Because sometimes you want a beer. But also don't.
Local Maker Spotlight: Three Magnets Brewing Co Takes Non-Alcoholic Beer to Another Level
The crew at Three Magnets Brewing Co. in downtown Olympia clearly love making craft beer, and so it makes sense that they also enjoy drinking beer – potentially a lot of beer when it comes to testing and refining the variety of beer styles they offer.
Why NA Beer Now?
Enjoying beer responsibly is paramount for the crew here, and building healthier relationships with alcohol was the primary reason they considered brewing their own non-alcoholic beer.
Owners Nate and Sara Reilly and the crew at Three Magnets Brewing launched their Self-Care line of NA beer in the first year of the pandemic in 2020. Towards the end of August, their head brewer, Aaron Blonden, came to Nate with the idea and asked if Nate might be interested. It was something he had brought up at previous breweries he’d worked with, but no one had really been into it.
Nate and his wife, Sara had been doing sober Octobers and dry Januarys in previous years and were ready to embrace it again that year, especially with all the stress of the pandemic (and subsequent day-drinking by a large majority of us). It felt like a good time to take a month off of alcohol. “We were excited about the possibility of producing a good, tasty IPA that actually tasted like beer,” Nate recalled. “I asked Aaron if he could have it done by October, which is a pretty quick turnaround for beer – especially a new beer that you’ve never brewed before.”
How They Do It
In two short months with a decent idea and quite a bit of studying, Aaron produced a non-alcoholic beer that everyone at the brewery felt was pretty amazing. “We drank a lot of those first samples,” recalls Nate, “a whole
By December, Self Care, their first NA Beer, was released, and just in time for Dry January. The beer sold so well that by February they had a couple more beers on the schedule which would later become sub-brands. “Self Care” now has two flagship releases available year-round, and usually has an additional six rotating, one-off releases available to order at any given time.
Nate readily admitted that the challenge in brewing NA beers is that there's really no playbook. “If we run into an issue brewing our regular beer, we can just “google” it, or make aa quick phone call to one of our many brewer friends. If we run into an issue with the non-alcoholic beer, we’re meeting with our suppliers and having scientific conversation as figure out how to get the desired flavor profiles” he laughs.
Historically, there are two ways that most people are brewing NA beer. Either they will arrest fermentation early on in the process, and then they will pasteurize the product to ensure that the residual sugars will not keep re-fermenting, leading to an alcoholic beer.
“We've always found those that methodology to be way too sweet,” Nate admits. “They just taste like unfermented beer, which wasn’t what we were after.”
A second approach is to just brew beer to the normal strength and then de-alcoholize it by applying pressure and/or heat, which can adversely affect hop flavors. While that process does remove the alcohol, it also tends to remove a lot of the nuanced flavors craft beer is known for.
“Our goal was simply to make an NA beer that tasted like our craft beers, because people aren't going to utilize non-alcoholic beer in place of regular beer if it doesn't taste convincing,” Nate states, matter-of-factly. “How we accomplish that is by brewing ultra low, but we're still converting those sugars, even though they're not being converted to alcohol. We're not taking any of that out. We're still getting a lot these different compounds, many of which are very similar to what you would get when you’re creating alcohol, even if it's not exactly the same.”
To earn the NA label, a beer can have no more than 0.5% ABV. Most of the Self Care line tests to around 0.2% - well under the limit but with loads of hoppy flavor. That end result does not come easily. Head Brewer Aaron has won the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, and also received a medal at the World Beer Cup for his lagers, which is arguably the most difficult style to master. And now he’s applying that knowledge and experience to the world of non-alcoholic beers.
“We’re not here to paint by numbers,” says Nate, “That's just not what we do. And that's not what Aaron does.” Previously an instructor in the brewing program at SPSCC., Aaron opened a doorway for Three Magnets to collaborate with the SPSCC brewing program, allowing them to utilize some of their testing equipment that the brewery couldn’t afford to maintain on-site.
“That’s been a really cool partnership,” Nate shares. “The program at SPSCC is not only here to educate future brewers, but they are also here helping the current brewing community.”
The two flagship NA brews you’ll always find on the menu are the Freak Flag Hazy IPA, an ever-evolving brew that features a different combination of hops in every batch, and the Scherler Easiest, brewed to taste even more like your dad’s crappy American lager, but in a good way. Known by its followers as a “premium shitty lager” Scherler Easiest basically emulates what people have grown to know and love over the years: a nice, cold one that doesn't have much going for it except it's cold and crisp.
It’s a flavor that people are used to, but unlike other mammoth brewing companies, Three Magnets is using premium, local micro-malted grains in order to give it a little bit more complexity while still keeping that simplicity. (You can find the Scherler in both NA and alcoholic options) You’ll also find additional seasonal and one-off labels on their website throughout the year.
The Logistics - How To Get Your Hands On It
You can pick up all the current NA beers in cans at the downtown location in Olympia, but they also ship to 40 states, so no worries if you can’t make it in for happy hour. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by for one of their flagships to potentially be featured on tap in the new year.
“Once we got the shipping logistics squared away, we started selling the Self Care line on our website,” says Nate. Three Magnets sells mainly direct-to-consumer which means a speedy arrival to your front door.
Keep in mind that even though this brew is non-alcoholic, it’s still a dense and heavy beverage, and that means that the free shipping you might enjoy from huge box stores like Amazon aren’t an option for small breweries like Three Magnets to be able to provide. Take that into account before you fuss about delivery charges if you’d like the brew shipped to you.
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Three Magnets Brewing Co.
600 Franklin St. SE #105 Olympia, Washington 98501 (360) 972-2481
Three Magnets Brewing Co.600 Franklin St. SE #105
Olympia, Washington 98501