Prior to launching Athletic Brewing in 2017, co-founder Bill Shufelt spent about 12 years working in the hedge fund world. During that time, he found that drinking alcohol, staying up late and waking up early made it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
So Shufelt went sober. And in the process of abstaining from the craft beers he had grown to love, Shufelt wondered why nobody was making a high-quality, non-alcoholic option for craft drinkers.
His idea was to produce a fully fermented beer to under 0.5 percent ABV without the need for dealcoholization equipment.
“If any of the traditional technologies worked, to make a good non-alcoholic beer, one of these very well-funded mega breweries or craft breweries would already be making it that way,” he said.
Shufelt, along with co-founder John Walker, experimented with hundreds of batches of homebrew before dialing in their process. About a year ago, Athletic brought a range of non-alcoholic craft beer to market, from golden ales to goses.
The company’s timing was perfect, as a growing number of consumers are beginning to cut back on boozing. According to Nielsen, 66 percent of legal-drinking-age consumers between the ages of 21 and 34 are making efforts to reduce their overall consumption. At the same time, 25 percent of beer drinkers are more interested in consuming alcoholic beverages that were produced with wellness in mind versus “a couple years ago,” the firm recently told Brewbound.
So what does the future hold for non-alcoholic craft beer?
“In the next five or 10 years, it’s going to be everywhere,” Shufelt contends.
In episode 40 of the Brewbound Podcast, Shufelt discusses his outlook on the emerging non-alcoholic beer sector in the U.S., and the occasions in which his products — and others like it — play.
Listen to episode 40 of the Brewbound Podcast above, as well as on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and Soundcloud. New episodes of the Brewbound Podcast, which is co-hosted by Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall, are published every Thursday.
Episode 41, featuring Matt Katase, the co-founder of The Brew Gentlemen, will be released on Thursday, June 20.
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0:00 – 23:45: Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall introduce episode 40, discuss the Beer Institute’s annual meeting and share recent news
23:45 – 51:14: Furnari and Kendall interview Athletic Brewing co-founder Bill Shufelt
51:14 – 1:01:22: Furnari and Kendall share takeaways from the interview