Non-alcoholic offerings from Lagunitas Brewing (reviews)

Non-alcoholic offerings from Lagunitas Brewing (reviews)

Dry January is past, so cutting out alcohol may not be top of mind right now (though I’ve also seen the subsequent months recently called Fit February and Moderation March in the same spirit), but that shouldn’t stop you from moderating your alcohol intake if you so choose. In that spirit I’d received samples of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s two non-alcoholic beverages, a sparkling hop water and a standard NA IPA, to sample and review. So let’s get right into it.

Hoppy Refresher

I’ve been calling this “Hop Water” based on the label, but the “Hoppy Refresher” is its official name—“Sparkling Hop Water” is the secondary name/tagline. And it’s literally just that—a zero-calorie, zero-carb, zero-alcohol sparkling water flavored with hops.

Here’s what Lagunitas says about it:

Crisp, zingy, and hoppily refreshing. This sparkling beverage is made using everything Lagunitas knows about hops. Chock-full of Citra, Equinox, and Centennial hops, for a big splash of flavor that’s surprisingly fruity.

Hoppy Refresher is a zippy and zingy highly carbonated dry-hopped sparkling water. We added a pinch of brewer’s yeast to biotransformate the hops and pull out terpenes (AKA aroma compounds) of bubblegum, lime, lemon, tangerine, and a bit of pine.

I have to admit, I was skeptical, and expected just kind of dirty-flavored water, not expecting the hops to offer much but some harsh bitterness. I was pleasantly surprised (and wrong). My (freeform) notes:

Clear sparkling water with a slight yellow-green tint. It has an oddly candy or juice-like aroma that’s reminiscent of an orange-cherry lollipop, with a faint undercurrent of herbal bitterness. The flavor is light with a bright bit of citrus (“natural flavors”) that’s a touch dank and earthy. (Light bong water.) Otherwise, it’s a spritzy light mineral water, ephemeral. Not harshly hoppy or overly bitter at all. There’s a light acidity that comes with the sparkling (carbonated) water.

It’s one I would drink again.

IPNA (Non-alcoholic IPA)

Lagunitas’ IPNA fits the standard model for NA beer, with less that 0.5% alcohol by volume (to be legally considered “non-alcoholic”), and with the stats provided on the website—28.32 IBUs, and it has a starting gravity of 1.023—it sounds like the brewery’s method of production is to brew a low-gravity, low-alcohol beer as its starting point. Crux Fermentation Project does the same thing with its NØ MØ brews; the result is “real” beer (no arrested fermentation or similar methods to halt alcohol production), and it’s diluted as necessary to bring it below the 0.5% ABV threshold.

Now, I can’t say for sure that Lagunitas produces IPNA this way—I do get a bit of unfermented wort character in the aroma, as you’ll see in my notes below—but I suspect it does.

Here’s what the company says about IPNA on the website:

IPNA is pure NA satisfaction. A brewer-led labor of love utilizing all of our hops chops and over a year of R&D. Massively dry-hopped and delicious … like a clean, zesty bunch of hops smackin’ you in the face! Yes, in a good way.

Dank-ish pine-y grippiness from the massive dry-hop of our favorite Yakima Valley hops—Citra, Mosaic & CTZ (Columbus, Tomahawk & Zeus for the acronym-averse)—on a bed of English crystal malts for a smooth backbone & beautiful orange hue. A uniquely-full body and crazy-big hoppy aroma lends to IPNA’s satisfaction.

Appearance: Light amber color, similar to brown bottle glass, clear, with white fizzy head that didn’t last long.

Smell: Green hops with that lightly under-attenuated wort-like character that’s typical of many non-alcoholic brews. Some hop stems, earthiness, but it’s fairly light.

Taste: Crisp and dry—crackery with grain dust and a dried grass or hay bitterness that’s fairly balanced for what’s here (or not here). Surprisingly there’s not really much “wort” character as I’d expected from the aroma, but there is a light touch of cardboard (oxidation). But it has a decent grain character, the hops are pretty light and well-handled for the style, and it could be fresher (I’m assuming, if it’s oxidized a bit).

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, crisp and surprisingly dry.

Overall: Pretty good overall, and it drinks well. Satisfying for a non-alcoholic.

The bottom line: Both of these are pretty good and drinkable, viable NA alternatives that manage to mostly avoid any of the off-putting flavors and aromas that can make non-alcoholic beers a challenge. If you’re looking for NA beers to have on hand, or drink regularly, these are worthy contenders.