Do you serve NA? Why a non-alcoholic beer drinker is struggling to find a drink

Inclusive drinking culture is needed today more than ever before

non-alcoholic beer, brewery

I haven’t always immediately scanned a beer list for a non-alcoholic beer. For me it was always a pale ale or a citrusy IPA. As it turns out the latter is much much easier to find.

I’m an average beer drinker in an above-average beer city in the midwest. Like many of us who drink beer, going to bars and breweries is something I definitely had taken for granted in pre COVID-19 era.

But there will be a time, sooner or later, that meeting up for dinner at the brewery will be the norm again. Something many NA beer drinkers love and miss for a different reason: because they are feeling like they are on the outside looking in.

Can full-strength and non-alcoholic beer coexist?

I love the diversity of my local breweries and bars. You can drive 15min in either direction and find exactly the vibe you are looking for. Hipster brewery with snifters and exposed brick and bearded bartenders? Check. Loveable dive with slightly-sticky floors and an average open-mic? Check. Upscale cocktail lounge? Family-friendly brewery and local market? Outdoor beer garden? Heavy-metal hockey bar?

Check, check, check, and surprisingly enough check! (no pun intended)

If you don’t have a favorite brewery or bar, odds are you at least have a favorite theme, aesthetic, or vibe that one embodies. Maybe it’s your favorite restaurant. The point is there is just something about your local “spot” that feels like home. It’s a place for extroverts and introverts alike, a place for connection or escape, a place for business or for a party. For better or for worse, there’s no denying that it is a massive part of our culture.

It’s less about the option for a certain drink and more about the message behind the bottle. The message that says “you are welcome and wanted here.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are over 1 Million restaurants in America, many who serve beer, and in 2020 alone bars and taverns will rake in $22.8 Billion. And this was a slow year for the restaurant biz.

With sobriety on the rise, the truth is that the vast majority of these important and beloved establishments are alienating a segment of their consumer base that is growing rapidly and starting to speak up.

People are cutting out booze. For health. For recovery. For one drink. For a month. Forever.

Because of this, we believe it’s time for a more inclusive drinking culture, and one small aspect of that is extraordinarily simple. Offer your customers a non alcoholic option and work to eliminate the negative stigma around it.

Catering to all types of drinkers is good for business

The number one reason I see breweries and bars not making, promoting, or selling NA beer as often as they could is all financial. People love alcohol and they are willing to spend money on it.

And according to IRI, the NA beer market makes up only .37% of all American beer sales. That is not going to pay the rent for your favorite brewery selling double IPAs for $8 a pop. But what is interesting is that number is on the rise.

It’s like a coffee shop providing a decaf coffee option in addition to their teas or sparkling water — it doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

According to Nielsen, non-alcoholic beer sales through January 2020 were up 39% versus the same time last year. IRI said off-premise dollar sales of non-alcoholic beer grew more than 23% in 2019.

Finally, AB inBev (BUD, NYSE) also recently committed to making 20% of their portfolio comprised of non-alcoholic options. 20% of the largest beer and spirits company in the world is a significant number.

In the last 5 years major beer companies have launched or promoted non-alcoholic beers for the first time like Bud, Coors, and most famously Heineken. Thanks to their marketing campaign and sponsorship of the F1 series in 2020 which pulled approx. 471 million viewers in 2019, non alcoholic beer seems to be making a comeback (although it feels like more of a debut).

The MorsonCoors blog also announced non-alcoholic Coors Edge in late 2019.

“The low- and non-alcohol trend is not going away, and we know we need to deliver more options for consumers who are in drinking occasions and do not want to consume alcohol,” says Matt Ferebee, associate marketing manager on the innovations team at MillerCoors

So if there are brands making lots of non alcoholic beer, spending millions on advertising, and projecting a major rise in sales, there must be a reason. Demand.

Simply put, people want to buy non-alcoholic beer.

The numbers don’t lie. There’s definitively a market for NA beer and now it’s just a race among producers to become the leader.

But what about small, local, craft brewers? They aren’t spending millions or shipping their beer all over the world. Why should these businesses be paying attention?

To answer that question, we only need to look so far as the UK, the unofficial non-alcoholic beer capital of the world (source: all my brit friends on Twitter)

It seems there is another NA specific brewery popping up every day on the other side of the pond. Here’s a few you may or may not have heard of:

alcohol-free pale ale, na beer, big drop brewing

Big Drop Brewing Co.

London & Suffolk, UK

Big Drop Brewing Co. is one of the world’s leading alcohol-free craft breweries dedicated to the production of the finest 0.5% ABV beer.

“The most impressive no/low alcohol beer I have ever tried; no argument, it just is.” Melissa Cole, British Guild of Beer Writers.

non-alcoholic beer bottles, nirvana brewery

Nirvana Brewery

London, UK

Nirvana Brewery was launched in 2017 by a family of beer lovers with a simple mission; to dedicate itself entirely to the creation of quality alcohol-free craft beers.

2020 World Beer awards bronze medal recipient.

alcohol-free beer, infinite session

Infinite Session

London, UK

Infinite Session believes that "Beer that is bigger than booze, no more covering labels, or whispering orders at the bar. Drinking should be on your terms because flavour is more important than ABV."

"A juicy, well-rounded mouth-feel that should satisfy even the most hop-minded of beer drinkers." - The Telegraph

American brewers, the British are coming and it’s a very good thing.

If you take a look at historic fashion trends as an example, the US is almost always a few years behind the UK when it comes to what is cool.

The NA beer revolution is no different.

The good news is that America isn’t totally missing the train (or the L) and there are plenty of solid craft non alcoholic beer companies in the states doing a lot of good for the industry.

non-alcoholic beer, wellbeing brewing

Wellbeing Brewing Company


Founder of Wellbeing Brewing Jeff Stevens says My wife Genevieve and I are so excited to bring you the Wellbeing Brewing Company®, the country’s very first brewery solely dedicated to brewing Non-Alcoholic Craft Beer.

non alcoholic beer, athletic brewing

Athletic Brewing Company


Athletic Brewing is pioneering a craft beer revolution. We promise to use high-quality, all-natural ingredients to create great-tasting brews for our beer-loving family. We strive to create brews suitable for everyone and every occasion. No matter your motivation, if you want to keep a clear head and drink healthier, we're here for you.

2018 World Beer awards country winner.

bravus brewing non-alcoholic beer

Bravus Brewing Copmany


Bravus Brewing - "We have spent years — and thrown away thousands of gallons of beer — in the pursuit of brewing  non-alcoholic craft beer styles that tastes just like their fully-alcoholic counterparts."

NA beer’s problem and its solution

The problem with access and acceptance of non-alcoholic beer in our drinking culture is less around the producers and more around our perceptions.

NA beer just hasn’t been cool. Most people think of sad people drinking sad tasting “beer” that doesn’t really taste like beer at all.

Between the implicit correlation to alcoholism and substance abuse, the lingering memories of 1990’s Odouls’ Commercials, and the lack of marketable options in your liquor store all contribute to the less than ideal public view of non-alcoholic beers.

At the time of this article’s publication, the subreddit beer had 414k members while NABEER had only 226.

However, In a conversation with Good Beer Hunting John Walker of Athletic Brewing said it best, “Someone asked me what success looked like in this company and for me, I think I had a moment of clarity,” Walker says. “When my son turns 18 or 21, if he can go to a bar and order a non-alcoholic beer and not get heckled because it’s a new culture norm, there’s no shame—then that’s success. I would like to think that we’re on that path.”

Another prophetic signal that times are changing is the 2019 New York Times article that highlighted some new ways people (mostly on the coasts) are thinking about sobriety, the emergence of alcohol-free night clubs, and $15 alcohol free mocktails.

The non alcoholic beer revolution is upon us. Now is the time to join the movement.

The non-alcoholic beer revolution. What is next and what you can do.

non alcoholic beer revolution, hipster na beer drinkers, alcohol free outdoor dining

There is a future where a wide variety of non-alcoholic beer is going available everywhere beer is sold. It is why beer without a buzz exists as well as so many other great brands and producers in the NA industry.

As Samantha Itzkovitz explains from Brooklyn Brewery to, “We’ve always known beer to foster an inclusive, come-one, come-all environment and as we see consumer preference shift towards alternative beverage options, we don’t want the inclusion of alcohol to drive anyone away from that.”

We can start now.

A few ideas:

Write your local bar or brewery an email or DM. We even have a free email template for requesting an NA beer option you can download for free.

Ask your bartender how they decide what beers to carry.

Reach out to NA breweries and let them know you want their beers in your city.

Share this article.

No matter how you engage, remember that the goal is inclusion and a better experience for all.

Conclusion: the future is alcohol free (and it isn’t)

No one here is banging the prohibition drum. The success of all breweries and bars is good for everyone involved, high or low ABV.

Founder of Athletic Brewing Company told Good Beer Hunting “Craft beer exploded, and all of a sudden there were all these flavors and styles and so many things—and it was awesome,” Walker says. “That’s part of what we love about craft: the variety. And I think for so long, non-alcoholic was just pigeon-holed into a ‘style,’ and I truly feel like the team has unlocked Pandora’s box for non-alcoholic. I think people have come to realize that you can do whatever you want in this realm, too. We have just begun.”

The inclusivity and acceptance of non alcoholic beer everywhere matters because right now there are people who are feeling isolated, they want to engage with their friends and community, and they want to support their local bar/brewery but because they want to stay sober or healthy they have limited options: stay home or drink a coffee/soda.

For many, nothing is wrong with coffee or soda but as we’ve discovered, there are so many great non-alcoholic beers available it just seems like a waste to order another ginger ale.

It’s like a coffee shop providing a decaf coffee option in addition to their teas or sparkling water — it doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

It’s less about the option for a certain drink and more about the message behind the bottle. The message that says “you are welcome and wanted here.”

We can do this together, and everyone can benefit.

Please consider sharing beer without a buzz with your friends and family. For more on this and other points of interest in the NA beer community, follow @beerwithoutbuzz on twitter and join the conversation.