Athletic Brewing Company has become the gold standard for non-alcoholic beer. In this article, I deliver an Athletic Brewing review that tells you everything you need to know about doing business with this innovative brewery.
A few years back, I became more intentional about watching my alcohol servings. (If you’re in that place now, read this.) A big part of that journey was discovering what I call “rodeo clowns”—non-alcoholic replacements for beer, wine, and liquor.
Non-alcoholic beers have become my go-to rodeo clowns: they’re cold, refreshing, and amazing imposters of the real thing. I have now tasted over a hundred. And I can confidently say that Athletic Brewing Company is the best NA brewery in North America. Read on to find out why.
Review of Athletic Brewing Non-Alcoholic Beers
Athletic Brewing is known for their ever-expanding line-up of non-alcoholic beers. They started with two flagships: Run Wild IPA and Upside Dawn Golden Ale. (You’ll notice a “health and energy” theme in the beer names.)
From there, they rounded out their flagship with a third crowd-pleaser, the Free Wave Hazy IPA. And the creative spin-offs just keep coming. They have even developed a pilot program, testing new styles to see what strikes the NA beer drinker’s fancy.
Our Athletic beer reviews start with the flagships and go from there.
Run Wild IPA Review
The Run Wild IPA put Athletic Brewing on the map. First year sales were so high they expanded production the next summer. (And then skinny-dipped in the vats to celebrate being filthy rich—or so I heard.)
Beer tasters have draped Run Wild IPA in awards since it broke onto the scene. And when you crack one, you’ll taste why. The blend of five different Northwest hops delivers a crisp, approachable IPA.
Here’s the tasting notes for Run Wild IPA:
- Look: Amber color with an orange hue. Like other Athletic beers, it has a nice head that sticks around for a bit. (Not all NA beers can say this.)
- Smell: Some breadiness with a hoppy aroma. The hops aren’t overpowering.
- Taste: Malty sweetness on the front. Some hoppiness, but not overpowering. Very good. Drinks like a light IPA (session). The 35 IBU rating makes sense.
- Feel: Feel is very good compared to other NA beers. Medium body, good carbonation.
This is a crushable IPA you can come back to. It drinks easy, more like a Pale Ale. Light hoppiness with sweet maltiness. You could trick many people into thinking this is legit beer.
Free Wave Review (Hazy IPA)
Of Athletic’s flagship 3, the Free Wave Hazy IPA is my favorite. It’s more complex than the Run Wild IPA, with a more aggressive hop profile. The citrus stands out thanks to the Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops.
Free Wave also has an impressive medal haul in competitions. This includes “Best Beer” in the 2020 International Beer Challenge. The hop and malt combination delivers a biting flavor profile with a pleasant finish.
Here’s the tasting notes for Free Wave Hazy IPA:
- Look: Hazy pale orange color, pretty cloudy. Nice frothy head that holds well.
- Smell: Hop-forward aroma with strong citrus notes. There’s an orange and pineapple scent with pine and grass. Very nice on the nose.
- Taste: Tangerine citrus with dank hops. A little breadiness. The hops are there, but not overpowering. Very much a West Coast IPA. Nice, dry finish with some bitterness.
- Feel: Medium bodied with some creaminess. Moderate carbonation.
This is a great beer if you’re into West Coast IPAs. The hop profile really shines, delivering a fruity bitterness without being overpowering. It’s smooth drinking, too. For my money, it’s Athletic’s best brew.
Upside Dawn Review (Golden Ale)
Upside Dawn Golden Ale is another award winner, including Gold at the International Beer Competition. Brewed with organic English and American hops, along with Vienna malts. This give it a blend of smells and flavors worth coming back for.
At the same time, it’s light and refreshing. A great beer for hot summer days. Added bonus: Upside Dawn is crafted to remove gluten.
Here’s the tasting notes for Upside Dawn:
- Look: Straw-colored gold, slightly cloudy. Thick head with good retention. Nice-looking, sun-kissed golden ale. Reminiscent of Mexican Lager style.
- Smell: Crisp and grainy, with a lot of floral hop aromas. Some citrus there. Pretty mild.
- Taste: Biscuity up front, balanced with floral hop bitterness. Drinks more like a Pilsner than a Golden Ale. Some funky bitterness on the back. Crisp and refreshing.
- Feel: Light-bodied, maybe a little watery for some. But solid for an NA beer. Medium carbonation. Finish is crisp and dry.
Upside Dawn is a uniquely satisfying beer. There’s complex fruits and herbal flavors on the palate. But it’s light and crushable. This is definitely a summer beer, serve cold to fend off a hot day. And if you’re reducing gluten, it’s a must have.
All Out Stout Review
A good non-alcoholic stout is hard to find. They usually have a metallic taste and watery mouthfeel. But All Out Stout dodges these problems to be one of the best.
Adding to All Out Stout’s shine is a Gold at the 2021 World Beer Awards. Athletic says it’s “bold and daring” and “meticulously crafted.” It’s marketing hype. But they back it up with a solid product.
Here’s the tasting notes for All Out Stout:
- Look: This stout pours a dark brown with a full tan head. The froth holds for a while. Good-looking stout.
- Smell: Dark chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. Some nuttiness, too. The smell is subtle but appealing.
- Taste: Coffee with some nuttiness and caramel. There’s a touch of earthy bitterness on the finish. Drinks like an Irish stout. Very tasty.
- Feel: Struggles to be medium-bodied, but a very good body for a dark NA beer. If it was a little thicker, this would be a 10.
Athletic beat the odds with the All Out Stout: it’s a well-rounded stout with robust flavors and decent mouthfeel. At 90 calories, it’s light for a dark brew. If you’re into darks and cutting back, this should be a go-to.
Other Athletic Beer Reviews:
Cerveza Atletica Review
For my money, Cerveza Atletica is the best Mexican-style NA beer out there. It’s billed as Mexican lager. But think closer to Modelo Negro than Corona. It has some traits of a darker Vienna lager, basically.
- Look: When you pour it out, you’ll find a copper-colored brew with a thick, off-white head. Nice-looking hue and head.
- Smell: Gives off a sweet, caramel smell. Definitely a dark bread aroma there.
- Taste: Dark bread and caramel up front. Finish is mildly bitter and crisp.
- Feel: Light to medium-bodied with medium carbonation. Little watery, but pretty good for an NA beer.
You’ll fool a few people with this one. It has a nice, crisp finish that follows some malty sweetness. We really like it. Which is why we chose it best overall in our Mexican NA beer review.
Interested in Mexican-Style Non-Alcoholic Beers? Read Our Best NA Mexican Beers Roundup.
Soul Sour Review
Athletic did something special with Soul Sour. It’s a fruity and citrusy sour that celebrates Black history month. And 100% of this beer’s profits go to impact programs.
- Look: Pours a hazy, pinkish purple color with a medium pinkish head. The look is different, but cool.
- Smell: Pretty fruity. Definitely blueberry, lemon, and some tropical fruit.
- Taste: Delightfully fruity up front with a lot of tart berry flavors. Also some citrus and mango. It’s not too sour, which most people will appreciate.
- Feel: Light to medium bodied. Gentle, tingly carbonation. Slick feel.
If you’re into sours, this is a must-try. And yet it could also be a crowd pleaser. It’s not a “drink 5” kinda beer. But one or two on a hot day will hit the spot. It sells out quickly. So if you catch it in stock, get clicking.
Downwinder Gose Review
This is my favorite of Athletic’s seasonal releases. (Not surprising, given my penchant for sours.) I’m not alone: BeerAdvocate raters gave it a 90/100 overall. That’s about as good as it gets for NA beer.
- Look: Light golden color with some haze. Nice head that sticks around for a while.
- Smell: There’s some herb and spice on the nose. Probably the coriander Athletic says is in there.
- Taste: Tart up front with some citrus in there. Nice touch of saltiness and wheat. Very refreshing.
- Feel: Light to medium body that’s crisp and slightly creamy. They really nailed it again with the feel of this one.
This is just an excellent beer, period. They hit all the qualities of a good Gose and created a mouthfeel that rivals the real thing. Which is probably why they run out so quickly. If you catch it in stock, don’t think. Just click.
Athletic Lite Review
Very light and crisp, with only 25 calories.
Athletic Lite is their take on the extra light lager category. Think Michelob Ultra and its brethren. The best news is that it’s even lighter than the alcoholic peers at just 25 calories.
- Look: Light, gold-colored beer. Almost clear.
- Smell: Not a lot here. Little grassy with some bread.
- Taste: Lemony, with some crisp cracker flavors. It closely imitates alcoholic light lagers. Not a big difference.
- Feel: Light to medium body that’s crisp and slightly creamy. They really nailed it again with the feel of this one.
You could trick most of your friends into thinking this was Bud Light or Michelob Ultra. Seriously, it’s that close. And at 25 calories, it serves the noble purpose of keeping it lean. If you drink those types of beers, give this a try when cutting back.
(Interested in low-calorie NA beers? Check out our review of Partake Brewing, the low-calorie champions.)
First Ride Extra Dark Review
The only thing better than an NA beer in the afternoon is one with coffee. First Ride Extra Dark is just the thing: A specially brewed Porter that will help you beat the post-lunch carb crash.
- Look: Coffee-dark pour with creamy, tan head. Head sticks around for a bit. Nice-looking porter.
- Smell: More dark chocolate on the nose than coffee. But the roasted smell is notable.
- Taste: Drinks like a coffee stout, but the coffee isn’t overpowering. Some smokiness on the finish. You could compare this to Guinness.
- Feel: Light to medium bodied. It’s not as creamy as some alcoholic peers, but this is a respectable mouthfeel for a dark NA beer. Not overly watery.
I’m impressed by this. It drinks similar to a Guinness, but with more dark roasted coffee on the tongue and a smokey finish. You might be wondering if I can feel the coffee. The answer is YES. 🤪 A good one to have around for a pick-me-up.
Athletic Brewing Subscription Review
- Cancel Anytime
- Choose 12, 18, or 24 Beers
- Always Free Shipping
- Early Access to Seasonals
Athletic Brewing makes great non-alcoholic beer. But there’s also demand for their products— and it shows in the price. If you told me when I was 21 I’d pay $20 (after shipping) for a non-alcoholic sixer, I would’ve spit Natty Light in your face.
The order page looks like this:
The good news is that you can catch a break on pricing through their Athletic Club subscription program. Here’s the skinny:
- Save up to 15% off the standard price.
- You ALWAYS get free shipping.
- Early access to limited release and pilot program brews, which are hard to find in stores and sell out quickly. (Sounds “salesy”, but it’s true.)
- Option to add Daypack sparkling waters to your subscription. (I love options.)
- You control the quantity (minimum two six-packs) and frequency (monthly, bi-monthly, etc.)
- Email and app order notifications, in case you want to change or skip.
- Skip as many orders as you’d like, no limitations.
- Cancel anytime.
- If you don’t pay attention to the emails, you can end up with more than you want.
- Your fridge might struggle with the sudden invasion of non-alcoholic beers.
It’s clear that the pros far outweigh the cons. And the cons are first world problems. The truth is that this is a great way to catch a break while getting your hands on the best non-alcoholic beers out there. Plus, you’re saving future money on the liver transplant you won’t need.
Here’s a couple email screenshots to show you the confirmation and notification emails. Notice the details and free shipping in the first confirmation.
In the order notification email, notice the easy one-click link to skip the order or make changes.
You can see that they’re great about communication and changes are easy. In my view, if you’re into non-alcoholic beer (or trying to be) there’s no better subscription out there. (Side note: There are other excellent subscriptions from outlets like Better Rhodes.)
Athletic Brewing Variety Case Review
If a subscription commitment feels too stuffy (I get it), you and Athletic can just be friends—with benefits. This is where their variety case comes in.
- Like the subscription, the variety brings a discount ( 5 or 10% off) for ordering multiple six-packs (either 4 or 6).
- No follow-up order to change/skip, no frequency to decide on, and no commitment.
- Free shipping. Again, this saves a ton.
- Daypack sparkling waters are fair game.
- To get 10% off, you have to order a minimum of 4 six-packs. This puts you above $50. The other option (6 six-packs) puts you just over $70. Could feel steep if you’re just dabbling into NA beer.
- No early access to the seasonals and limited releases.
So there you go. You can still get some Athletic in your life—variety included, no subscription required. All with no visits to the therapist about your commitment issues.
Athletic Brewing DayPack Seltzer Review
Our Athletic Brewing review would be incomplete without a look at their DayPack Seltzer line-up. These “hop-infused” sparkling waters were Athletic’s first launch outside of NA beers. The hop oil gives them the piney flavor profile that we know from a lot of beers.
They feature four flavors: lemon lime, blood orange, mango, and black cherry. They’re unsweetened, zero calorie, and always gluten-free. (Not a revolution, this describes most waters.)
Some might question the appeal of a “water” that tries to take on beer flavors. But the market research doesn’t lie: hop waters are trending up. Just keep in mind that DayPack Seltzers are not hop water—they are sparkling water infused with hop oil. Big difference.
Interested in legitimate hop water? Check out my favorite: HOP WTR.
All DayPack seltzers look like sparkling water—clear and bubbly. What separates them is the other added flavoring.
I’ll start with my favorite and move down from there:
DayPack Blood Orange Review
The blood orange flavoring is definitely there, but it’s not overly citrusy or sweet. Sometimes flavored seltzers will have a saccharine taste, like they went too far trying to bring the flavor forward. DayPack Blood Orange doesn’t have that. Very clean and crisp.
The hops are there, but not overpowering. It’s got a bitter bite that doesn’t take over the flavor. And the carbonation is bubbly, but mild. I like it, very refreshing.
DayPack Lemon Lime Seltzer Review
This one is even brighter than the Blood Orange. The citrus notes are right up front and the hop oil kicks in some added bitterness. This one is less complex than the Blood Orange, though. Still very refreshing, just simpler.
DayPack Black Cherry Seltzer Review
Black cherry is a popular flavor in the seltzer world, probably because it’s familiar and has a robust flavor. That flavor really shows up here. There’s almost a combination of fruitiness with some earthy and herbal notes. It’s decent.
DayPack Mango Seltzer Review
This one is refreshing and clean like the others, but is my least favorite of the DayPack seltzer line-up. You’ll smell the mango sweetness right when you open it. The potency of the tropical fruit subsides a little on the tongue, but it’s definitely there.
Mango and hops is an interesting combo. I’m okay with it. Many people probably won’t love it.
My Experience Buying from Athletic Beer Company
- Website Experience
- Customer Service
- Athletic’s Values and Mission
Athletic Brewing has a slick website that’s easy to navigate. The main navigation has links to their non-alcoholic beer page, DayPack seltzer water page, or a page with all products. There’s also a merchandise page, if you want hats, etc. (Personally, I’m not that into ABC. But you do you.)
Each product has a single-click “add to cart” button, or you can click on the product image to learn more. They also make it easy to sort products by style, flavor profile, and season. They pack individual product pages with information: main ingredients, calories and nutrition, flavor profiles, and more.
The shopping cart and checkout experience is breezy. You’ll get add on suggestions (there’s always an upsell) and can pay with either Shop Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, or PayPal.
Once you add your information, the shipping costs populate (usually $5-10). Then just pay and wait for the best non-alcoholic beers in North America.
I have probably placed around 30 orders from Athletic Brewing Company. Not once have I had a bad customer experience, EXCEPT a damaged package one time. Since I probably can’t blame that on them, I’d say their customer service record is impeccable.
They have made their policies easy to understand. From straightforward shipping to simple returns policy, it’s all transparent and breezy.
Here are a few details:
- Shipping: Free shipping on orders over $50 and for Athletic Club members. Once shipped, you’ll get a tracking number to keep an eye.
- Delivery times: New orders are processed and shipped within 24-48 hours. (It can take longer if the item isn’t readily in stock.) From there, it’s a 3-5 day timeframe via FedEx. From purchase to porch, I’ve rarely waited over 5 days for an Athletic delivery.
- Returns: They say that “if your Athletic Brewing items are damaged or do not meet expectations” you should reach out. I have never tried a return, so I can’t speak to that process. That I’ve never tried a return is a good thing!
- Communication: Good communication is quick, but not overbearing. I feel like Athletic hits the sweet spot. You’ll get confirmation emails, shipping emails (with tracking info), and marketing emails for new brews/products. I’ve never found the marketing excessive.
- Customer support: There’s an FAQ page that provides a lot of information. Again, I have never had problems that needed fixing. So I can’t speak to email turnaround, etc.
Their promise is that you’ll never have a bad experience with their customer service. In my experience, they’re living up to that promise.
Values and Mission
Athletic Brewing Company’s values revolve around the promotion of health and well-being. I love that they wear this on their sleeve. (Yes, it’s also self-serving PR. But when companies live it, I think it’s worth rewarding.)
First, there’s the products: non-alcoholic craft beer and seltzers have a clear health purpose. But Athletic also has a commitment to community. They’ve donated beer to frontline workers, support veteran causes, and more.
Two For The Trails is a prime example of Athletic Brewing Company’s values in action. Through Two For The Trails, they donate a percentage of purchases to their trail partner, the American Hiking Society. Buy NA craft beer and you make a contribution to America’s great outdoors. It’s a win-win.
Biggest Complaints: Stock and Pricing
My only complaints about Athletic are the short supply of certain beers and the price.
Some of their best beers are limited seasonals. They make it, can it, let Athletic Club members know it’s available, then open it to everyone. Within weeks, it’s gone. Makes sense: excellent products + big demand + short supply = out of stock. Still frustrating though.
Example: I love the Downwinder Gose. But the last time they had some in, I snagged it once. Then it went the way of the dodo bird. At that point, it’s a waiting game to see it again. There’s a lesson here: if you’re really into a limited release Athletic brew, don’t skimp. Get extra.
Finally, we have the prices. When I first bought from Athletic, my eyes widened when I realized one 6-pack would set me back $20, after shipping.
To be fair, this is a theme across non-alcoholic breweries. And again, it makes sense: excellent products + big demand….you know where this is going. If pricing isn’t an issue, have a blast. (And congratulations.)
If money matters, start with a two or three 6-pack subscription (12 or 18 beers). The first will set you back about $28 and the second $39. Shipping is free. That’s $13 or $14 per 6-pack—much better than $20. Plus, you’ll have the chance to add limited releases later. Cancel anytime.
History of the Athletic Brewing Company
In 2018, Founders Bill Shufelt and John Walker established Athletic Brewing in Stratford, CT. It was Shufelt who drank the beer that set the whole thing off. Specifically, a really horrible non-alcoholic beer one night at a restaurant.
Recently married, he was already on a mission to be healthier. He now had a new mission: to provide delicious non-alcoholic beers that could be enjoyed responsibly, anytime, anywhere. He enlisted Walker in the struggle, and the pair started brewing test batches on homebrew equipment.
The company’s growth has been remarkable. By the summer of 2019, they expanded capacity to meet demand. Now, they boast a second brewing facility on the West Coast (San Diego, CA) and distribution across North America.
They also have developed partnerships with celebrity athletes like JJ Watt and renowned restaurateurs like David Chang. Today, you’ll find Athletic beers in bars and restaurants across the country. (The taproom down the street from my house always has Run Wild IPA and Free Wave Hazy IPA available.)
Thanks to their ongoing support, Athletic Brewing has expanded exponentially. So fast that they ranked No 26 on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 list. They’ve gone from the original 2 (Run Wild and Upside Dawn) to 6 regulars, dozens of limited release beers, and a pilot program to test new brews.
Their journey is far from over. Athletic has become the industry leader in craft NA brewing. It’s clear the future is bright. Healthier, too.
Frequently Asked Questions About Athletic Brewing Company
Where to buy Athletic Brewing Products
Where you should shop depends on what you’re looking for. The easiest thing to do is go to Athletic’s website and browse the current offerings. You’ll always find their flagships in stock. (Limited releases are a different story.) To keep the price down, try the Athletic Club subscription.
The good news with Athletic is that their popularity means they’re everywhere. If you prefer brick and mortar retail, head down to your local liquor store. Just keep in mind that you’ll usually pay more than you would if you subscribed and they’ll only have the flagships.
How many calories in Athletic Brewing Non-Alcoholic Beers?
It varies, but usually under 100 calories. Their lowest calorie option is Athletic Lite, clocking in at 25 teeny weeny calories—and about as much flavor. Such is life. Here’s how the rest stack up:
- All Out Stout: 90 calories
- Upside Dawn Golden Ale: 45 calories
- Free Wave Hazy IPA: 70 calories
- Run Wild IPA: 65 calories
- Cerveza Atletica: 60 calories
- Keeping with the history of water, all DayPack Seltzers have zero calories.
How does Athletic Brewing Make Their Beers (Brewing Process)?
They keep their “proprietary” brewing method under lock and key. It’s described as an “innovative” method that avoids the pitfalls of traditional dealcoholization.
In the past, brewers typically used one of two methods: a shortened brewing process with arrested fermentation OR removing alcohol by heat or filtration. The problem Shufelt and Walker worked to solve was the loss of flavor in both processes.
Shufelt told Popular Mechanics that arrested fermentation results in “tea-like products” and heating kills “the potential for hop character.” So the two re-engineered the brewing process from start to finish.
Shufelt says “there is just no single breakthrough point in the process…Our process is different at every stage and in every vessel.”
Answer to the question: I have no clue how they make their beers so good.
What is the alcohol content of Athletic Brewing non-alcoholic beers?
All of their beers are under 0.5% alcohol. At that concentration, you’d have to drink ten 12-ounce cans to get a single serving of alcohol. Challenge not accepted.
Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Healthy?
The direct health benefits of non-alcoholic beer are debatable. This is because most of it leans on the assertion that phenols found in beer have a host of benefits. Many non-alcoholic breweries and NA enthusiasts say the benefits are real.
To their point, there is some supporting evidence that alcohol-free beers have the following benefits:
- Reduced inflammation.
- Aiding in post-workout recovery. (More evidence here.)
- Contributing to bone density, and hair/skin health, presumably because of the silicon in beer.
- Better sleep.
- Improved circulation.
Whether these direct benefits are real or not, we can be sure of the indirect benefits. These include:
- Reduced alcohol consumption, including cutting alcoholic beer calories.
- Avoiding the downsides of alcohol, like hangovers, inflammation, and sluggishness.
- Increased energy and vitality, also from reduced alcohol consumption. (You see a theme building?)
- Staying social and the myriad benefits.
- Reduced cancer risk.
- Lower likelihood of falls and accidents.
Conclusions of Athletic Brewing Review
Whether you are just dipping a toe or are a full-on NA beer enthusiast, Athletic Brewing has everything you could want and more.
Their flagship non-alcoholic brews are some of the industry’s best. And the limited seasonals are often better. Shop online and consider starting a subscription today.