The best nonalcoholic IPAs? We tried these 19 NA beers to find out

If you’ve spent time in major metropolitan areas that are not Los Angeles, you know, at least anecdotally, one thing to be true: We’re not much of a drinking town. Maybe it’s for health reasons; maybe it’s because states like California have embraced other ways of, uh, taking the edge off. Or possibly because in L.A., unlike in cities where you can tie one on and then stumble your way home on foot or by public transportation, we’re typically getting behind the wheel of a car at the end of the night.

All of these factors help make L.A. fertile ground for an unprecedented boom in nonalcoholic drinking.

For a long time, there weren’t many nonalcoholic beer options in this country. There was O’Doul’s, which launched in 1990 and was a bit of a punchline for many years. “Why would anyone want to drink a nonalcoholic beer?” was a common refrain.

Today, there are so many nonalcoholic beers, it’s hard to even know where to start.

Sales of these beers have grown steadily since the pandemic and are expected to surpass $40 billion by 2032. In fact, there are so many options today that, for this piece, I’m going to only review nonalcoholic IPAs, or India pale ales. Why? Well, for one, it’s an incredibly popular type of beer. Two, I needed some way to narrow down the ever-growing list of NA beer choices. But moreover, the IPA, known for its hoppy flavor and relatively high alcohol content, is a great litmus test for the quality of nonalcoholic beer-making. It’s such a distinct and powerful brew, it’s difficult to fake.

The manifold ways of making nonalcoholic beer are too involved to delve into at length but often come down to one of two ways: Removing alcohol from a beer after it’s made or stanching the production of alcohol before it even begins. Sierra Nevada has a handy primer on how its Trail Pass nonalcoholic IPA is made (one of the beers included on this list) that explains how they use a special strain of yeast that only consumes certain sugars to create a small amount of alcohol.

I’ve grouped the following 19 (!) different nonalcoholic IPAs into three categories: ones I loved, ones I liked and ones that, frankly, were not my favorite.

Assortment of beer cans

Loved

Athletic Brewing — Run Wild IPA

Connecticut-based Athletic Brewing has quickly become one of the premier NA beer brands, and it’s easy to see why: This is a quality IPA. It’s floral and tannic, with a strong back-of-tongue bitterness that doesn’t cross the line into metallic, like some beers do. I tasted this with a few family members, one of whom opined that it tasted a bit like a hoppy tea, which I agreed with.

Best Day Brewing — Hazy IPA

This is a good beer from Best Day Brewing, a Northern California brand. The first thing you notice, upon opening, is a very grain-forward smell. This is a moderately hoppy beer with a pleasant bite: It might actually fool you into thinking it actually contains alcohol. (To be fair, nonalcoholic beer in this country actually does contain a small amount of alcohol — typically advertised as having less than 0.5% alcohol by volume.) There’s a nice bitter quality here with no lingering aftertaste.

DrinkSip — Hazy IPA

I wasn’t expecting a particularly mature beer from the art on this can (a cartoon mouth with “HANGOVERS SUCK” printed under it), but I liked this hazy IPA from DrinkSip, a company co-founded by NFL defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Hazy IPAs, sometimes called New England IPAs, have a cloudy appearance and often fruit-forward profiles. This beer is a nice balance of juicy, bitter and hoppy. A slight lingering bitterness lets you know it’s not messing around. A surprisingly mature NA IPA.

hand holding Figueroa beer can

Figueroa Mountain — Hoppy Poppy NA IPA

This is a good IPA from Figueroa Mountain, a brewery based in Buellton, between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. There’s a light sweetness and a pungent funkiness — someone I tried this beer with thought it smelled slightly cheese-like. I happen to agree: I also happen to like cheese. That funky bouquet gives way to floral notes and, eventually, a pretty assertive bitterness that you really taste in the back of the throat.

Lagunitas — IPNA

You’d expect a good IPA from Lagunitas, one of the O.G. craft breweries to really make it big on the national stage (Heineken now owns it), and this one delivers. It’s got very good flavor — hoppy, floral and balanced with just enough bitterness on the tongue to give you something to think about. If I had one criticism, it would be that it’s ever-so-slightly watery, but that’s not enough to knock it out of the top tier.

(A side note: The initial bottle of this beer that I tried was skunked. I’d never really had a skunked bottle of beer before and so was initially confused. But it smelled like, well, kind of like a skunk, so I went out and bought another six-pack. Interestingly, this was the only beer of the 19 that came in a bottle. Everything else was in a can.)

Untitled Art — West Coast IPA

I’m not strictly ranking these IPAs, but this was probably my favorite of the group. This was hoppy, slightly sour and with gentle floral notes. The biggest item in the win column for this IPA from Wisconsin-based Untitled Art is, simply, that it tastes more like a beer than the others do. I shouldn’t be surprised — Midwesterners know their beer. But I was surprised by the richness and depth here. This beer has a lot going on, and doesn’t just taste like hops water.

Woodland Farms Brewery — Pointer IPA

Here’s an entry from the great state of Maine: Woodland Farms Brewery makes a very fruity and round IPA. It’s full-bodied, heavy and lingers on the palate. The expected IPA bitterness is idiosyncratic here, tasting a bit like ash. A good beer.

Assortment of beer cans

Liked

Atmos Brewing — Wayfarer IPA

From the heart of Idaho and Atmos Brewing comes this big, effervescent IPA with a deep caramel taste. This was big and gushy upon opening, and I mean that in the most literal way: It overflowed and had a huge head when poured. It’s a decent beer overall but almost reminded me of a porter or stout, with an assertive and bitter finish.

Grüvi — Juicy IPA

Denver-based Grüvi (the inclusion of the umlaut honestly seems somewhat optional, as with the clothing brand Stüssy) makes a Juicy IPA that is, indeed, juicy. It tastes like overripe fruit, sweet and heavy, like dense pineapple bread. This is tasty, to be sure, but lacks much of what makes an IPA an IPA, i.e. the bitterness. This fruity entry is certainly a good beer for those who don’t particularly like IPAs.

Samuel Adams — Just the Haze IPA

Sam Adams (he said I could call him “Sam”) is not, in fact, a beer as old as our nation’s independence, but was created in Boston in the 1980s. This is a light, sweet and fruity IPA that is very easy to drink and lacks that signature IPA bitterness. It’s a good, drinkable, juicy beer with a fruity profile but doesn’t have much of a bite to it.

Sierra Nevada — Trail Pass IPA

I think of Sierra Nevada as one of the quintessential American pale ales — bitter and almost belligerently hoppy. This is a PG version of that: It’s lightly funky, sweet with some gentle fermented notes upon initial taste that yield to a slight floral taste. It’s not that bitter at all. In fact, it goes down quite easily.

Strive — Juicy IPA

This IPA from Connecticut’s Strive Brewing really straddled the line for me between an IPA and a hefeweizen — this was light and fruity, with a citrus taste that really fills that palate. There was a little bit of that funky cheese flavor, as previously mentioned with the Figueroa Mountain beer. Fortunately, cheese and fruit go quite well together. A tasty beer, but not necessarily what I want in an IPA.

Three Weavers — NA IPA

This is a solid nonalcoholic IPA from Three Weavers, an independent brewery based in Inglewood. This was citrusy and bright, with a good bite and hoppiness. I wanted very badly for this to break into the top category, but I tasted a pretty strong metallic finish , marring what’s otherwise a fantastic beer.

Two Roots Brewing — Straight Drank IPA

Please note: Two Roots Brewing, which was based in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, looks to have permanently closed in September, according to its website and Facebook page. It’s a shame, because I really liked its Straight Drank IPA, which tasted of dark cherry, with notes of pine, and was very hoppy. There was a slightly unpleasant finish and lingering bitterness, but overall, this is a loss for the NA beer community. If you can locate this beer at your local store, grab it! You may not get another opportunity.

WellBeing Brewing — Intentional IPA

A solid, very holistic-sounding beer from St. Louis-based WellBeing Brewing. It’s good and inoffensive, but lacks any particular quality that would make this a memorable or exceptional drink. It’s hoppy and semisweet with just a slight bitterness and not much of a lingering aftertaste. About as middle-of-the-road as it gets.

Assortment of beer cans

Not My Favorite

Hairless Dog Brewing — NA IPA

There’s a fine line between love and hate, and this beer, I’ll be honest, really confused me. This NA IPA from Hairless Dog Brewing, owned by Minneapolis-based Finnegans Brew Co., was ultimately not for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. I can see why some people would like this, maybe even love it. It’s very grain-forward, almost overpoweringly so. You know that sweet, processed cereal smell of dry dog food? That’s what this reminded me of. But I found it excessively bready. This was one of the most unique beers of the bunch — I feel like there could be circumstances in which I would happily drink this. But as far as IPAs go, this doesn’t fit the bill.

RationAle Brewing — West Coast IPA

I didn’t hate this at all, and am convinced that this IPA from RationAle Brewing is great for those looking for something easy to drink. This beer is light and fruity, and pretty tasty, but there’s not a lot of meat on the bones. There’s not much under the engine. An IPA should punch you in the mouth with its bitterness and hoppiness, and this lightly taps you on the shoulder. I’ve said this about other beers and it applies here too: This doesn’t taste bad, and could be a good IPA for people who don’t particularly like IPAs.

Sober Carpenter — NA IPA

This company has a great name — Sober Carpenter would also be a good name for a band, or a megachurch — but unfortunately, that’s where the fun stopped for me. The smell of this reminded me of old socks and there was an odd taste, like the sticky floor of a dorm basement after years of parties. There’s a bitterness on the finish that lingers, like an unshakable earworm.

Surreal Brewing — Milkshake IPA

Well, now I know why this is called a Milkshake IPA. This beer from Surreal Brewing has a very sweet odor and strong vanilla flavor. That’s a fun gimmick, I suppose, but I don’t know if I need to be reminded of a ‘50s diner when I’m drinking a beer. I could deal with the vanilla if there were other things going on to make this beer interesting — but there aren’t. An IPA should have bite and bitterness: This beer lacks fangs.

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