Headquartered in Minneapolis, Hairless Dog Brewing Co. has seen sales of its non-alcoholic craft beer take off since founders Paul Pirner and Jeff Hollander began selling their first batch of brew in late 2018. The duo recently signed a deal with Total Wine & More to take Hairless Dog nationwide in November 2019.
Nonalcoholic beer is coming out from the back of the cooler.
As more people turn to buzz-free beverages for celebrations and nights out with friends, a new wave of no-alcohol brews with more flavor and panache is hitting the market.
Minneapolis craft brewers Paul Pirner and Jeff Hollander are among those pushing hard to meet rising demand.
Their company, Hairless Dog Brewing, rolled out its first batches of zero-alcohol brew at Murray’s steakhouse and a handful of Minneapolis liquor stores late last year. Within two months, they’d sold 1,000 cases.
“We were hand-stickering bottles, screen printing six-pack carriers and driving them around,” said Hollander, Hairless Dog’s chief executive. “Retailers were telling us they’d never seen product generate this much excitement.”
Now available across Minnesota, western Wisconsin and eastern South Dakota, Hairless Dog Black Ale and IPA soon will be on shelves at more than 200 Total Wine & More stores in 24 states.
Nonalcoholic beer remains a niche player, accounting for 5% of beer volume globally. But while sales of traditional beer have grown by 0.2% over the past five years, nonalcoholic beer has grown 3.9%, according to GlobalData.
Major players as well as Minnesota’s craft brewers recognize its potential.
InBev, which owns Budweiser, aims to generate one-fifth of global sales from zero- or low-alcohol beverages by 2026. Heineken, the largest player in the no-alcohol beer market, reports that sales of its Heineken 0.0 have grown by double-digits since launching in 2017.
The rise of ‘sober curious’
Part of the growth has come in countries where religious practices ban alcohol. But the turn toward temperance also has been driven by a younger generation of drinkers more mindful of the perils of alcohol and unashamed of mocktails and booze-free beverages. Adults of all ages are embracing a “sober curious” movement as part of a healthier lifestyle.
This cultural shift is disrupting the adult beverage industry by chipping away at the social pressure to drink, with more people abstaining permanently or for the night, some motivated by addiction issues or medical reasons, others simply because getting buzzed isn’t part of their plan.
Half a million Instagram users say #SoberIsSexy. A fifth of Americans said at the end of 2018 they planned to observe a Dry January in the new year, according to YouGov.com.
“The sober curious movement is coming out of a need for people to question what they are putting into their bodies,” said Hollander, who spoke about the trend at an Advertising Week panel in New York in September. “We drink kale smoothies, wear yoga pants, practice mindfulness and meditation. People are questioning all the choices they make.”
Not satisfied with traditional offerings, more people are demanding craft-beer taste from nonalcoholic brews.
“Everybody knows” the lousy reputation of nonalcoholic beer, said Patrick Frimat, one of three co-founders of St. Paul-based ABV Technology, which developed a machine now used by 30 Minnesota craft brewers to create nearly alcohol-free versions of their signature brews.
Bauhaus Brew Labs was the first to use ABV Technology, adding a nonalcoholic version of its Homeguys Helles Lager to its tap list late last year and claiming dibs as the state’s first brewery to produce a nonalcoholic beer since the end of Prohibition.
Fulton Brewing uses the system to make a nonalcoholic version of its popular Lonely Blonde ale, which it calls its Non-Blonde, and also contracts with smaller breweries to handle the de-alcoholization process.
The proprietary technology vacuums out the alcohol to 0.5% or lower, and then produces an equal amount of nonalcoholic beer and hard seltzer.
Other methods, such as cooking off the alcohol after brewing or stopping fermentation, change the beer’s chemistry and compromise the flavor, Frimat said.
By year’s end, ABV Technology plans to have deals in Canada, Colorado, Texas and California, and is working with Minnesota manufacturers to ramp up production of its machine. Interest comes amid a crowded marketplace for craft beer.
“Breweries want to keep offering products to people so they don’t start selling less and suffering,” said Ben Jordan, ABV’s technology chief. “They’re diversifying by offering nonalcoholic beverages, sugar-free beverages and other things in taprooms and product lines that they can sell to these growing markets of people who wouldn’t traditionally be served by the craft brewing industry.”
Formulating a better brew
The story of Hairless Dog Brewing began at a holiday party about five years ago. Old friends and ex-neighbors, Pirner and Hollander reconnected after years and found themselves among the few without drinks in their hands.
Hollander, a veteran in sales and marketing, made a life choice to stop drinking after the birth of his two children.
Pirner had left a job in marketing and copy writing to become a stay-at-home dad for his two children, now in college. Also a bass player in the punk band the 757’s and brother of Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner, he had decided to quit drinking alcohol to feel better.
“We stopped drinking, but we haven’t stopped living,” Pirner said.
Over coffee later, the two began mapping out a business plan. “There was no product out there for people like us who aren’t necessarily in recovery, but just people who don’t want the alcohol anymore,” said Pirner, who spent years making wine and beer at home before he quit alcohol. “Everything that was accessible in terms of a nonalcoholic beer product tasted watery to us and just didn’t provide a good, enjoyable experience.”
Pirner spent several years tweaking his recipe to develop a flavorful alcohol-free beer with a bubbly froth. Hairless Dog’s process doesn’t use yeast, so it never ferments and alcohol is never introduced into the beer.
Following the rapid sellout from word-of-mouth, Pirner and Hollander hired a contract brewer in Stevens Point, Wis., to ramp up production. They began working with Periscope, the Twin Cities’ largest independent advertising agency, which updated the Hairless Dog logo, designed a website and beefed up the company’s social media presence.
With the deal inked with Total Wine & More, Hairless Dog has boosted production 400% over the past month, Hollander said.
Matt Bardill, director of beer operations at Total Wine & More, said via e-mail that Hairless Dog is the first craft 0.0% ABV, or alcohol by volume, that Total Wine “felt had the quality and taste to carry nationwide.”
The nonalcoholic beer category has grown by triple digits year-over-year in recent years at Bethesda, Md.-based Total Wine, Bardill said, and a majority of stores have doubled the shelf space devoted to it.
With taglines such as “Party like there’s a tomorrow” and “0.0% regrets,” Pirner, 48, and Hollander, 45, see their beers as part of the trend to make sobriety cool. “We’ve heard from a lot of people saying, at last, there’s a product for me,” Pirner said.
Jackie Crosby is a general assignment business reporter who also writes about workplace issues and aging. She has also covered health care, city government and sports.
Beer or Gatorade? There’s no contest when it comes to taking the podium. The German Olympic team shipped thousands of cases of non-alcoholic beer into Olympic Village during the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and tied Norway for the most gold medals. Conventional beer can be healthy. Non-alcoholic beer is even healthier. And we partnered with WellBeing Brewing, the country’s first brewery dedicated to craft non-alcoholic beer, to make WellBeing Victory Wheat the healthiest--and most hydrating--pint you’ve ever cracked open.
Cheers to breaking milestones. WellBeing Victory Wheat is the first non-alcoholic craft beer to introduce electrolytes into the brewing process.
When you live in San Diego, the craft beer capital of the world, beer tasting becomes woven into the fabric of your social life. My husband and I would go check out new breweries and taste lineups of sours or Flemish style ales, not to mention big IPAs. With friends we’d picnic at Stone Brewery, celebrate at Ballast Point, or take our dog to Coronado Beer Company. We homebrewed and we went to game nights where a new craft beer was always on tap. This all matched my enthusiasm for wine as well, which equally called for visits to the Mexican wine valley. For a long time, my identity was rooted in considering myself a wine and craft beer connoisseur.
But a few years ago, I started getting sober curious.
Non-alcoholic beer has long had a negative stigma associated with it. When ordering or indulging in an NA beer, one might get questioned:
“Does that taste like beer?”
“What’s the point?”
“Isn’t that just wasted calories?”
“Why don’t you get a real beer?”
Like most topics in life, a lack of education leads to ignorance, so I cannot blame society at large for not understanding the innate value that these unique beverages can bring to individuals and to the world as a whole. It all starts with recognizing the global significance and potential impact NA beer has on people of all walks of life, all over the world. NA beer is not only “real beer”, it is a global movement. A movement I like to call “The NAB Effect”.
Most people don’t associate sobriety or mindfulness with Las Vegas. The city of sin has done a good job of cultivating a very specific narrative of blackout partying thanks to movies like The Hangover and the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” motto.
When I moved back home to Las Vegas I was about 6 weeks dry and I was surprisingly calm. Because I’d grown up in Southern Nevada, I knew that there was so much more than long drunken casino nights to be had--plentiful hiking and a vibrant downtown arts scene are just some of the perks offered in this supportive and progressive desert community.
One thing I was worried about however was what to drink. Sounds silly, I know, but after years of unwinding with alcohol after the workday, I needed to be diligent about creating new habits. Over the next two years I restocked the areas in our kitchen that would have held alcohol in our past life and instead filled them with alcohol-free alternatives.
For all the beer snobs out there, here’s a quick quiz: What’s the fastest-growing category of beer? Is it IPAs? Sours? Some European brew with a name you don’t know how to say?
Nope. The fastest-growing beer segment is… non-alcoholic beer. That’s right, O’Doul’s die-hards: According to recent research, non-alcoholic beer sales grew 3.9% last year while boozy beer sales grew just 0.2%.
Today, non-alcoholic beer accounts for just 5% of overall beer consumption. But AB InBev, the largest beer company in the world, plans for 20% of its beer sales to be low or non-alcoholic by 2025.
I'm finally no longer embarrassed to say I don't drink - in fact I'm proud of it. And as time goes on, I realise that more and more other people are interested in how to do it too. And if you've just finished dry January and are considering staying away from alcohol, you might be one of them.
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After a long day on the canning line, sometimes the last thing a brewer wants is a beer. Enter hop water, a zero calorie, zero-ABV alternativethat is becoming the refreshment of choice for brewers like Jerry Gnagy at Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse in Louisville, Kentucky.
Gnagy began making hop seltzer for the brewery workers as an alcohol-free alternative to beer. Gnagy adds dry hops and sometimes a little hop oil to seltzer water. “There’s no alcohol, malt or sugar, just the hop flavor,” he says. “We add a bit a caramel color so it looks like a beer.”
For decades, non-alcoholic beer and its thin, acidic tastehasoffended the very idea of beer. But now, craft breweries focused solely on beer without booze are producing pints worth toasting. The Runner's World staff rounded up the most promising options—from a legit IPA to a creamy stout—for anyone seeking beer sans buzz. These are our five favorites.
In an effort to attract a growing number of drinkers who are moderating alcohol consumption, several beer companies are looking toward non-alcoholic brews as a way to boost sales and court the 30 percent of U.S. adults who don’t imbibe.
Among major producers, both Heineken and Pabst have recently announced plans to roll out non-alc offerings nationwide in the first quarter of 2019. There’s also an emerging group of startups focused exclusively on crafting alcohol-free libations.