This is a paid, sponsored post presented by our friends at Samuel Adams.
Boston Beer Co. Founder Jim Koch is no stranger to bucking convection and embracing innovation. He launched his own brewery with a recipe for Vienna lager in 1984, for gosh sake. Over almost forty years, he’s built Boston Beer Co. into one of the most iconic breweries in the country. But for a long time, Koch firmly believed that Boston Beer would never make a non-alcoholic beer. Until two years ago, when Samuel Adams released Just the Haze non-alcoholic IPA.
See, brewing a non-alcoholic beer that’s full-flavored, well-balanced, and full of body can actually be pretty difficult.
Still, the demand for NA beer has steadily risen in America.
“[Non-alcoholic beer] is blowing up,” says The Boston Beer Company Senior Brand Manager, Samuel Adams, Jasen Holley. “We think in the next three to five years that non-alc could grow to be 1.5 to 2.5 percent of total beer, which means a tick under sixty million cases up for grabs.”
Holley cites big cultural forces like inclusivity, health consciousness, and self-optimization as driving winds behind the non-alcoholic trend.
“People want to be in the moment, to be a better version of themselves, and they don’t want to deal with a hangover the next day,” he says. “But they want that connection with family and friends … for that moment when you’re watching football, joining friends at a barbecue—an occasion where you drink beer. Non-alc beers deliver on that sense of belonging and those feelings of wellness when you can be at your best self.”
But that doesn’t mean consumers want to sacrifice flavor. In a cloudy sea of many NA beers that taste the same, Just the Haze has emerged like a ray of sun, delivering on the promise of a non-alcoholic hazy built by beer lovers, for beer lovers.
From Germany to Massachusetts, Non-Alcoholic Beer Jumps the Pond in Popularity
While the burgeoning non-alcoholic segment is fairly nascent in the U.S., NA beers have thrived in Europe for quite a long time.
Every year when the Boston Beer team traveled to Germany for hop selection, they noticed this NA culture.
“Every brewery had a non-alc beer, the quality was really good, and it wasn’t unusual for people to drink non-alcoholic beer,” recalls Christina Hahn, senior manager of brewing R&D at The Boston Beer Company, who drove the ideation of Just the Haze. “We saw this totally different culture around non-alcoholic beer, which got everyone thinking there might be something we can do in this space.”
Given the green light from Boston Beer Company’s former Vice President of Brewing and Quality David Grinnell, Hahn returned to Massachusetts and got to work at Samuel Adams research brewery.
She admits that, for a while, Koch wasn’t even aware the team started experimenting with NA beers.
“At one point, we had half a dozen non-alc concepts on draft,” says Hahn, including the first iteration of what would be hundreds of Just the Haze.
So, of course, one morning, Koch walked in, and, as he’s accustomed to doing, started tasting.
“I’m in the corner having a panic attack!” jokes Hahn. “Jim didn’t skip a beat. He had no idea the beers we had on the draft were non-alc, so that gave us a ton of confidence moving forward.”
Because Hahn knew that if she and her team could put a fantastic NA beer in front of Koch, he would say yes.
They just needed to give him a non-alcoholic beer that tasted so good, he couldn’t tell the difference, and he couldn’t say no.
Brewing a Bold, Juicy, Fruity, Hazy Non-Alcoholic Beer
While Hahn says she played around with different buckets of NA beer—dark, IPA, etc.—hazy made the most sense.
“That’s in our DNA,” she says. “We’re a New England craft brewery, so doing a New England IPA was the logical step.”
Seems simple enough.
But brewing a flavorful non-alcoholic hazy has lots of hurdles. Delivering a juicy, fruity, big, bold, flavor-forward non-alcoholic New England-style IPA is challenging because beer naturally carries aroma. A non-alcoholic beer, on the other hand, has to find other ways to achieve the same drinking experience.
Hahn figured if she and the team could “crack the code for hop flavor and aroma in non-alc beer” in a hazy, delivering that authentic New England IPA experience, “we could really do anything,” she says. “From a beer nerd perspective, that was the holy grail!”
Finding and Delivering the Holy Hazy Grail
Unlocking an NA NEIPA’s potent potential doesn’t happen on the first try. You don’t wave a magical Harry Potter wand and utter aloho-more-hops. It takes hard work. But hey, this is The Boston Beer Company, built in a town that understands patience and perseverance, waiting eighty-six years just to win the World Series.
Hahn didn’t have a century, but she took two years to explore every flavor nook and cranny, testing various hops and forms of hops—essences, extracts, and oils.
“Without exaggeration, we tried every single hop product on the market and all the cultivars,” she shares, noting the brewery tapped into their relationships with hop companies all over the world. “We worked with the best and the brightest at the biggest institutions; we worked with experts globally in Japan and Germany and at the most prestigious academic institutions and brewing science laboratories.”
Every phone call, every ask, and every hop or hop product tested stemmed from one goal.
“We were trying to do something no one had done before,” says Hahn.
Brew a damn fine-tasting non-alcoholic New England IPA.
To develop that backbone, Sam Adams started with white wheat and golden naked oats “to bring the body up and develop a full palate,” says Hahn, noting she spent an incredible amount of time dialing in the malt bill and the hops.
Hopwise, Samuel Adams settled on Citra, Mosaic, Sabro, and Cascade.
“We have a classic IPA backbone with Cascade, Citra, and Mosaic, layered with Sabro to push the tropical expression and create this harmonious blast of hop aroma,” says Hahn.
Released into the market in March 2021, Just the Haze immediately made an impact.
Just the Haze, Award-Winning Non-Alcoholic Beer
“The proof is in the pudding,” says Holley.
In just under three years, Just the Haze has racked up awards including a gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2021 (just six months after the product launched) and a silver at the World Beer Cup in 2023.
“Just The Haze is one of the fastest-growing non-alc SKUs in the U.S. right now,” shares Holley. “A lot of that is because of the flavor.”
Holley shares that when his team talks to drinkers, “Undoubtedly the number one thing that comes up is how good Just the Haze tastes, the quality, and the craftsmanship.”
All pillars of Samuel Adams and The Boston Beer Company.
To prove his point, Holley shares out an important statistic: re-buys on Just the Haze packages. Just the Haze tallies the second-highest number of repeat purchases in the brewery’s entire portfolio behind only Octoberfest, a beer that has the tenth-highest number of five-star check-ins on Untappd in 2023.
“Once people try it, they come back to it,” says Holley. “Sam Adams is quality and craftsmanship, and we deliver on that promise and overall experience people have with the beer.”
What Does an Award-Winning Non-Alcoholic Hazy Taste Like?
Well, you should probably try it for yourself. But for Hahn, who intimately worked on developing this recipe for two years, one of her favorite parts of Just the Haze starts from the moment you crack the can. “Number one, before anything even happens, you get that hop aroma in your face,” she says.
Poured into a glass, Just the Haze appears a gorgeous hazy amber with a little bit of an “orange glow,” according to Hahn.
At thirty-five IBUs, Just the Haze gives you enough bitterness to keep things balanced without “blowing anyone’s head off,” says Hahn.
Courtesy of the Citra, Sabro, and Cascade, Just the Haze drinks with a little bit of lemony citrus, tangerine, grapefruit, and juicy orange.
The Mosaic and Sabro help round things out. The former “is a really rich hop and packs a punch in terms of tropical fruit,” says Hahn.
Meanwhile, Sabro comes in with what Hahn calls wild tropical pineapple notes and a lot of coconut expression.
“All the hops work together to push the aroma directionally towards that tropical bomb,” says Hahn, who also gets a mid-note of peach or stone fruit.
Holley’s experience talking with drinkers shares that, beyond the flavor, the mouthfeel of Just the Haze stands out.
“A lot of NAs are more watery, but people talk a lot about how smooth [Just the Haze] is, how easy it is to drink, and how they can have several in one sitting,” says Holley.
Hahn points out that the malt bill drives that medium body here, helping Just the Haze avoid a common non-alcoholic beer pitfall.
“A lot of NAs, because they don’t have alcohol to clear the palate, can get sweeter and sweeter over time or the bitterness can build,” says Hahn.
With Just the Haze, Samuel Adams concentrated on executing a full body and finish to ensure the drinker enjoyed this non-alcoholic hazy from cracking the can to draining the last drop.
Following the Rainbow to the Pot of Gold Rush
Based on the success of Just the Haze, Samuel Adams released another non-alcoholic SKU—Gold Rush golden lager—earlier this year.
“For us, it was almost the opposite of Just the Haze,” says Hahn. “We wanted to offer folks something really different.”
Whereas Just the Haze drinks juicy, fruity, and tropical, Gold Rush hits the palate clean, cool, and crisp.
Gold Rush, too, presented technical challenges “because with a lager there is nothing to hide behind,” says Hahn.
Holley shares that Gold Rush helped Samuel Adams tap into another growing movement—craft lagers. “We love that fit,” he says. “Having an IPA and a golden lager in our portfolio.”
A far cry from Koch proclaiming he’d never brew a non-alcoholic beer, Samuel Adams now has two fantastic non-alc brands under its umbrella. And the rebellious brewery seems to just be getting started.
“We know our non-alc drinkers like variety, so we are going to continue to explore that and challenge Christina and her team to come up with new, cool, interesting non-alc beers,” says Holley. “We’ll see what happens in the future!”
Where Can I Find Samuel Adams Just the Haze or Gold Rush Non-Alcoholic Beers?
You can find Just the Haze and Gold Rush in 6-packs of 12oz cans within Boston Beer’s nationwide footprint.
Grab yourself a sixer and taste why Just the Haze is an award-winning non-alcoholic NEIPA.