Two Roots bets on alcohol-free IPAs: Brands have 'finally figured out the taste'
The San Diego-based brewery started producing non-alcoholic beer last summer as the base for its cannabis products. But the team soon saw interest and excitement around the low-to-no alcohol space in itself.
Several clients approached Two Roots, asking for a product without the cannabis. Kevin Barnes, master brewer at Two Roots, told BeverageDaily that they realized they could be a significant player in the alcohol-free market as well: deciding to take the leap from its cannabis niche to the non-cannabis mainstream.
In California it now brews lager, IPA and wheat non-alcoholic styles.
A cross-category opportunity
Two Roots produces four ‘craft near beers,’ including the Enough Said lager, the New West IPA, the Straight Drank IPA and the Mango Dango IPA. In early September, all varieties launched exclusively at BevMo! locations in California with expansion to more states and retailers set for 2020.
Two Roots recently participated in the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) held in Denver. The Enough Said lager took home the gold medal in the Non-Alcoholic Beer Style category, up against more than 9,497 entries in the total competition from 2,295 US breweries.
Michael Hayford, CEO of parent company Lighthouse Strategies, said “Non-alcoholic beer continues to rise in popularity and the consumer response to our entire portfolio has been exceptional. The GABF Gold Medal solidifies our belief of our non-alcoholic lager and strengthens our leading position in the space to offer beer aficionados a non-alcoholic craft beer.”
Enough Said is brewed with Pilsner malt and Hallertau Mittelfruh hops, contains B12, electrolytes and is low in calories. Two Roots had a leg up on the competition because it hasn’t been afraid to tackle alcohol-free IPAs, Barnes said, which most brands avoid.
He's confident the trend will take off now that taste and texture quality has improved industry-wide for non-alcoholic beer. It's the fastest-growing segment of beer in the US, taking cues from the UK where it holds 85% of the no/low ABV market.
Not your parents' alcohol-free beer
Two Roots uses high quality brewing equipment from Germany, which it says is a rare method in the US. The beverages start out with a regular craft beer process, and then the fully fermented beer is sent through a de-alcoholization machine.
Barnes and the team found that the ‘delicate balance’ of flavor is lost when pulling out the alcohol, so it’s necessary to add a little sweetness to maintain an even taste.
“The creation of our non-alcoholic craft beer is the effort of many, from start to finish. With an unwavering demand for quality, we’ve developed and fine-tuned our non-alcoholic craft beers,” Barnes said.
Two Roots' new retailers and distributors for the non-alcoholic line are excited about the company's versatility, according to Barnes, and are looking forward to being able to work with them in the cannabis space in the future. Barnes said all the products are easily distinguishable in packaging and marketing, with the THC beers incorporating green colors and the alcohol-free drinks colored gray.
He believes the non-alcoholic beer market is just beginning to open up, and that once people are convinced that today’s alcohol-free beers are not the same legacy brands of the past, it’s ‘game over.’
“I think people are beginning to be a lot more open to non-alcoholic beer not being horrible,” Barnes said. “It’s fun to be one of the guys leading the charge in that space.”