DAYTON EATS: Sober friendly options continue to grow, improve

Credit: Abby Hofrichter

Credit: Abby Hofrichter

It’s no secret that the craft beer community has grown exponentially in the last two decades, and with that it’s become far more common to hear that a “cicerone” is involved in a beer event.

In layman’s terms, a cicerone evaluates beer — type, ingredients, flavor, food pairings, you get the idea — and can advise everyone from brewers to restaurants to customers on all things in the world of beer.

They are trained experts with a deep knowledge to help improve the brewing process and help improve beer evaluation and pairing.

I’ve long seen cicerones visiting town for tastings and specialty beer events, but an upcoming April 14 event at Ghostlight Coffee is a first that I’ve seen that speaks to the rising popularity of non-alcoholic craft beer.

Ghostlight Coffee’s bottle shop on Wayne Ave. is hosting a non-alcoholic craft beer tasting with beer writer and Advanced Cicerone David Nilsen on Friday, April 14 with six non-alcoholic beers being sampled (

Coming on the end of the Lenten season where so many choose to give up alcohol, it seems a perfect time to put a spotlight on not only Ghostlight’s non-alcoholic bottle shop that is host to a full array of spirits including whiskey, gin, rum and tequila, wines, craft beers and other options that weigh in at zero-proof, but also all of the NA, zero proof options that have hit store shelves across the region.

What Ghostlight has latched onto with its non-alcoholic bottle shop that opened in 2022 is a national trend that Forbes reported on at the very end of the year on Dec. 23 when it shared the news that the non-alcoholic drink market surpassed the $11 billion dollar mark in 2022 globally with sales growing by more than 7 percent. The growth of non-alcohol products is currently growing far faster than low-alcohol, meaning more and more people are treating every day like Lent.

The biggest contribution to the NA category’s growth (70%) is no-alcohol beer and cider. According to a report form a IWSR Drinks Market Analysis ( which also reports that the U.S. and Japan are the biggest markets for non-alcoholic RTDs (ready-to-drinks).

Whether you have given up spirits for Lent, observed a sober October, a dry January, or just want to stay away from alcohol in general, more and more restaurants and bars locally are offering options to partake while not partaking with mocktails, non-alcoholic drinks and NA options.

In addition to this one of the biggest names in craft beer has launched a relatively new product in a can in our market that is being rolled out to major retailers including Meijer, Target, Whole Foods and Arrow Wine in Centerville.

It’s a product I have become obsessed with in short order.

Lagunitas Brewing Company out of Petaluma, California, is rolling its Hoppy Refresher out to our region after it has found legions of fans since appearing on the scene in 2019.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Unlike traditional sparkling water products it relies on the hops that Laugunitas is known for. It’s zero-alcohol, zero-carb, zero-calorie treat that is packed with the flavors of Citra, Equinox and Centennial hops and a pinch of brewer’s yeast.

I love the quote from Jeremy Marshall, Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Brewmaster, about Hoppy Refresher: “Think of it like a club soda… with soul. Lots of soul. Like Rick James and James Brown. Rick Brown.”

It’s light, refreshing and a beverage that leaves you wanting more. It is a delicious option to hydrate with or to sip when you are a sober skipper. It’s available in six-pack cans in the original flavor and a 12-pack variety pack of cans with blood orange, lemon berry and original flavors.

Bars and restaurants all over town are seeing a need to add NA options to their drink menus, with mocktails and non-alcoholic beer options becoming more readily available.

At Dublin Pub for example, you can get a regular full frothy Guinness draft or you can opt for a can of Guinness 0, brewed to be non-alcoholic.



To create Guinness 0 the St James’s Gate brewers, start by brewing Guinness, using the same natural ingredients; water, barley, hops, and yeast; before gently removing the alcohol through a cold filtration method. The resulting product is a non-alcoholic stout that is unmistakably Guinness with a creamy head, hints of chocolate and coffee, smoothly balanced with bitter, sweet and roasted notes.

Other beers like Heineken’s 0.0, which has been around forever, seems to become more and more prevalent on menus with the passing days. Lagunitas IPNA is another of my favorite refreshing beer options that seem to be appearing on more and more menus as the consumer appetite for non-alcoholic options continues to grow.

Mudlick Tap House has dedicated a portion of their drink menu to “clearheaded cocktails” with a strawberry ginger cooler ($7) made with strawberry, ginger simple syrup, orange juice, fresh lime and Fever-Tree ginger beer that can make you feel fancy without the fog.

I have long enjoyed finding ways to make mocktails during the week so I can watch what I’m doing on school nights while still adding flavor and flair to the liquid portion of dinner.

Besides Hoppy Refresher, which is my No. 1 pick right now, here are a few others that I call upon when I’m trying to steer clear of concoctions that pack a punch.

Clausthaler Grapefruit NA Beer: Ever since it put non-alcoholic beer on the map in 1979, Clausthaler has been a pioneer in the NA market. Its signature non-alcoholic lager, Clausthaler Original, is made in strict accordance with the German purity law. It’s fresh and very drinkable. The Clausthaler Grapefruit is a 50/50 mix of Claustharler Original and grapefruit drink. It is endlessly refreshing and a great addition to breakfast, lunch or dinner. And with pool weather coming it’s the perfect pairing to an afternoon in the sun.

TÖST: These alcohol free beverages are crafted to be as meaningful and sophisticated as alcoholic beverages but without the alcohol. TÖST ROSÉ is a dry, sparkling, alcohol-free beverage made with white tea, ginger and elderberry. If you want to cut it, use a can of Hoppy Refresher for the win.

Monday Gin: This was my gateway non-alcoholic spirit. A friend who decided to break up with alcohol and was looking for other options told me this was their favorite, so I had to try it and now I am never without a bottle at home. It’s not gin. Gin is gin. But if you are going to remove the alcohol and try and simulate something even close to a gin and tonic this is the closest you will likely get. It is packed with juniper and has hints of coriander and grapefruit. Again, zero carbs, no sugar, zero calories and a good way to make a mocktail when you feel like treating yourself but need to go the sober route (

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Seedlip: If you want to see what you can do with a non-alcoholic spirit, get some Seedlip and use its excellent website ( to start bartending. This non-alcoholic spirit comes in three flavors — spice (a warm, aromatic blend of allspice and cardamom with fresh citrus top notes to balance the long bitter finish), garden (a fresh, herbal blend of peas & traditional garden herbs including rosemary, thyme and spearmint), and grove (a sophisticated, bright, citrus blend of Mediterranean orange, lemon peel, lemongrass and ginger with a dry finish). This is a great option for experimenting with cocktail making that will help add flavor and health to the bottom line.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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