Over the past few years, I’ve been on a quest to find the best non-alcoholic drinks along with drinks that are low in caffeine and calories.
There’s no shortage of reasons to avoid or at least reduce your alcohol or caffeine intake, so I won’t dive into that much. I will say that I’m in more of a “reduce” mode. I absolutely love a good stout or IPA, but I rarely ever drink a whole one by myself. As for caffeine, it definitely affects my sleep — I limit myself to less than one daily coffee drink, which is usually a cappuccino, flat white or cortado from one of my favorite local coffeehouses. Sometimes I’ll do a cold brew, but only in the right weather.
I also drink an absurd amount of water, and I sometimes feel like a little extra flavor. That’s what led me to this list of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks. Most of them are also low in calories as an added bonus.
Another good use: Some people avoid alcohol. Rather than making them feel awkward about it at your next gathering, consider offering them a few non-alcoholic options.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks For Hop Fans
I am nuts about hops and have been since I tasted my first cask-conditioned IPA at SunUp Brewing. I’ve brewed my own IPAs and gone out of my way to find rare hop-packed brews everywhere from New Zealand to Norway.
I noticed that there are a few non-alcoholic drinks that are low on caffeine and calories trickling into the marketplace for people like me. The first one I tried was some sort of Lagunitas concoction.
But the ones that seem most convenient are HOP WTR and Hoplark, which I run into most often at Bevmo and Sprouts, respectively. Admittedly, both could stand to beef up their selection a bit. I’ll discuss the differences below, but I don’t think hop fans will go wrong either way.
What To Know About HOPWTR
HOPWTR has a nice variety pack to give you an idea of what they’re all about. This 12 pack contains Classic, Blood Orange, Mango and Lime flavors.
They’re all subtly flavored and might make a good gateway to anyone you’re trying to lure into hoppier alcoholic beverages. The classic was my favorite because it’s just straight-up hop flavor. After that, the Mango was my alternate.
That said, all the flavors were more than satisfying for those days when I needed something other than plain water.
What To Know About Hoplark
So what’s the difference between HOPWTR and Hoplark? The big difference is that Hoplark also does hop teas in addition to hop water. Hop teas are, for me, a mixed bag. Apparently, stronger hops pair better with stronger, more caffeinated teas. That’s a bummer for those days when I want to avoid caffeine. But they ARE tasty, and the tea adds a different dimension.
Plus there’s a convenience factor. Sprouts is about 2 miles from me, where Bevmo locations are further away and placed in the most annoying shopping plazas around. That means I generally wind up with Hoplark in my fridge.
Unfortunately, Sprouts only carries a few varieties — usually, I opt for the Green Tea One, even though it has some caffeine. I can’t say no to mosaic hops!
They also have a hop tea with spruce tips, which are a brewing adjunct that I love. I have yet to find a beer with spruce tips that I don’t love.
Kombucha: A Drink Worth Mentioning
Surely you’ve heard about kombucha at this point. It’s a polarizing beverage for sure, with many brands having way too much sourness for many of us.
And let’s be honest — there’s a certain “that’s just for hipsters” attitude toward it. I remember some man bun dude getting hit with the epithet “kombucha burp” and I’m still laughing. (I must also add that kombucha WILL make you burp like crazy, to the point where I think a kombucha company should start its own burping competition. But hey, I have the sense of humor of an 13-year-old miscreant.)
Still, don’t write kombucha off too quickly, even though it also contains a tiny bit of alcohol and often a touch of caffeine. There are some brands out there that get kombucha right. Rowdy Mermaid is my can’t-miss brand. I have yet to try one of their flavors that didn’t hit the spot. I could easily develop a dependence on Savory Peach, especially.
They’re also easy to find, but not necessarily in every flavor. In my city, I can usually find Rowdy Mermaid at Sprouts, Whole Foods and the more far-flung Natural Grocers.
Make Your Own Drinks Without Alcohol
If nothing else I mentioned sounds good, make your own non-alcoholic drinks. I’d recommend a base of white tea or rooibos tea (which isn’t really tea because it doesn’t come from a tea plant, but we’ll overlook the nomenclature). Both have little to no caffeine and will allow whatever you add to them to do the heavy lifting, flavor-wise.
If you want to add something to either one, toss in some fresh fruit and fresh herbs of your choice. I can’t get enough mint, but a subtle amount of sage or rosemary can add nice flavors, too
Final Thoughts: Low-Cal Non-Alcoholic Drinks Are A Must
It’s not all that easy to avoid caffeine and calories in tastier beverages. Many of the hop teas I mentioned have at least a little caffeine. Some people might care less about that than I do, but it’s possible for you to at least avoid some caffeine by choosing options based on green or white teas instead of black. You can also go the HOPWTR route and dodge the whole issue.
Either way, you can avoid some excess caffeine and calories while livening up a steady stream of plain water. It can also be a good way to wean yourself from sugary sodas. And let’s remember that hop teas, hop waters, herbal infusions and teas are a good option for the teetotalers among you. Keep in mind, most kombucha has a tiny trace of alcohol in it, so that’s not the right option for them.
Finally, there are plenty of brands beyond what I’ve mentioned here. See what you can get your hands on and see what you like.
Disclosure: HOPWTR sent a variety pack for testing as part of this article. Still, my thoughts and opinions are not influenced by free products.
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