Bravus Brewing, out of Santa Ana, California, is the first brewery in the United States to brew solely non-alcoholic beer. If you are as old as me and your only experience with non-alcoholic beer was with Near Beer, you might ask, “Why bother?” For Bravus founder Philip Brandes it was two-fold. Firstly, Brandes’ brother was a sales rep for a brewery and would take him to various beer fests where he first learned about the craft beer craze. Secondly, and I think probably more importantly, he spent a weekend in Mexico with a friend that brought the only non-alcoholic beer he could find, Sharp’s and O’Doul’s. That was enough to convince Brandes that something had to be done.Brandes started brewing out of his garage while he worked on his recipes. As his ingredients and process are essentially the same as brewing an alcoholic beer, he had a lot of trial and error before coming across a yeast strain that doesn’t produce a lot of alcohol. Combined with his hop and grain profiles, Bravus is turning out a non-alcoholic beer that doesn’t taste like any “near beer” style I have ever tried.
I received samples of their three “flagship” brews; Bravus IPA, Amber Ale and Oatmeal Stout. All three poured and looked like their alcohol-ridden counterparts; I am not sure if someone that was not informed ahead of time that it was non-alcoholic would know right away that the alcohol was missing. In fact, Brandes informed me that people have told him that they felt “something” when drinking his beers. They are probably the same people that got high on that oregano joint back in high school; but as long as they enjoyed it, who cares?
While this is not typically a “beer review” site, non-alcoholic beer is an exception to the usual beer I consume; so I will make an exception.
The first I tried was the IPA. Since Brandes told me that he was planning on trying to brew a Hazy IPA in the future, I have to presume that the IPA I tried was not a Hazy; although you might think otherwise after looking at my photo. I am not sure what the hop profile is, but this beer is definitely loaded with hops; it kind of reminded me of what the Guinness Nitro IPA might taste like if it wasn’t on nitro. I shared a can with a friend that summed it up nicely; this is not a west coast IPA. As I am not a huge fan of the Hazy/Northeast style of IPA, this one had a tough going to win my love. Just like some people like Hazy IPAs a lot more than I do, I am sure the same holds true with the Bravus IPA.
The Amber Ale surprised me as far as how much I enjoyed it. I think if I were introducing someone to craft beer, but it had to be non-alcoholic, the Amber Ale was a lot closer to style and a better representation of what an amber ale should taste like, than say the IPA was. It was obvious that both the IPA and Amber Ale were brewed at the same place as there is a distinctive after-taste that I noticed in both. I am not sure if it is the yeast or the hop profile.
The Oatmeal Stout was my favorite by far; after trying the Amber Ale I had a feeling it would be. It was roasty, dark chocolate and had nice body to it. I would not hesitate trying it in a beer float, or since it is the season, maybe as a mixer with some eggnog.
They also have a very limited release of their Bravus Non-Alcoholic Barrel-Aged Bourbon Stout; there are only 10 cases and it sounds delicious.
Bravus Brewing Company does not have a tasting room, but their beers are available at BevMo, Total Wine and Mother’s Markets locally in Orange County; Lazy Acres in Hermosa Beach, and nationally through Total Wine’s Brewery Direct program. Bravus can also ship to any state through their online store (store.bravus.com). Cheers!
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