reating the right flavors that mirrored the distinct attributes of an IPA in Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.’s first nonalcoholic beverage proved to be both daunting and rewarding for the brand’s brewmaster, Kevin Ashford.
“It is a tall order to brew a nonalcoholic beer that tastes exactly like its alcoholic counterpart, but there are tricks in the brewer’s playbook that allow us to emulate flavors, textures, and aromas that would be present in a fully alcoholic beer,” Ashford said over email. “I find texture and flavor to be very difficult to match, so we had to work on strategies to get the fixture right.”
The result of Ashford’s intricate efforts led to a milestone achievement for Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., which released its nonalcoholic Hoppy Poppy IPA during the spring. The drink has found its way to select retailers throughout Southern California, via six-packs of the canned libation, and is sold in the brewery’s tasting rooms in Buellton, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara, and Westlake Village.
“This is the first nonalcoholic that we’ve produced, and it felt right to pursue a nonalcoholic version of our flagship brand, Hoppy Poppy IPA,” Ashford said. “Over the years, we have been asked by customers and other brewers alike if we are producing any nonalcoholic products—whether they be sodas, nonalcoholic seltzers, or, lately, beer.
“Ultimately, our job is to create the greatest beer possible for our customers, and if they are asking about nonalcoholic options, we are all ears,” Ashford added.
The local brewmaster tinkered “quite a bit with many beer attributes” to reduce any glaring differences between the new nonalcoholic IPA and the original drink, even in terms of smell, he explained.
“The aroma of nonalcoholic beers tends to have an unfinished feeling to them, which reminds brewers of beers during the early fermentation process,” said Ashford, who aimed “to showcase a texture that is more fitting for finished beers” with the final product.
“We are pretty happy with how the aroma came out,” the brewer said. “It is citrus forward without some of the wort-like or sugary grain-derived liquid before becoming beer present in many other nonalcoholic beers.”
Ashford said that some nonalcoholic beers have developed a reputation for tasting much sweeter than the traditional beers they’re based on, an effect he wanted to avoid with the nonalcoholic Hoppy Poppy IPA.
“Historically, many of these beers come off as ‘worty’ or sweet,” said Ashford, who used specific heating and filtration methods to make the taste of the original Hoppy Poppy and the new nonalcoholic variation as similar as possible.
Ashford said that feedback from patrons since the new nonalcoholic IPA’s launch in March has been kind, but he described the market for nonalcoholic beers in general as “still an uphill battle in the USA, compared to Europe, where nonalcoholic beer is a thriving market with a lot of industry and customer support.”
However, Ashford also believes that American trends over the last few years have “shown glimpses of ‘better for you’ beers focused on lower alcohol, calories, and carbs, and we felt that went hand in hand with the growth in the nonalcoholic segment,” he explained.
“I would encourage beer drinkers to consider their own reasons for giving nonalcoholic beer a try. We are hearing a lot from customers who would like to reduce their intake of alcohol for numerous reasons,” Ashford said. “We are happy to provide an alternative for customers looking to switch up, no matter what their reason.”
During the work week, Ashford occasionally likes to enjoy a nonalcoholic beer around midday—often a taboo suggestion when it comes to traditional beer.
“We have found that it is kind of nice to have a nonalcoholic beer with lunch during the work day,” Ashford said, “which, for obvious reasons, will keep us on track with our work duties and ensure that we are maintaining a safe working environment.”
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood enjoys pairing beer with Lunchables. Send comments to [email protected].