11 of the Best Minnesota Breweries for Sampling Nonalcoholic Beer
By Louis Livingston-Garcia
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Nonalcoholic (NA) beer remains a small part of the massive beer market, but it’s a steadily growing segment. According to a recent sales report, it hit $100 million and grew a whopping 96% between February 2021 and February 2022, reflecting a sober-curious mindset that has also spilled over into the wine and spirits world.
Minnesota is a leader within this widespread trend thanks in part to the St. Paul company ABV Technology. Rather than rely on high temperatures like NA producers once did — something that strips away a beer’s flavor and body — ABV provides brewers throughout the country with a proprietary vacuum separation process that turns a fully-fermented beer into a rich NA recipe.
According to ABV’s running list, at least 30 Minnesota breweries were producing NA beers as of late 2022. Outside of Minnesota, ABV Technology also produces NA beers for popular breweries like Evil Twin, Other Half and Great Notion.
Little Thistle is one of the breweries working closely with ABV. Co-owner and head brewer Steve Finnie says they started with an NA cream ale since it is so approachable.
“We did a test batch,” he explains, “and I was very surprised that there was some good body and flavor, with minimal hop presence.”
ABV isn’t the only player in town. In the summer of 2022, Finnegans purchased Hairless Dog, a burgeoning NA beer company that launched back in 2016. Finnegans has kept Hairless Dog’s Citra Lager, IPA and Black Ale as a separate brand while the storied Minnesota brewery develops its own recipes.
Minnesota even has an entire bottle shop devoted to nonalcoholic products now: Marigold in South Minneapolis, which carries everything from heady wine to hoppy tea.
“The state of NA in Minnesota is insane right now,” says Ashley Hauf, the director of sales and marketing at ABV Technology. “In the past, you’d settle for something like O’Doul’s because it was the only option, and light lagers or pilsners were traditionally all you could find [in the low-alcohol market]. ABV has had major success with sours, hazies, Kölsch — you name it.”
Below are some of the spots making tasty NA beer for the next time you’re exploring taprooms across the state....
Little Thistle | Rochester
While ABV has perfected barrel-aged stouts and IPAs on its system, a lot of its NA partnerships are cream ales, because you can increase flaked oats in a recipe to maintain its mouthfeel and easily add fruit afterwards. In Little Thistle’s case, it’s exactly what you want from a cream ale: a perfect crowd-pleaser.
Fulton Beer | Minneapolis
Lonely Blonde is a popular Minnesota beer that feels like it’s been around Fulton Beer forever. And now this American blonde ale has been reproduced in NA form. The regular beer is light and floral, and the NA version is similar, though the body is a little sweeter and less robust. Much like cream ales, blondes are considered a compelling intro to craft beer, one that’s light in flavor and leans into herbal or floral notes depending on the hops being used.
Fulton’s hop water is a completely different kind of product, but it’s a nice way to get a hit of healthy, hoppy flavor.
Fair State Brewing Cooperative | Minneapolis
Fair State also makes hoppy water that highlights several various hop varieties. A Citra and Mosaic combo boasts bright citrus flavors, while another blends Citra with CBD for a laid-back mango vibe. Other Fair State offerings include a Citra with Centennial or Galaxy hops, and limited cans of Hypercold “near-beers” that are modeled after Fair State’s classic Pils and Vienna Lager.
Bauhaus Brew Labs | Minneapolis
The Nah series at Bauhaus comes in several flavors, including helles, amber, hefeweizen, IPA, and a pink guava sour. The helles was introduced a few years ago and was an early hit in the highly competitive Minneapolis market. If you had it without knowing it was nonalcoholic, you’d think it was any old regular helles: bready, crisp and downright tasty, with a hint of honey.
Jack Pine Brewery | Baxter
Sitting in Baxter surrounded by lakes is Jack Pine and its Dead Branch cream ale. The taproom-only beer is typically available on draft. If not, you’ll find a different NA standby like the Duck Pond brown ale.
Ursa Minor Brewing | Duluth
A visit to the North Shore can also net some sweet sightseeing opportunities, with Ursa Minor’s NA cream ale satiating the thirst for a beer at the end of a long day. The beer is typically on tap, and for now, it’s Ursa’s sole NA offering.
Bucks Mill Brewing | Detroit Lakes
Between their shared background as home brewers and masters degrees in natural resource management and fishery biology, Chuck Fritz and Henry Van Offelen know a thing or two about how to turn clean water and a few key ingredients into quality beer. Their Detroit Lakes taproom, Bucks Mill Brewing, keeps at least one NA riff on their most popular recipes in rotation along with a house-made root beer. So far that's included its 30 Point Pilsner and Laker Red Ale.
9 Mile Brewing | Bloomington
This suburban brewery stays on top of beer trends by making a lot of hazy IPAs and fruited beer. 9 Mile also specializes in nonalcoholic sours, including a peach passion fruit that was released in September. It retains a thick body and mouthfeel, which can be lost in some NA beers. 9 Miles released another sour beer in the summer with orange and mango overtones, and will continue to rotate NA recipes in the months ahead.
Arbeiter Brewing Company | Minneapolis
So far, Arbeiter has released three nonalcoholic beers: an India Pale Lager, a mocha stout and one with chai. The India Pale Lager was a clean, hop-forward beer, while the mocha stout featured layers of cocoa, coffee and sweet milk.The chai was akin to drinking a chai latte. These might return, but currently, Arbeiter has a mango India Pale Lager on tap, and upcoming releases may include Breaking Bread (a pumpernickel rye ale) and Acid Factory Tropical Sour (made with plums). Arbeiter aims to always have one on tap, but wants to push the flavor and style envelope.
Copper Trail Brewing Co. | Alexandria
A nonalcoholic pilsner and Oktoberfest are both on the menu right now at Copper Trail. The pilsner is their constant NA, but they also provide seasonal offerings that rotate.
Lupulin Brewing | Big Lake
NA Tropical Fun Pants is currently on tap at Lupulin, and it’s a fruity one with mango, passion fruit and pink guava. In the past, the brewery has released its CPB chocolate peanut butter porter and a gose in NA form. Both NA CPB and NA Tropical Fun Pants will be released in 16-ounce 4-packs in the coming months.
Louis Livingston-Garcia has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in Japanese language and education from the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. He has written for newspapers in Kodiak Island, Alaska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. His written work has been featured in many publications including Growler Magazine, Heavy Table, City Pages, 507 Magazine, Official Xbox Magazine, Game Informer, GamesRadar, October, and more. He has professionally photographed Kodiak bears in the wild, Minnesota United FC soccer matches, and countless breweries. If he isn’t traveling around the world with his wife, he is most likely playing video games or reading with his cat, Miyamoto (yes, named after the creator of Super Mario Bros.), in his lap, and a beer nearby.
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