I honestly never would have pictured myself as a person who would feel compelled to sample every new non-alcoholic beer brand that passed through my field of vision. Then again, who among us every truly expects to grow old, I suppose? Regardless, I’ve been quite thankful for the renaissance of the field of non-alcoholic beer that has occurred in the last half decade, not because I’m giving up traditional beer but because I find NA beer to be a useful tool in any drinker’s arsenal. Sometimes, it’s exactly what the occasion calls for, and those occasions continue to increase as craft breweries produce new NA beers that genuinely resemble styles such as hefeweizen, India pale ale and stout.
Stumbling across Bravus Brewing Co. the other day, I initially pegged the company as another new entrant to the field, joining other NA-specific brewers we’ve covered in the past such as Athletic Brewing Co., WellBeing Brewing Co., or Partake Brewing. That’s in comparison to NA brands made by established alcohol brewers, such as the non-alcoholic lineups from brands such as Lagunitas, BrewDog, Crux Fermentation Project or Flying Dog.
As it turns out, though, Bravus is no newcomer—rather, I was surprised to learn that this company is instead a progenitor. Based out of Anaheim, California, the brand has been around since 2015 and dubs itself “America’s First Non-Alcoholic Craft Brewery.” Clearly, there have been more since, but the timeline does seem to support Bravus’ claim that they were the originals. I’m just rather surprised to have never come across the brand today, but then again, I do live on the East Coast, rather than the West. Regardless, given that Bravus has now made its way as far as Virginia, this seemed like the time to give one of their flagship brands a try.
Bravus IPA comes in a green can, a color long synonymous with pale ale and IPA as far as American craft beer marketing is concerned, calling attention to its history with the phrase “The Original.” This is a traditional “non-alcoholic” beer with an ABV under .5%, brewed with “a ton of Simcoe and Citra hops,” while also being “brewed to reduce gluten,” which implies a gluten content of less than 20ppm. In other words, this is designed to compete against other increasingly mainstream NA IPA options from the likes of Athletic, while existing in a well-balanced Bravus product lineup that also includes selections such as a blonde ale, red ale, oatmeal stout, “breakfast stout,” and even occasional sour styles such as gose.
So with that said, let’s get to tasting and see how one of the OGs of the non-alcoholic craft beer world now stacks up. Pouring this one into a glass, I will note that it seems to have somewhat better head retention than a lot of these beers tend to have, which is always nice to see.
On the nose, I’m getting florals, resin and the ghost of pelletized hops, a bit of a flashback from my homebrewing days. There’s some lemon citrus and a degree of dankness, but also a certain soapiness that is a bit less pleasant, threading itself through the florals and citrus.
On the palate, Bravus IPA presents with mild-to-moderate grainy sweetness, not quite as bone dry as many tend to be in this niche of the non-alcoholic world. There’s a twist of sweet orange peel, and some grass and resin notes are backed up by mild-to-moderate hop bitterness. This certainly feels like more of an IPA attempt at the India pale ale of yesteryear, rather than any kind of IPA approximation of modern hazy IPA, which makes perfect sense for a company that began in 2015 when the thought of “non-alcoholic IPA” was very much a novelty. Unfortunately, there’s also a less pleasant vegetal quality here on the palate that tastes a bit earthier and dirtier—wet leaves, perhaps.
All in all, it’s a mixed bag—you can’t fault it for not being as hyper-modern in its presentation, and I don’t expect (or desire) every NA IPA on the market to be an attempt at making non-alcoholic hazy IPA. In fact, this somewhat older style may well be easier to capture in NA form. With that said, recent NA IPAs I’ve sampled from breweries such as Crux Fermentation Project and Flying Dog managed to translate the modern flavors of IPA into a non-alcoholic package in a way that was more fluid and exciting than this, just another indication that the bar has been raised in this field. This ultimately tastes like an NA beer that I might have been pretty excited by six years ago, if I tasted it then for the first time. But now? Well, the field has become far more competitive, and that’s a very good thing for drinkers.
Brewery: Bravus Brewing Co.
City: Anaheim, CA
Style: Non-alcoholic IPA
ABV: Less than .5%
Availability: 6 packs, 12 packs, 24 packs of 12 oz cans
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident craft beer geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.