Welcome to Like A Virgin, a new column in which we’ll recommend a different zero-ABV drink each week. They’re not “near beers,” they’re not “mocktails”—they’re delicious beverages that anyone and everyone should try at least once. Got an idea for a future Like A Virgin column? Email us at email@example.com.
One of my favorite things that’s happened since starting this column is discovering it was safe for me to fall in love with beer again. We had a long, rocky, colossally toxic relationship, one that I finally ended for good six years ago. Non-alcoholic beer was so disappointing that it just made me miss the real thing. I had heard in recent years that things had changed, that brewers had cracked the code for a quality NA product, but I remained skeptical, telling myself I didn’t even like beer anymore, so what was the point of setting myself up for heartbreak?
But writing a weekly column about non-alcoholic drinks sort of forced my hand on the subject. So with great trepidation I started giving breweries the chance to woo me once more. All the rumors I had heard turned out to be true, and once again, I am smitten! Sober people are no longer subjected to a frustratingly narrow selection of tolerable NA beers—we have entered a golden age where choices are plentiful, and the beer is magnificent.
I’ve already sung the praises of Partake Brewing, and will be singing the praises of many more non-alcoholic beers in the months to come. (I’m always open to suggestions, so leave them in the comments or email us your recs.) This week, I am extolling the virtues of Brooklyn Brewery as it’s near and dear to my heart: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, and even though this brewery is no longer a small and scrappy operation, its beer will always be a source of hometown pride. I’ve adored its classic Brooklyn Lager since I got my first fake ID, and now I have been gifted not one but two <0.5% ABV beers from the little local brewery that could: Special Effects IPA and Special Effects Hoppy Amber.
I’ve always been iffy on IPAs, which at their best can taste sunny and vivid like a perfect spring day and at their worst can taste like a dirt-encrusted pine cone. So while I’m not qualified to compare this to the thousands of craft IPAs that currently flood the market, I can say I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the Special Effects IPA like an Average Jolene who just wants to drink her damn beer in peace. And it’s good! It’s bitter enough to be pleasurable without beating you over the head with hops, and a little bit of citrus is there to brighten the whole thing up. I’ve also found it is very good with pretzels, so if pretzels are important to you, you’ll like this beer.
Special Effects Hoppy Amber is a rich amber lager that lives up to its name; “Special Effects” is a nod to the fact that this product is nearly indistinguishable from actual beer. It’s more than the notes of dry hops and well-rounded malt and the subtle sweetness that ties them both together. Special Effects has gravitas and heft, with the richness of a full-bodied lager that I didn’t believe possible in a non-alcoholic beer. If the can wasn’t so upfront about being a masterwork of special effects, I would have believed I was sipping pure liquid sorcery.