plans

Among area breweries, managers at Captain Lawrence of Elmsford and Wolf & Warrior of White Plains mentioned considering an NA beer debut this year. Calls to Defiant Brewing of Pearl River, Soul Brewing of Pleasantville and Sing Sing Kill of Ossining did not reveal NA plans.

Brewing a non-alcoholic beer has its challenges. Brewers can either produce a traditional beer, then use machinery to filter out the alcohol, or deploy what is known as arrested fermentation in the brewing process to complete the beer before the alcohol sets in. Broken Bow uses the former method, and Schwartz called it “pretty time intensive and pretty labor intensive too.”

Beer journalist Joshua M. Bernstein, whose books include "Drink Better Beer," mentioned third-party outfits that produce NA beers for a brewery, either setting up their Wonka-esque machinery onsite, or brewing on behalf of the brewery at their own site. This allows smaller breweries to get in the NA game.

“In 2022, you’re going to see almost any style out there be made into NA,” Bernstein said.

All NA, all the time

Athletic Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut only produces non-alcoholic beers.
Athletic Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut only produces non-alcoholic beers.

A handful of breweries around the globe produce only NA beer. Along with Partake, they include Athletic Brewing, with breweries in Stratford, Connecticut and San Diego, California; and Bravus Brewing in Anaheim, California.

Fleming launched Partake in 2017 after he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. NA beers at the time lacked “variety and excitement,” he said, so he set up a brewery that produces alcohol-bereft IPAs, blonde ales and stouts.

Consumers of NA beers are changing, too. “It used to be, you’re in the [NA] category because you had to be,” Fleming said. “Today, it’s so much different. A lot of people don’t have to be in the category, but they choose to be.”

Partake plans on producing over 40,000 barrels of NA beer this year, twice as much as last year.

Athletic Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut only produces non-alcoholic beers.
Athletic Brewing Company in Stratford, Connecticut only produces non-alcoholic beers.

Athletic launched in 2018. The NA market at the time did not resemble the bold and creative craft beer market, said co-founder Bill Shufelt. “It was the same dusty bottles that had been around for 30 or 40 years,” he said.

Athletic cranked out over 100,000 barrels last year. Brews include the Run Wild IPA and Upside Dawn golden ale. Athletic consumers are evenly split between men and women, said Shufelt, and 80% also drink alcohol.

Schwartz is curious to see how Broken Bow’s NA offerings fare when they are available in cans. She suspects they’ll sell.

“I definitely have been seeing, even among my own friends, that people are turning to those products for health reasons or calories, or they just want to enjoy the beer but don’t really enjoy the alcohol,” she said. As a brewer, “I drink beer all day. I like the flavor, but I don’t actually want the alcohol.”

Michael Malone is a Hudson Valley freelance writer. Contact him at metro@lohud.com

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Where to find non-alcoholic craft beer for Dry January

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