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Upside Dawn Review

Upside Dawn

A solid, crowd-pleasing golden ale

NON-ALCOHOLIC

Tasting Notes

Nose

Ritz crackers, honey, chamomile. Hops aren't overwhelming, but definitely present on the nose. Some wort smell.

Palate

Bready; a tiny bit of orange. Citrus is not a huge player, but a light orange/grapefruit thing is there. Pretty clean and crisp, but healthy body. Hops are present, more than I first expected, but not overwhelming.

Finish

Malt finishes quickly and crisply. Hops linger with a light bitterness nibbling at the end.

By the Numbers

Calories

45 calories/12oz

Alcohol

<0.5% ABV (Non-Alcoholic)

Ingredients

Water, Malted Barley, Oats, Hops (English & American), Wheat, Yeast

Athletic Brewing’s Upside Dawn is a crowd-pleaser.

It’s that guy at the party that everyone likes. It’s a Toyota RAV4 with sport mode. It’s a golden retriever.  And as non-alcoholic beers go, it’s a golden ale you can bring to any party in your RAV4, and people will gladly sip it while they pet your golden retriever.

This is an easy-drinking “Golden” (more on the style’s name later) with a relaxed flavor profile that’ll pair well with a wide variety of food, but with enough complexity and body to make it pleasantly sippable on its own. It doesn’t chart into any exotic territory, and it’s not the most exciting non-alcoholic beer in the world, but that’s a feature rather than a bug. It’s an alcohol-free beer that you can confidently give to any beer drinker, and chances are they’ll at least enjoy it.

The Tasting Experience

Upside Dawn opens on the nose with a picnic of fresh, summery notes: chamomile, honey, and Ritz Crackers. Light floral hop aromas are mixed in with a bit of wort smell. The palate brings bread to mind, with a splash of orange. This is by no means a juice bomb, but there is a little citrus in the mix. The medium body carries everything on the standard Athletic grains of malted barley, oats, and wheat. Like their other beers, this doesn’t suffer from any wateryness, as the oats pump up the creaminess and heft of the body.

The finish starts with a bite of hops that pop onto the palate, and the malt reaches a crisp end. Those hops linger a bit longer than expected, making me go back for another sip.

On Style

When I first tasted this beer, it made me think of Helles style lagers. Upside Dawn is less grassy, a little more creamy, and a touch more citrusy, but overall it’s like an ale for lager lovers.

Wait, an ale for lager lovers? What does that even mean? Athletic doesn’t actually call this an ale (or lager), opting for the simple style name of “Golden.” The style purists may care about the distinction, and in theory there are differences between lagers and ales. Like 49 million other web pages, this could be the point where you thoughtfully nod along as we start talking about top vs. bottom fermenting yeast, brew temperatures, Saccharomyces cerevisi, etc. But in a world where we’re now brewing cold ales and ales with lager yeast, the terms don’t necessarily provide as much information as they have in the past. The Pursuit of Hoppiness wrote a great article on this topic, explaining how “ale” and “lager” aren’t always the most descriptive of terms.

So maybe Athletic is eliminating the words because they don’t feel the need to feed into the ambiguity, or maybe a focus group didn’t respond as well when “ale” or “lager” were on the can. Either way, you’ll notice they call Upside Dawn just a “Golden,” despite the beer looking, swimming, and quacking very much like a duck American Golden Ale. Sam Adams has been doing the same thing with their “Golden” (Lager?) Gold Rush, so this could be an industry trend going forward. I throw it in the Golden Ale bucket, since that’s a more common category that people use to find these types of beer, but I’m open to moving it around in the future if just “Golden” takes off.

Calories? Alcohol? Gluten?

Athletic Upside Dawn has 45 calories per 12 oz serving, and <0.5% ABV (non-alcoholic). And in their carefully chosen words, Athletic says that this beer is “crafted to remove gluten,” but also that it’s “fermented from grains containing gluten. The gluten content of this product cannot be verified, and this product may contain gluten.” That sounds like it has less gluten than other beers on the market, but I’m going to stay way away from suggesting who it is or isn’t appropriate for in terms of gluten-restricted diets.

Who Should Try Upside Dawn?

This beer is my standard blind recommendation — if I need to suggest an NA knowing absolutely nothing about someone’s beer preferences, this is what I would go with. It has something for craft beer fans of all types, but it’s also accessible enough for people used to macro lagers. It’s also just a nice summer sipper that goes well with a wide range of summer foods — pizza, sausage, salads, salmon, etc. Finally, Athletic is probably the most widely-distributed craft NA beer in the States, so I can confidently recommend it to most Americans knowing they’ll be able to access it.

Where Can I Buy Athletic Upside Dawn?

Since Athletic’s distribution is second to none in the craft NA beer industry, you can often find Upside Dawn in bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and grocery stores across the US. You can now even find it on domestic JetBlue flights to sip at 35,000 feet. However, you will always find the largest selection on Athletic’s website, and you can even mix and match a case to try other Athletic brews that you’ve read about on Bendy Straw. Plus, no more arriving to the store to find that they’re out of the exact beer you were looking for.

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