Drinking Alone

Reflections on Being Married to a Beer Hater. READ NOW.

I don’t drink beer to get drunk. Or even buzzed. Flavor is what I’m after, not questionable decisions. And definitely not a hangover. So while I appreciate a masterfully crafted beer that can make 10 percent ABV taste like five, long gone are the days I cared about getting loopy in the most efficient route possible.

So it was with some curiosity and a little trepidation I reached out to Ted Fleming. Fleming is the founder of Toronto-based Partake Brewing, which recently nearly tripled its Kickstarter goal of $10,000 based on a simple but lofty promise: brewing the world’s best non-alcoholic beer.

More intriguing to me was that Fleming would be releasing a non-alcoholic IPA. That’s like making chicken parm without the chicken. It just doesn’t compute.

Partake’s crowdfunding campaign just ended, and product isn’t scheduled to start shipping until July. But Fleming was kind enough to send me one to try. The IPA showed up in a plastic bottle that looked like it once housed a Mug Root Beer. A precaution, Fleming said. So, a non-alcoholic IPA in a plastic bottle. What could go wrong?

This beer, Fleming said, is craft brewed “using all natural ingredients and balances citrusy hops with a sweet malt backbone.” It’s an “all-day sipper,” he goes on. “At only 10 calories, 2g of carbohydrate and 0g of fat, this could well be the world’s healthiest beer.”

And it’s pretty good.

Poured into a glass from the plastic, there was carbonation but zero foam. I shoved my face deep into the glass and was surprised at the aroma. It doesn’t smell like any IPA you’ve ever had. But then again, it’s not like any IPA you’ve ever had. Barring the one example I can think of (from Brewdog; who else?), this is a beer on an island. The point, at least to me, is that it smells like a beer that could be an IPA. And for an IPA with 0.26% ABV — the limit for the category is 0.5% (thanks, Prohibition) — that’s a big win.

The taste matches the aroma. This is a beer, if tasted blind, that could fool some people into thinking it was a bonafide IPA. Granted, if it’s Racer 5 or Lagunitas or Goose Island or Harpoon you’re seeking (to name the ubiquitous), this ain’t it. Not quite. But in a category defined by palate-numbing blandness, Partake’s take on the IPA offers something decidedly different. In a word: flavor.

So, hat’s off to Fleming for disrupting a category and bringing a new non-alcoholic option to the mix. If you missed the crowdfunding campaign but would still like to partake, head here.