Update: Drinking this straight from the can is an improvement. I still wouldn't call it an equal replacement for the average IPA, but it's definitely drinkable.
For the last several weeks Facebook has been showing me ads for Athletic Non-Alcoholic Run Wild IPA. The web is universally in agreement that this is the best NA beer ever produced, so curiosity got the best of me last night and I picked up a six pack.
I'll agree that it's the best NA beer I've ever had. However something on the Applebee's menu had to be the best too. I might be dealing with unrealistic expectations. After reading about 10 raving reviews about how this is better than a lot of "normal" IPAs, I went into it with high expectations. Too high, apparently.
On initial pour it looks like an IPA with a light and frothy head that doesn't last. The initial nose has hints of pine and citrus, and the first taste is pleasant. It goes downhill from there though. It's got a malty mouthfeel and taste. More malty than you expect from an IPA, but probably to be expected given that it's a NA beer and they have to account for the lack of alcohol. They apparently use 5 different hops in the brew, but something doesn't work. The finish isn't lacking in bitterness, but it is lacking in flavor. The bitter finish is just bitter, it has none of the flavor that you expect with an IPA. There is also a hint of butter in the finish. I doubt these guys are shipping bad beer, so I don't think it's a fermentation mistake that resulted in diacetyl. I suspect maybe it's a side effect of removing the alcohol.
I drank two last night from a pint glass. It's not a bad beer. If I'd home brewed this back in 90s I'd be pretty damn pleased with myself. If I'd drank it without reading 10 glowing reviews I'd probably have thought it was surprisingly good for a NA brew. It does taste like beer, which is way more than can be said for O'Douls and whatever other NA beers I may have tried in the past.
I did notice a lot of the comments on Rate Beer were closer to my experience, and a few people there commented they thought it was better straight from the can. I've got two left so I'll try that today and see if makes a difference.
If you quit drinking and miss beer, or can't drink for some reason, I think this is a viable replacement for you. Also, they are only 70 calories each, so it's a light beer that actually tastes like beer. In buying this I went down a rabbit hole and apparently craft NA beer is a thing now, so I may try a few others too.