Athletic Brewing Co. Proves Viability of Alcohol-free Beer
by David Klemt
Doubters and detractors of non-alcoholic beer have only to look at Athletic Brewing Co. to understand the category has a long, bright future ahead of it.
Athletic Brewing opened its first taproom in Stratford, CT, back in May of 2018. A month later, the non-alcoholic brewer signed on with a distributor to launch two of their flagship beers statewide. Two years after that milestone was reached, Athletic took over a 100,000-barrel capacity facility in San Diego once owned by Ballast Point.
That would be impressive growth for any brewer, traditional or non-alcoholic. But there’s another element that really highlights the explosive growth and potential of Athletic: investment rounds.
In August of 2017, Athletic raised $250,000 in seed funding. One year later, in September, the brewer raised $500,000 in another seed funding round. A third funding round resulted in $3,122,221 in December 2019. And then came March 2020: Athletic raised $17,500,000 in Series B funding.
According to a report written by Kate Krader and published earlier this week by Bloomberg, some of Athletic’s investors are celebrities, something that had remained quiet for a few years now.
David Chang, the founder of Momofuku, NFL players Justin Tuck and JJ Watt, and Lance Armstrong are some of the celebrity backers identified by Krader as Athletic Brewing Co. backers. According to Crunchbase, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, participated in the 2020 Series B funding round.
That these investments remained under the radar shows that celebrities and other investors believe Athletic and the non-alcoholic beer category is here to stay.
We’ve grown accustomed to celebrity-backed spirits and wines. At least three celebs have scored massive paydays in spirits. George Clooney and Rande Gerber sold Casamigos to Diageo for $1 billion in 2017. Last year, Aviation Gin, owned by Ryan Reynolds, sold to Diageo for a deal worth up to $610 million.
Athletic is one of the brewers we showcased in our January 1 article “0.0 to 0.5 Beers to Know for Dry January and Beyond.” We shared some of Athletic’s story and how founder Bill Shufelt was motivated to fill a void in the market. Namely, refreshing and flavorful non-alcoholic craft beers.
Shufelt, like so many people who have chosen to live an alcohol-free lifestyle or reduce their alcohol intake, still enjoys going out to bars and restaurants to socialize. Athletic and other non-alcoholic brewers offer guests a drinking and dining experience without a sacrifice in quality.
I can clearly see an opportunity for people to invest in Athletic Brewing Co., Partake Brewing, WellBeing Brewing, Surreal Brewing Company, and others moving forward. It’s obvious that craft non-alcoholic beers have a future beyond Dry January, and it’s likely more talented brewers and celebrities will enter the category. In fact, 2021 may be the Year of NA Beer.
Image: Athletic Brewing Co.