Craft beer has challenged every convention in American brewing. Although alcohol seems like one of those quintessential elements that makes beer, well, beer, breweries across the United States are breaking once-sacred traditions to discover what ABV-free craft beer might look like.
Hairless Dog is a leader among a pack of nonalcoholic pioneers that includes Surreal Brewing, Bravus Brewing, and Hairless’ Minneapolis neighbor Bauhaus Brew Labs. The brewery’s entreaty to “enjoy beyond moderation” is echoed in an adventurous NA portfolio that’s led by, of all things, a West Coast IPA called NA IPA. Ambitious.
You might have “0.0% regrets” when you wake up clear in the morning, but what about in that crucial moment between sip and swallow? Is no hangover worth no ABV?
The good news is you wouldn’t know this is non-alcoholic from looks alone. In the glass, NA IPA looks like a Lagunitas IPA. It’s a stunning marmalade orange, cloudy all the way through to the bottom of the glass. The head pours out an inch thick, and it stays until the very end. A gorgeous pour of beer.
But it’s not a Laguinitas IPA. When you take the alcohol out of a beer, it usually kills the hop character, so making a 0.0% IPA taste like a 6.5% one is a tall order. Hairless Dog skips fermentation altogether, so they don't fall into this trap. They also dry hop NA IPA judiciously, ensuring that the Simcoe leaps up out of the glass. It’s got that classic West Coast dankness, though there’s some stray tobacco and fresh wood aromatics in there, too.
Hairless Dog introduces a new compromise: equal parts enjoyment, but slightly reduced flavor. Whether you take that bargain is up to you, but it’s nice to have another option in the mix.”
But there’s one factor that alcohol adds that isn't easily imitated: mouthfeel.
Booziness is an important component of a beer’s viscosity. It smooths out a swallow in a way that you don’t appreciate until it’s removed. Everything about the flavor—from the rich roasty malt to the bite of bitterness—is on point, but it’s just missing something elemental.
When you start a night of drinking, you’re entering a bargain with yourself: double the fun for tonight in exchange for double the pain in the morning. Hairless Dog introduces a new compromise: equal parts enjoyment, but slightly reduced flavor. Whether you take that bargain is up to you, but it’s nice to have another option in the mix.
If you don’t drink, this will help you enjoy a close approximation of the craft beer experience. If you do drink, you’ll immediately notice something’s amiss, but it won’t be as awful as O’Douls.