Wellington-based craft soda maker Six Barrel Soda has entered the realm of non-alcoholic ‘beer’ with the creation of ZERO’LEARY — a non-alcoholic IPA-inspired concentrate. Made in collaboration with ThreeNow’s Paddy Gower Has Issues, this unique hoppy beverage is named after the show’s Community Investigator Karen O’Leary, who was given the mission of creating a more affordable non-alcoholic beer option.

IPA concentrate

“A guy called Murray from Hawkes Bay emailed the show”, explains Karen. “His issue was that he wanted to drink non-alcohol beers but he couldn’t understand why they cost the same as — if not more than — the alcoholic beers.”

As part of her research, Karen visited Garage Project, where she learned that non-alcoholic beer costs just as much to brew as regular beer, and that the process of minimising the alcohol content is both tricky and time-consuming. That got her thinking about recreating the flavour of beer without actually brewing it.

“I’ve known Joe Slater [co-founder of Six Barrel Soda] for a long time and I thought, surely we can create a syrup that tastes the same but doesn’t cost as much, because you don’t have to make it alcoholic first.”

Tasked with recreating the flavour of beer, Joe tested a variety of recipes using non-alcoholic malt concentrate, including a stout-inspired syrup made with coffee and cacao, and a fruity, hazy-IPA-inspired concoction. Both were tasty, but the IPA seemed like it would have broader appeal, especially with the days getting warmer.

“The way we create all of our syrups that are trying to be something they’re not, is to recreate the flavours in a different way,” says Joe. “We added in some grapefruit and pineapple to recreate some of those punchy flavours that you get from brewing hops.”

The concentrate also includes Nelson Sauvin hops. 

IPA concentrate

The end result is a bright, juicy and hoppy soda that’s surprisingly close to the flavour of real non-alcoholic beers, although without as much body. “The biggest thing that’s missing — that we’d love to work on — is that lovely foamy head that you get from a brewed beer,” says Joe.

ZERO’LEARY is available now for a limited time only from Six Barrel Soda’s website. The price of a 500ml bottle of concentrate is $16.95 and each bottle makes around 15 drinks. While it’s not a replacement for the exceptionally brewed non-alcoholic beers available in New Zealand, it’s a delicious, affordable and unique drink that hop-heads are bound to enjoy, plus $1 from every bottle sold supports InsideOUT and the amazing work they do to make Aotearoa safer for all rainbow young people.

Main image / Luke Owen Smith