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NA Beers, Dogfish/Rodenbach, Flagship Feb, Black History, Equilibrium

NA Beers, Dogfish/Rodenbach, Flagship Feb, Black History, Equilibrium

by Tony Forder,

Zero in the Spotlight

What’s hot in 2019? Well, it looks like a big fat zero. That’s 0% alcohol in your beer – or close enough not to matter. Heineken just launched a major initiative for their 0.0 brand and Pabst announced a NA version of their Blue Ribbon. Meanwhile Brooklyn Brewery has been dabbling in the NA arena according to CEO Eric Ottoway.

Speaking on the Brewbound Podcast Ottoway made the point that attitudes in Europe, where NA beer is much more popular, are very different. Here, you’re kind of looked down on if you’re drinking NA beer – like there’s something wrong with you – either you have health issues or you have a problem.

In Europe, it’s completely accepted. Maybe there are times when you really do want the taste of a beer, but without the alcohol – like after a workout Sunday but before going to meet your in-laws, or maybe before a visit to the dentist. Ottoway made the point that NA beers really open up more opportunities for beer drinking, expand the occasions when people may want to have a beer, and thus widen marketing opportunities. There’s also the 30% of the teetotaling population to work on.

The problem in the past I found was that NA beers tasted like crap – no offense Mr. O’Doul. Clausthaler used to be the standard, tolerable at best. I think NA was the focus of an ASN Tasting Panel back in the day – I can’t remember when, it wasn’t memorable. But, take the new Clausthaler NA dry-hopped. Now that has some real hop taste! Today’s technology, both in brewing and in hop choice, gives new possibilities to NA beer.

While not exactly in the NA category Sierra Nevada recently made a move to engage today’s young health conscious drinkers who may only want to consume alcohol on certain occasions. In its first ever acquisition Sierra Nevada, which owns breweries in California and North Carolina, will acquire CA-based Sufferfest Beer Co. “Sufferfest is at the front of a wave of ‘functional’ alcoholic beverages,” said SN President and CEO Jeff White. Sufferfest, which launched in 2016 is beloved by athletes for its gluten-removed line of beers like its 95-calorie Kolsch brewed with bee pollen and its FKT (Fastest Known Time) Pale Ale brewed with salt and blackcurrants.

Several craft breweries focused on the NA segment have emerged recently, including Athletic Brewing, CT; Wellbeing Brewing, MO, and Surreal Brewing, CA.

Flagship February

When Toronto-based beer writer Stephen Beaumont sent out a tweet in support of flagship beers – beers like Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada and Boston Lager, that largely opened the gates to the craft beer revolution – he apparently touched a nerve.

Support poured in for his idea of creating a “thing” – #flagshipfebruary. Banding together with California beer scribe Jay Brooks and PR agency Porter Hughes, a website and Facebook page were created and writers encourage to submit their own essays on their favorite flagship beers.

The flagship movement is designed to take a pause from the constant barrage of today’s new releases and salute brands that got us here. Says Beaumont, “It is not a campaign put together by the big breweries to support their craft brewery purchases. Secondly, it isn’t a well-meaning attempt to shore up sales of stalled brands. And thirdly, it is most definitely not an old beer guy – which admittedly I am – telling you young hazy IPA-swilling kids to get off of my lawn.”

And here’s Jay on the definition of a flagship beer. “A good flagship is the beer that still tastes good, as good as you remember it, whenever you go back to it. It’s a brewery’s flagship precisely because it tastes exactly the same from bottle to bottle, can to can, and draught to draught, with a consistency that will always be the hallmark of brewing.”

Visit our facebook and tell us your favorite flagship beer. You could win an ASN flagship t-shirt.

Dogfish Head and Rodenbach to Collaborate

We used to be able to put together a Top 10 favorite brewery list. Then Top 50. Now we’ll surely be missing some deserving favorites if we narrowed to 100. Nonetheless, two of our favorite breweries – possibly Top 10, but definitely Top 20 – are Belgium’s iconic Rodenbach brewery and the U.S.’s now iconic Dogfish Head brewery.

Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione with Rodenbach Brewmaster Rudi Ghequire.

Which is why we’re so excited about a new transatlantic collaboration series recently announced by the two breweries. The idea of a partnership first came about following a panel discussion of leading sour beer experts at the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Nashville, TN in March, 2018. I was also in attendance when Rodenbach Brewmaster Rudi Ghequire was joined by several sour beer brewmasters including Bill Marchi, head of Wooden…It Be Nice!, Dogfish Head’s wild beer and barrel aged program, to discuss the nuances of traditional sour beers and modern expressions of the same.

We have known Rudi for a quite some time having visited Rodenbach on the ASN Belgian Paradise Tour on more than one occasion. Rudi spent some time at Dogfish Head at the end of 2018 and Sam will be heading to Rodenbach in the near future for more research. While the recipe is still in formulation, it will undoubtedly be of the sour variety. The first effort will be brewed and blended in the U.S. with a planned release for spring 2020. Thereafter a Belgian release will be pursued. Full press release here.

Black History Month Brewing in Montclair

In honor of Black History Month, the Montclair Brewery will release several new and returning craft beer styles in their taproom at 101 Walnut Street in Montclair, NJ.

The Black History Month series include styles such as The Motherland, which is a gluten-free beer made from sorghum. “The traditional African beer is made from sorghum and my country, Burkina Faso, is known for making the best dolo, which is what it is called there,” says co-owner, Leo Sawadogo. The Baobomb Sour, made from the fruit of the African Baobab tree, also known as the “tree of life” will also return in February. The Kingston Porter, a dark, roasty porter, named after the bustling capital of Jamaica is also a part of the diverse series.

One new style to make its appearance during Black History Month is a yet to be named Pecan Pie Stout. The pecan is the only tree nut native to North America and a former African American slave from Louisiana, named Antoine, successfully grafted a superior wild pecan to seedlings in 1876, and gave birth to the technique widely used to grow pecan orchards. Surprise brews and non-alcoholic drinks including a ginger beer are also on tap as well as activities such as Black History Month trivia and live musical acts such as The Rumberos this Friday, Feb. 15. Its tap list and events are updated regularly on its website,

Equilibrium Popup

While it works to open a new tasting room in Middletown, Equilibrium Brewing currently features a popup at its brewery location, open on the weekends. The good news is that brewing capacity has increased which means more can availability of their sought after DIPAs.

Brewing and can releases will continue at the original location while the new taproom is located at a separate address and is slated for a spring opening.

Stools, brewery equipment and a plywood sheet make for ingenious minimalist popup temporary taproom at Equilibrium.