Hop’in Around: The case for NA beer

By on May 2, 2018

Clausthaler Dry-Hopped Amber, a non-alcoholic beer made by Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei, in Germany, prides itself on bringing new innovation to NA brewing. (Photos by Michael Upton)

O’Doul’s is a joke, right? Billed as a “premium non-alcoholic beer,” the Anheuser-Busch InBev drink was introduced in 1990 and is still found on distributor shelves today. So, what gives?

Although I can’t attest for the longevity of O’Doul’s I can say with certainty that low and non-alcoholic beers are part of the future for the industry.

I first started researching NA beers last year and came across this stat: consumers drank 2.2 billion liters of non-alcoholic beer worldwide in 2012, with an increase of 80 percent over five years. Now, outlets like NBC and CNN are reporting things like, “Global consumption of traditional beer dropped in 2015 and 2016. But the market for non-alcoholic beer grew five percent in 2016.”

Last year one of my posts on Twitter @DrinkItWriteIt about NA beer got the attention of one of the world’s preeminent brewers of NA beer. I got a call from Germany.

“What we are thriving on is bringing new innovation to (NA brewing),” said Armin Buehler of Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei, makers of Clausthaler.

That innovation equals flavor. The company had decided to create an NA product, which would appeal to American craft beer fans. Clausthaler would be the brand who could do this, too. They’ve been making NA products for more than 40 years. Their beer is what is going to end up in your stein if you’re too sloshed at Oktoberfest.

“We launched Clausthaler as a mono-brand in Germany in the ‘70s. It became a success in Germany in a time when NAs where unheard of,” said Buehler.

What I wanted to know more about was their new, dry-hopped, “craft version,” NA beer. Developed using their patented brewing process the dry-hopped Amber — as it is marketed stateside — gets a healthy dose of Cascade hops.

“We went to the drawing board with our brewmasters and we came up with our dry-hopped version,” said Buehler. “We loved the taste it delivered, and we ran with it.”

So, I went and found some (outside of PA). I must tell you it’s pretty darn good. Pouring a rich amber color with an aromatic white head, this brew would pass any imbibers taste test (and has with my friends). Still an import, the dry-hopped Clausthaler retains that slightly skunky taste associated with German lagers/pilsners but is hopped enough to have a floral perception; the citrus component of the Cascade hops is miniscule. Imagine a mash up between a German pilsner and an American pale ale; this is Clausthaler Dry-Hopped Amber.

Clausthaler has an entire line of NA products. Over the past year I’ve tried my fair share of NA beers, and the Amber, by far, is the best tasting one I’ve found. I like Buckler (from Holland), too, because it’s price is almost as low as it’s alcohol content and it’s a better option than O’Doul’s … for sure.

However, as I was winding up my conversation with Buehler he mentions having tasted NA products from craft breweries in Chicago and San Diego. Really?! And the search goes on….

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

Now that the weather’s improving, beer reviewer Michael Upton has decided to get his yard in shape for the season, relaxing afterwards with a non-alcoholic Buckler from Holland.

One Comment

  1. Terence Donnelly

    May 3, 2018 at 11:31 am

    As the creator of the world’s first alcohol free craft beer, and winner of three US Open Gold Medals, two Silvers and a Bronze, can we possibly entice you to try any of our upcoming brews? We have 8 new styles in production starting June 1.

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