Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Athletic Brewing Scores Big with Non-Alcoholic Beers that Actually Taste Good

Alcohol doesn’t fit into Bill Shufelt’s life, but the ultramarathoner and former finance professional didn’t want to be left out. With less than stellar non-alcoholic beers on the market, though, he couldn’t find anything appealing to drink.

So rather than remain on the sidelines, he found a longtime brewer, John Walker, and together they started Connecticut-based Athletic Brewing Co., a beer company focused on making flavorful non-alcoholic beers.

“If you think about it, alcoholic craft brewing really only meets about 20 percent of life occasions,” Shufelt said. “Life is so busy and you have to be on point in so many occasions and there are so few beverages that met those demands. Whether it was careers, exercise, or family life, or anytime you need a clear head, the existing alcoholic landscape wasn’t meeting us.”

Athletic Brewing beer glass

The craft beer industry did have something healthy beverages and non-alcoholic beers did not: complex flavors to keep palates interested. With this in mind, the duo set out to make a beverage that has minimal alcohol — all Athletic Brewing Co. beers have less than .5% — but has the full flavor palate one might expect from other craft beers.

“We brew without compromise; we don’t want to end up making a sacrifice in flavor or quality.”

Since there weren’t already similar beers on the market, they assumed the baseline existing technologies to make N/A beer weren’t up to making what they wanted. With that in mind, they hit the textbooks and tinkered with the brewing process from the start. “Our idea wasn’t to brew alcoholic beer and burn off the alcohol, even gently doing that alters the flavor profiles,” Shufeld said. “We made hundreds of batches to come up with a proprietary method. We definitely wouldn’t have gone to market unless we had something that was true craft beer in its fullest form.

“We brew without compromise; we don’t want to end up making a sacrifice in flavor or quality,” he added.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Athletic Brewing Co (@athleticbrewing) on

The resulting beers have won medals at competitions against full-alcohol craft offerings.

Athletic Brewing is now in full production mode, growing significantly, largely on the backs of its Run Wild IPA and Upside Dawn Golden Ale. The beer is available and shipping nationwide, as well as in Total Wine & More. Statewide distribution is available in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.

Run Wild clocks in at 70 calories but, made with five Pacific Northwest hops (including Citra and Mosaic), it drinks like one might expect an IPA to taste. Upside Dawn is 50 calories and “light, crispy, clean, and refreshing.” The beers the brewery produces fit nicely into the new brewing trend of low-calorie offerings.

With two flagships set under the Athletic Brewing Co. brand, as well as a rotating season — a stout and, now, a Mexican lager — and plenty more in the works for distribution and up to 10 beers at the company taproom, the only N/A taproom in the nation, there’s been a quick adoption by drinkers.

Athletic Brewing flagship beers

“We have found the educational hurdle is way lower than we ever expected,” Shufelt said. “We theorized that it was something the world wanted and it’s a conversation that’s been happening for a long time with no products in the space.

“It’s something that resonates.”

Initially, Shufelt said few in the craft beer space would talk to them, looking at the company as though they were crazy. But they quickly shed the reputation of non-alcoholic brews. Athletic Brewing has now been approached by “top-flight athletes” who haven’t been able to drink alcohol for years because of their training regimens, and Shufeld is excited about those “authentic athlete partnerships” in the works.

Shufelt doesn’t drink full-alcoholic beverages like the rest of his Athletic Brewing Co. team, but he now can crack a flavorful beverage on par with whatever they’re drinking — even if that’s not also an Athletic brew.

Pat Evans
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Pat Evans is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focusing on food and beer, spirits, business, and sports. His full…
Enjoy a Campfire Beer with Your Pup with the New Busch Dog Brew
Busch Dog Brew

Ben Franklin famously said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Well, technically, he said that about wine, but let’s not get hung up on history and facts. It’s so profound that it’s definitely something he could have said. We would argue that dogs and campfires are even further proof. Thankfully, Anheuser-Busch just announced the perfect way to enjoy all three together.

Billed as “the nectar of the DOGS,” Busch’s all-new Dog Brew is the healthiest way for your dog to enjoy a cold one with you by the campfire. Since both beer and hops are toxic to dogs, the non-alcoholic brew is actually a bone broth made from just a few all-natural ingredients, including pork butt, corn, basil, celery, mint, turmeric, ginger, and water. Not only is it safe for dogs, but it’s healthy in promoting their digestive system. Plus, if your pup struggles with eating solid foods, it’s a more accessible way to get the nutrients they need. But, let’s be honest, it’s really just a clever marketing ploy that we’re happy to buy into. Who doesn’t love the idea of drinking a campfire beer with their pooch? You too can drink Dog Brew with your dog, although it tastes nothing like beer, and Busch admits it’s pretty bland by human standards.

Read more
Oskar Blues Brewery Releases French’s Mustard Beer
oskar blues frenchs mustard beer pr select 2

Mustard and beer is a great combination, but usually we're talking mustard used as a condiment on a sausage or pretzel alongside a pint. Colorado's Oskar Blues Brewery has taken this pairing to a whole new level with a new collaboration with French's Mustard, appropriately called French’s Mustard Beer. It's a tropical wheat beer that is literally brewed with French’s Classic Yellow Mustard, along with an infusion of fruit and citrus flavors including key lime, lemon, tangerine, and passion fruit. “We’re stoked on bold flavors at Oskar Blues Brewery and we never shy away from a challenge,” said Oskar Blues head brewer, Juice Drapeau, in a prepared statement. “With French’s Mustard Beer we elevated the Classic Yellow Mustard flavor with tangy lemon and lime to create a tropical wheat ale I’d pair with a loaded hot dog on the hottest day of the year.”

This isn't the first food crossover for French's, known for its bright yellow mustard that is ubiquitous at backyard barbecues around the country. Last year, the brand collaborated with Coolhaus to release a mustard ice cream that was available in New York and California for a limited time alongside a pretzel cookie. And Oskar Blues is no stranger to brewing uniquely flavored beer, as indicated by its "Death By" series of brews with such flavors as king cake, coconut, and even affogato.

Read more
These Homebrewing Appliances And Kits Are the Easiest Way to Make Your Own Beer
picobrew zymatic

Learning to brew your own beer doesn’t have to be hard. For a basic brew, I liken it to making boxed macaroni and cheese. If you can measure ingredients, add in items at specific times, and maintain a relatively steady temperature, you can make beer. However, it can be expensive to buy (and inevitably to upgrade) the equipment and homebrewing is a large time investment. An all-grain brew day can easily take up an entire Saturday — and that’s not including all the clean-up.

For those with small spaces, limited time, and some cash to spend, counter-top appliances and straightforward, beginner craft brew kits are all the rage. These homebrewing kits fit right in beside toasters and microwaves but promise to make brewing beer as simple brewing as a pot of coffee. Or maybe even microwavable mac n’ cheese.
Zymatic. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Read more