Campbell resident Donna Hockey and her husband Tammer Zein-El-Abedein started Surreal Brewing Company nine months ago to create nonalcoholic craft beer. Chandelier Red IPA is their flagship brew. (Photograph by Anne Gelhaus)
By ANNE GELHAUS | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: June 20, 2018 at 11:09 am | UPDATED: June 21, 2018 at 3:48 pm
After Donna Hockey beat cancer last year, she and her husband, Tammer Zein-El-Abedein, came home to Campbell from a celebratory trip with a renewed sense of purpose. Since her post-treatment diet doesn’t allow for a tall, cold one, the beer lovers and home brewers set out to create a nonalcoholic craft brew with all the flavor and only 0.5 ABV.
The couple is eager to share the result, a red IPA they make under the name Surreal Brewing Company. They launched their flagship product in May, and 12-once cans of Chandelier Red IPA are now available at The Vesper in downtown Campbell, River Rock Taproom in downtown Sunnyvale and at Dishdash restaurants in both Sunnyvale and Milpitas.
“We wanted to bring flavors to the market for people who usually don’t drink alcohol,” said Hockey over a couple of Chandeliers at The Vesper.
While Surreal is one of the first brewers to focus on nonalcoholic craft beers, Hockey said the market is there, despite the difficulties involved in brewing a beer with only half a percent of alcohol by volume while maintaining the flavor palate of an IPA with an ABV of 7 or 8 percent.
“We wanted it to be crisp, not sweet and hoppy but not bitter; really refreshing,” she said of the Chandelier Red. “It’s difficult to get that complexity and meet the criteria for a nonalcoholic craft beer.”
They achieved their desired flavor profile using six malts and three hops.
“We came up with our own process,” Hockey said. “There was no recipe available, so we developed it over nine months, kind of by trial and error.”
While the couple is currently doing their own marketing and distribution, and contracting with a local brewery to produce mass quantities of their beer, she said they’re in talks with a couple of national retailers to roll out Chandelier Red across the country.
“There’s a real demand for nonalcoholic beers,” she added. “It brings adult beverages into the daytime.”
With the local craft scene booming, Hockey said she hopes more established brewers will start creating nonalcoholic versions of their beers.
“There are so many craft breweries and not a lot of nonalcoholic options,” she added.
The Campbell couple is also looking to partner with cancer support groups and other community organizations to get their beer in front of people who can’t have the alcohol but want the flavor. As one of these people, Hockey is a big fan of her own product.
“I like to have these pretty much every day, so I’m going through our inventory,” she joked, adding that starting Surreal Brewing was a good way for her and her husband to embrace life post-cancer.
“It’s always good to put your creativity into something with the end result of enhancing people’s lives,” Hockey said.
For more information about Surreal Brewing, visit surrealbrewing.com.
This post originally appeared on The Mercury News.