Beer of the Week: N/A Speedway

AleSmith Brewing takes on the task of fashioning a non-alcoholic version of one of its highest-alcohol beers

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Over the past several years, craft breweries have invested great time and effort in taking the lackluster category of non-alcoholic (N/A) beer to new heights. Companies like Miramar’s Athletic Brewing deal exclusively in dealcoholized goods, but they’ve been joined by other local operations that are crafting N/A versions of some of their most popular beers for their fans to enjoy when they want familiar flavors without a buzz. One of those is AleSmith Brewing, which introduced an N/A IPA that was well received for its hop flavors and aromas. That positive fan reaction inspired them to go a step further by challenging themselves to create a no-alcohol version of, not only one of its most beloved beers, but also one of its highest-alcohol offerings: Speedway Stout. An imperial coffee stout coming in 12% alcohol by-volume, it’s one of San Diego’s keystone beers. Craft fans know it intimately, making the task of replicating it in N/A form extremely difficult. But never ones to shy away from a challenge, AleSmith’s brewing team forged ahead. The result is this week’s featured beer, N/A Speedway, and while it’s not an exact replica of its boozy progenitor, it is a splendid alcohol-free option for coffee fans. Having worked at AleSmith eight years ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on numerous coffee-tasting sessions where owner Peter Zien and the brewing team methodically sniffed, sipped and scrutinized designer coffee blends to select something perfectly suited for the beer they were working on. It’s clear they went to such lengths with N/A Speedway, which comes on strong with aromas of toasted nuts and baked sweet potato, and tastes like straight-up java on the tongue. A hint of acidity – something that’s likely present in the original but covered up by booze and residual sugar – perks the N/A version up making it light but not flabby. It’s not Speedway Stout. It’s its own creation; another liquid conduit for expertly selected coffee that lovers of that artisanal beverage will appreciate.

Once we had our process down for AleSmith Non-alcoholic IPA, we knew we wanted to try something malty. We had already done some pilot batches of a stout when the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) came down with guidance saying you can’t name beers ‘porters’ or ‘stouts’. Heck, you can’t call them beer anymore, so we thought of chasing the dream of making a non-alcoholic Speedway since it’s so well known we don’t even have to say that it is a stout. Tricky, right? Matching Speedway’s profile was not easy. When you’re dealing with a 12% beer, alcohol is certainly dominant in flavor and aroma, but it’s also the main component in the mouthfeel. We definitely had to change some things like the malt and coffee to get the profiles to match better. We are super-proud of it and it’s out just in time for Dry January.”

Peter Cronin, Quality Manager, AleSmith Brewing
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