Athletic Brewing - Award-Winning, Non-Alcoholic Beer

by Julie Engler / Sep 19, 2022
Athletic Brewing - Award-Winning, Non-Alcoholic Beer

Winning awards for our non-alcoholic brews are a point of pride for our team, and no accolade goes unnoticed. 


While some awards may carry a little more weight than others on the world stage, each and every recognition is celebrated by our team – especially considering just a few years ago it was unheard of to see a non-alcoholic beer entered into so many of these contests!

It can be nerve-wracking to go head-to-head with alcoholic beers in some of the most coveted competitions, but the brewing team here at Athletic doesn’t shy away from being the underdog. In fact, it only stokes the flame to continue on the journey of creating great-tasting NA beer that can stand up on the podium with some of the best brews in the world. 

Our longtime flagships – Run Wild, Upside Dawn and Free Wave – have several awards, accolades and “best of” media shout-outs, and our newest flagship, Athletic Lite (released in March 2022), has walked away with a couple of gold medals, too.


We take brewing and quality incredibly seriously and are by far the most critical judges of our products,” says Kevin Henschel, Director of Brewing. “The team started off with a concept [for Athletic Lite] and it took multiple iterations over almost 2 years before we got to a final product that we were truly proud of.”


What is beer judged on, anyway?



Beer judges focus most on accuracy and quality of the beer category entered. A beer has to be true to the declared style, and judges look for color, bitterness, aroma, mouthfeel, head and flavor. 


If it doesn’t fit a style, it doesn’t move past the first round.

Quality is also important. In most beer competitions, a beer has to be of stellar quality. In fact, it’s so important that sometimes no beer wins gold or silver because it’s not up to the high standards of the judges. 


A new category


It’s probably not surprising to most beer drinkers that a non-alcoholic category didn’t even exist at the Great American Beer Festival. 

The Great American Beer Festival is one of the most celebrated beer festivals in the United States and is also one of the most prestigious beer awards in the world. In 2021, our Downwinder Gose snagged Bronze, and Closer by the Mile – a citrusy IPA brewed for the Pan-Mass Challenge – was awarded Silver. 


One of our greatest achievements was helping to get the governing body at the GABF to include Nonalcoholic as a category! Another celebratory event is that there were over 50 entries last year – a massive category given its beginning was only 3 years ago,” says John Walker, Athletic Brewing co-founder and brewer.

That’s definitely something worth celebrating!


Most coveted awards


Another competition that brewers across the country have their eyes set on is the US Open Beer Championship. 

For the past 3 years, Athletic Brewing’s Run Wild IPA has taken home the gold in the Non-Alcoholic IPA category. 

We’ve also won the US Open Beer Championship Gold medal for our Free Wave Hazy IPA in 2019, Silver for our Downwinder Gose in 2021, and Bronze/Silver for All Out in 2020 and 2022 respectively. The brew team also took home Silver for Free Wave and Athletic Lite in the 2022 L.A. Spirits Awards Non-alcoholic category! We’re proud to keep scoring medals across the country. 

On the international stage, some of the more prominent awards ceremonies are the International Beer Challenge, the World Beer Awards, and the European Beer Challenge. 

Free Wave swept the competition in 2020 at the International Beer Challenge, taking Gold over every other beer entered in the lineup for that year. John Walker and the team agree that was one of the greatest accomplishments to date. 


Consistently winning with our fans and community is something I’m incredibly proud of,” says Kevin Henschel. “Having a positive impact on people’s lives is the driving mission of the company, and winning a few medals along the way is great validation.”


Eyes set on the future


There’s no slowing down the momentum, and no award that our brewers won’t chase. 

The brewing team finds competition fun, and they say it’s a good way to keep creativity flowing and maintain a high standard in the process. 

It’s one of the most thrilling parts of brewing. If nothing else, you come away with great feedback for improvements,” says John Walker.

We’re stoked to see the competition grow across all categories, but especially the non-alcoholic category! 

I’m proud of the entire team that played a role in designing, brewing, analyzing, packaging, and shipping the brews,” says Russ Meister, head of quality. “Running a brewery is a team effort, and winning awards is a reflection of the hard work all members contributed.”

Most notable awards


Brewbound Craft Brewery of the Year, 2021

Run Wild IPA

World Beer Awards, Gold, Best non-alcoholic beer, 2018

International Beer Challenge, Gold, 2018

World Beer Awards, Gold, Best non-alcoholic beer USA, 2020

US Open of Beer, Gold, 2020, 2021

European Beer Challenge, Gold, 2022

World Beer Awards Winner, Gold USA, 2022

Upside Dawn Golden:

World Beer Awards, USA Best Gluten-Reduced (alcoholic), 2019, 2021

World Beer Awards, USA, Best Light Lager (alcoholic), 2019

International Beer Challenge, Gold, 2021

Free Wave Hazy IPA:

US Open Beer Championship, Gold, 2019

International Beer Challenge, Gold, Best beer of the entire competition, 2020

L.A. Spirits Awards, Silver, Non-Alcoholic Category, 2022

Downwinder Gose: 

World Beer Awards, World’s Best Flavoured, Low Alcohol, 2019

World Beer Awards, USA, Gold, 2021

All Out Extra Dark

World Beer Awards, Gold, World, Dark, 2021

World Beer Awards, Gold, USA, Stout/Porter, 2021

US Open of Beer, Gold, 2021

London Beer Competition, Best in Show USA, 2022

Athletic Lite

European Beer Challenge, Gold, 2022

World Beer Awards, USA, Lager, Gold, 2022

L.A. Spirits Awards, Silver, Non-Alcoholic Category, 2022