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Sober Rover

Get the buzz on non-alcoholic craft beer

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NO HAIR All the taste without the booze. - JAMES KNIGHT
  • James Knight
  • NO HAIR All the taste without the booze.

Didn't make it very far into "dry January" this year? Me neither.

Sober Diary, January 2: "This is fine, but what's the point?" The point, says the doctor the following week at my free annual checkup (thanks to Covered California—Medicare for all it ain't, but I'll take it), is to give the liver a break. Doc says it can recuperate in just 21 days, and then it's, "Hello again, cask-strength single malt!" He didn't actually say that last bit.

So, the next calendar-assisted bout of sobriety coming up is Lent, the Catholic tradition of fasting and abstinence that starts on Ash Wednesday, this issue's publication date. Being impatient to practice this newfound self-discipline, I did an earlybird, prequel version that's half the time and ends on Fat Tuesday.

Looking to the non-alcoholic (NA) wine section, I find nothing new to tempt me. Turning to the beer aisle, a few smartly labeled packages of cans catch my eye. Look, it's non-alcoholic craft beer. Finally! Did someone read my mind?

Hairless Dog Brewing Co. cofounders and friends Paul Pirner and Jeff Hollander were of the same mind when they ran into each other at a party and noticed neither was drinking.

"There's no sob story or anything," says Pirner. "We just decided we'd had enough."

But they didn't want the stigma that follows someone walking into a room with a bottle of O'Douls, "And people are like, 'What happened to that guy?'"

With unapologetic style, Hairless Dog sports the tagline, "Party like there's a tomorrow." Their 0.0 percent alcohol coffee stout, made without fermentation, is robust and hop-forward, with not-too-sweet malt flavor and a warmth that replaces the alcohol of a regular stout.

Almost as good as it sounds, Bravus Brewing Company's Guinness-like oatmeal stout relies on convincing tamari and molasses notes, but has a strong note of burnt malt that, in their amber ale version, is a little off-putting.

More floral and earthy, with caramel flavor, WellBeing Brewing Company's Hellraiser dark amber ale is pretty good, once you stop laughing at the bad-ass, flaming hops-and-skull artwork on the can.

I also like Brooklyn Brewery's light amber-tinted Special Effects, and Two Roots Brewing Co.'s New West IPA, a kind of "dry" juicy IPA with notes of Saltine and dried mango. I might just keep drinking Two Roots Drank, a "cannabis inspired" golden IPA with grain and mango-orange character, after my sojourn in sobriety is up. I mean, at least as a beer back to single malt.

Brooklyn Special Effects is available at Oliver's Market; Hairless Dog at Beverages & More or drinkhairlessdog.com.

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