Woodland Farms Brewery's non-alcoholic IPA looks like a beer, and it tastes like a beer, but it doesn’t buzz like a beer.
Patrick Rowan churned through several dozen test batches before he felt good about Pointer IPA.
By Joel Crabtree Photographed by Clayton Simoncic
Non-alcoholic beer has, in the past, fallen flat. For decades, big breweries produced pale imitations of the real deal that, at best, could be described as cold and fizzy. Even before Patrick Rowan opened Kittery’s Woodland Farms Brewery, in 2017, he’d been thinking about better non-alcoholic beer: “You sit at a campfire with buddies, have two beers, and have to drive home, but you don’t want to leave yet and don’t want to stop drinking.”
This spring, Woodland Farms released the first Maine-brewed non-alcoholic beer, Pointer, a New England–style IPA (the actual ABV is a little south of .5 percent, the federal threshold for labeling as non-alcoholic). It has the haze, citrusy-hoppy scent, and viscosity of full-fledged beer. Soon after, Rowan released Witty, a light, bright Belgian-style wheat ale that also clocks in at a negligible ABV.
Lesser alcohol content has an additional benefit: whereas the average New England IPA clocks in at more than 200 calories, Pointer is a mere 80. That appeals to calorie-conscious consumers, and it’s helped push Rowan and other craft brewers around the country to fine-tune non-alcoholic beer recipes, although that’s easier said than done. Fermentation usually creates both alcohol and a lot of flavor in a beer. Take away the alcohol, lose some flavor. Rowan churned through several dozen 30-gallon test batches before he felt good about Pointer. Since its release, he’s been fielding orders from all over the country, from California to Oregon to Louisiana.
“Maine craft beer has a really solid reputation,” Rowan says. “To have a non-alcoholic product come from Maine that’s comparable to an alcoholic one was important to me — I’m stoked to be able to represent us.”
Beyond non-alcoholic beer, more and more craft breweries are starting to dabble in alternative bevs, says Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. Here, three notable trends, in order of ubiquity within Maine.
1 . Sessionable Beers
A common middle ground between high-test and non-alcoholic, session ales and lagers generally have ABVs around 3 or 4 percent, like Allagash’s tart and fruity Little Grove series or Rising Tide’s Maine Island Trail IPA.
2. Hard Seltzer
Sullivan recently polled the guild’s constituent breweries about seltzer production: some dozen already make seltzer (Lone Pine, notably, has invested big-time in its seltzer biz) and several others responded that they intend to tap into the current seltzer craze soon.
3. High Life
For supporters of the, um, green economy, Shipyard and Sea Dog released non-alcoholic, THC-infused alternatives to their ever-popular pumpkin- and blueberry-flavored beers, respectively. Available at recreational marijuana shops.