It’s hard to live in Seattle and not have an opinion on IPAs. Either you love the flavorful, hoppy, complex beers that are ubiquitous in the city’s many, many breweries — or you love to complain about how heavy and high-ABV they are and ask what happened to sipping on a crispy, cold beer without having a whole conversation about what “notes” you are tasting.
To the latter crowd, we regret to inform you that there is one more IPA hitting Seattle grocery shelves, but it’s not like the rest: It’s alcohol-free.
Fremont Brewing’s disappointingly named “Nonalcoholic IPA” is going to be available for purchase at stores around Seattle soon, Seattle Met reported last week, which is news primarily because it’s the first Seattle beer-maker to jump on one of the most notable beverage-industry trends of the past few years. The nonalcoholic drinks industry is growing rapidly, likely fueled by people (especially young people) consuming less alcohol or abstaining altogether. It’s now routine for any high-end Seattle restaurant to have at least a couple complex (and expensive) nonalcoholic cocktails on the menu, with some bars devoting a lot of energy to serving the sober (or “sober-curious”) and even sober nightlife events popping up.
But while Portland now has a nonalcoholic brewery called Heck and Olympia’s Three Magnets Brewing Co. puts out nonalcoholic beer, Seattle’s craft brewers have largely stayed out of the NA business. (One exception is Figurehead Brewing, which makes an NA stout.) That’s because brewing an alcohol-free beer isn’t like deciding to branch out into stouts or pilsners. The Met explains further:
For one thing, it requires totally different equipment and processes. Fremont invested $2 million in specialized equipment and 18 months on R&D. “We’re big believers in the category,” says owner Matt Lincecum. Looking back, he believes he should have made this a priority a long time ago. “All I had to do was look at my peers and what they have in their fridge.”
That investment appears to have paid off. At the 2023 Best of Craft Brew Awards, Fremont’s new beer won the silver medal in the “NA Hop-Forward Beers” category. It’s crisp and summery with citrus-y notes, a friendly neighborhood IPA but much more flavorful than the “hop waters” some breweries have been selling.
The embrace of alcohol-free beers is part of a larger shift against heavy, high-ABV brews; both in Seattle and nationally, lagers have become trendier, with brewers working on lighter varieties of beer rather than seeing how much hop flavor they can cram into a pint. But for those of you who enjoy the flavor of hops but not those hangovers, Fremont Brewing’s latest entry will be welcome news.
Correction, May 22, 2023, 8:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this article’s subhed incorrectly stated that this IPA is the first to be introduced in Washington State. In fact, Olympia’s Three Magnets Brewing Co. also brews nonalcoholic beer. We regret the error and appreciate the readers who brought it to our attention.
Correction May 23, 8:00 a.m.: We left out a mention of Figurehead, a brewery that has been making an NA stout for some time. We regret the error.