Skip to Content
Food & Drink

Doin’ Beers: 5 Minnesota NA Beers to Drink in January

Wet your whistle during Dry January.

Nissa Mitchell

Non-alcoholic (NA) beer has come a long way in the last couple years—both in terms of quality and popularity—with trendy, nationally distributed NA-only brands like Athletic Brewing Co. and Best Day Brewing at the forefront of the push. Existing craft breweries have also entered the space, and some, like Untitled Art out of Wisconsin, are becoming known as much for their NA beers as they are their traditional beers. However, as your guide to Minnesota beer, it’s the Minnesota breweries I care about most.

Unfortunately, while many Minnesota breweries have brewed NA beers in the last couple years, relatively few consistently have one available. I ran into this when I tried to round up all the NA beers I could find. After hitting up loads of liquor stores in the Twin Cities, I only noticed a handful, and most were national brands. It was kind of depressing! So I popped into Marigold, the NA bottle shop that's conveniently located just around the corner from me, and checked out the selection. I found a couple beers that traditional liquor stores weren’t stocking, and ended up chatting briefly with the owner, Erin Flavin, about how frustrating it was to find Minnesota-brewed NA beers.

Flavin hazarded a guess that it might be due to local breweries’ recent focus on THC drinks, and I think she’s onto something there. If true, that's a real bummer. As someone who “drinks beer for the taste,” I wish more breweries were taking NA beer seriously and focusing their efforts on getting NA beers right.

The good news is, some of them are! So let’s get to it—here are my favorite NA beers to drink this January.

Bauhaus Brew Labs: Nah Pink Guava Sour

NA sour / <0.5% ABV / ? IBU

Bauhaus was basically guaranteed a place on this list. Their Nah Helles, inspired by one of their co-founders’ decision to stop drinking alcohol, made them the first Minnesota Brewery to can an NA beer since prohibition. Since then, they’ve expanded their NA beer offerings to include a pink guava sour and a hazy IPA. The Hazy isn’t currently available, but I’m told it should be soon. The pink guava sour, however, is my favorite.

I don’t usually go for sours, but the style works very well as an NA beer. Nah pink guava sour smells like a guava sour, has a tart but balanced flavor, and a lot more body than I expect from an NA beer. It also has much wider application than a typical NA beer thanks to its tart fruit flavor. I currently have plans to try it out as a mocktail ingredient—maybe in an “NA cosmo” of sorts. And, if you’re usually a La Croix boi, I strongly recommend trying this as a more satisfying and complex alternative.

Ursa Minor Brewing: N/A Time N/A Where

“Non-Alcoholic Craft Brew” / <0.5% ABV / ? IBU

Up until recently, NA beers have been strongly associated with light lagers. O’Doul’s Premium, an NA beer my dad would let me take sips of growing up, is a pretty stereotypical example of what NA beer was like before the NA craft beer craze kicked in. However, the problem folks often run into with this approach is that taking a light lager and removing the already very moderate amount of alcohol in it can leave you with very little.

This is where N/A Time N/A Where shines. While Duluth's Ursa Minor doesn't advertise it on the can (it reads a “Non-Alcoholic Craft Brew”), the beer apparently starts out as a cream ale. I think the decision not to label it as such is really smart, and the choice of cream ale as the starting point for a lighter NA beer was inspired. It results in a much more interesting flavor profile than your typical light NA beer that starts its life as a lager. The hops come through a little sharper, and the body is a lot lighter than you’d expect of a normal cream ale, but the end product is the best light NA beer I’ve had. And, without “cream ale” in my head as I drank it, I was able to enjoy it for what it is: tasty and refreshing.

Arbeiter Brewing Co.: Resolution

NA mocha stout / <0.5% ABV / 20 IBU

I very nearly missed this beer, since it wasn’t available when I scoured liquor stores, and my email to Arbeiter asking if they had plans for an NA release—based on the fact I know they’ve done multiple NA beers in the past—went unanswered. But, as luck would have it, I saw it advertised on their Instagram a couple days ago, and was able to swing by the Longfellow taproom to pick up a four pack.

Resolution is a great NA beer, and the sort I’m really happy to see being made. That said, it isn’t a particularly great stout, and I wish they hadn’t labeled it as one. It drinks more like a schwarzbier with extra roast. Arbeiter’s Untapped entry for the beer nods to the fact it doesn’t taste the way you’d expect a mocha stout to taste, likening the removal of alcohol to the removal of salt in cooking, which can lead to the loss of other flavors. Given that, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for them to leave the original style off the can the way Ursa Minor did with N/A Time, or just name it after what it tastes most like. Original style matters much less than the final result, and the result here is quite delicious. It’s just not a mocha stout.

Summit Brewing Company: Nialas IPA

NA West Coast IPA / <0.5% ABV / ? IBU

I must admit that until I went to write this column, I did not know Summit was making NA beers. We have so many great craft breweries in Minnesota that my eyes just kind of pass over the bigger breweries’ stuff on the shelves. Apparently, the pioneering St. Paul craft brewer has been making Nialas IPA, and their Nialas Irish Dark since 2022. Of the two, I prefer the IPI but the Irish Dark is pretty good.

Nialas IPA is brewed with experimental hops, but it reminds me of the Simcoe, Cascade, and Centennial-forward IPAs I drank a lot of back in the olden days before hazy IPAs. The body is very light, and the malt comes across a bit less like malt and more like black tea (this is also true of the Irish Dark). Taken together, it reminds me a lot of the hop teas made by brands like Hoplark, but with a bit more body. Honestly, I wish that instead of all the hop waters we’ve been getting as NA options (because they’re cheap and easy to produce), breweries would produce things like Nialas IPA where the hops are at least somewhat in-context.

Portage Brewing Company and Cedar + Stone Nordic Sauna: Sauna Water

“Botanical Sparkling Water” / 0% ABV / 0 IBU

Speaking of hop waters and their variations, I ended up trying a few while researching this column. I debated whether I’d include them because, let’s be real, the column is called “Doin’ Beers” not “Doin’ Things That Are In Beer.” However, all of those considerations went out the window when the folks at Ombibulous convinced me to try this “Botanical Sparkling Water.” Heck, it’s not even a “hop water,” and here I am talking about it in a column that’s supposed to be about beer. What’s with that? For me, it’s simple: Portage’s Sauna Water surprised me. It’s not like anything I’ve had before. It smells like spruce, juniper, and cardamom. The flavor is mostly pine, with a citrus edge (likely from the citrus peels used, rather than the citric acid often used in hop water). It tastes the way I’d expect the cedar walls of a sauna to taste if you licked them in a desperate fit of dehydration mid-sauna. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Is it beer? No. However, it’s made by a brewery, and by far the most unique N/A thing I had the pleasure of trying for this column. If you pick it up, I recommend trying it straight, and then looking for ways to incorporate it into mocktails.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Racket

Sniveling, Debased Sycophant Kisses Ring of Man Who Mocked Him: ‘1 in 100-Year Leader’

Plus commentary on fraud, SD invades MN, and more Zorbaz debate in today's Flyover news roundup.

July 17, 2024

‘Everyone Knows Puppetry Lives Here’: Why is Minneapolis Such a Puppet Town?

From the founding of the Twin Cities Puppeteers Guild to the rise of new groups like Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop, this town sure loves its puppets.

Big Court Win for Gun-Toting Minnesotans Who Are Too Young to Rent Cars

Plus libraries after dark, Icehouse finds financial footing, and picturing old schools in today's Flyover news roundup.

We Tried MN’s Zorbaz, Alleged Top 15 Worldwide Pizza Destination

The New York Times curiously hyped a peanut butter/pep/jalapeño delicacy from the chain of North Woods party bars.