I love what some people would call shitty beer. While there are a few Chicago craft breweries I’ll go out of my way to support for their farmhouse ales, sours, and wheat beers, nine times out of 10 I’m just reaching for a PBR or an Old Style or a Miller Lite. They’re what I like to call softball beers, because they’re easy to throw back while in a park playing 16-inch on a hot day with your best buds. But as I get older, the alcohol part of those beers, no matter how light, hits different, whether I’m on the field or I’m struggling to get out of bed the next day.
For so long I assumed that non-alcoholic beer wasn’t for me, in part because I am someone who still imbibes and in part because every NA offering I’d ever tasted was leaning into the flavors of IPAs and hoppier beers, a style that I’m not a fan of. But now, Athletic Brewing, about which I’ve only heard rave reviews, has launched a lite beer. And with just one sip, my entire opinion on non-alcoholic beer has changed for the better.
A couple important things to mention up top: As Allison Robicelli has mentioned in her past reviews, Athletic Brewing is a fully booze-free craft brewery. What this means is that its NA beers aren’t simply trying to replicate some boozy counterpart; instead, its offerings follow the basic steps of brewing with a proprietary method to keep things non-alcohol.
That being said, Athletic Lite in particular is technically classified as a “near beer,” still containing less than 0.5% alcohol, but not 100% guaranteed not to have a whisper of the stuff. This is worth noting for my sober friends who prefer not to take any chances.
The first sip of Athletic Lite is the realized potential of what other lite beers could be. Imagine if Miller Lite was actually good—still crisp and crushable with an enjoyably bitter aftertaste, but with a depth of flavor that lights up your taste buds and a freshness that not even the most newly bottled Miller Lite could emulate. And the fact that I could continue to drink one and then another and then another without actively poisoning my body was a major plus.
Thankfully, Athletic Lite is being released as a new flagship for the brewery, so unlike some of Athletic’s limited-time offerings you can get a pack of these babies anytime you want. That wide availability serves the beer well, because its extreme drinkability makes it worth having around for just about any occasion when you’d normally be sipping on a mild beer. For me, that means a brand-new softball beer, just in time for the start of the season, a beer that can be described as anything but shitty.