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Athletic Brewing Co. Opens World’s Largest Non-Alcoholic Brewery

Four years after establishing America’s first brewery and taproom dedicated entirely to non-alcoholic beer, Athletic Brewing Company has opened the doors to a sprawling 150,000 sq. ft. facility that will eventually be capable of producing more than 6 million cases annually.

Athletic Brewing’s new brewery, located at 75 Cascade Blvd. in Milford, Connecticut, is believed to be the largest non-alcoholic beer making facility in the world. It will serve U.S. east coast markets, as well as Europe, and complement Athletic’s 80,000 sq. ft. brewery in San Diego, California, which is able to supply more than 2 million cases annually.

Athletic will also maintain its original 10,000 sq. ft. facility in Stratford, Conn. for ongoing innovation efforts and future projects.

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Founded in 2017 by Bill Shufelt and John Walker, Athletic Brewing grew from just 12,000 cases in 2018 to more than 1.4 million cases in 2021. During that span, the company won over 40 awards – against both non-alcoholic and alcoholic competition – and drove 39% of total non-alcohol beer category growth.

At the same time, the once-stagnant category of non-alcoholic beer has become the hottest trend in beverages, growing by over 500% since Athletic launched in 2018. Athletic currently holds a 51% share of the non-alcoholic craft beer category and has grown to become the 3rd largest non-alcoholic beer brand in the U.S., according to market research firm Nielsen.

It also now ranks as the 27th largest craft brewery in the U.S., out of more than 9,000, and was the fastest-growing brewery in the country over the last two years, according to the Brewers Association.

Speaking about his company’s early success, Shufelt said, “Americans were ready for a non-alcoholic offering that tasted just like the great craft beers they’ve come to love. Our beers are fit for all times and can be consumed anywhere.”

Starting this month, Athletic will boast over 5 million cases of production capacity across its three breweries. The new Milford location will brew Athletic’s flagship beers – Run Wild IPA, Upside Dawn Golden, Free Wave Hazy IPA, and Athletic Lite – as well as its 40 seasonal, limited-edition, and pilot brews. It will also produce DayPack, a line of hop-infused sparkling waters that recently launched at retailers in Oregon, Washington, and Maine.

“Keeping up with demand has always been our biggest challenge,” said Walker. “In our original business plan, we anticipated maxing out on our Stratford brewery capacity in five years. This state-of-the-art facility allows us to stay ahead in not only capacity but also quality – which our customers have come to expect from us. Given the lack of investment in the category over the previous 30-years, this further validates our belief in the category and consumer demand for adult non-alcoholic beverages that help people maximize their own potential day every day.”

Betting on increasing consumer interest in products that promote health and wellness, Shufelt and Walker defied alcohol industry experts who said there was no demand for non-alcoholic beer. They theorized that modern adults wanted great-tasting brews that wouldn’t interfere with their active lifestyles, so they set out to reframe and revolutionize how and when people drink.

“From day one, we’ve lived by the saying ‘Brew Without Compromise’ in both taste and experience,” said Shufelt. “That has opened beer up from being a one or two night-per-week occasion to an all-day and night experience. We believe it is the largest occasion unlock in the history of beer.”

While the addition of a third brewing facility validates non-alcoholic beer trends Athletic helped to ignite, over 75% of Americans are still unaware of Athletic Brewing. Nevertheless, Athletic recently added 12,000 new retail stores, bars, and restaurants, including over 1,000 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants.

“We’re just getting started,” said Shufelt. “Ultimately, we see non-alcoholic beer growing from just 0.3% of the overall beer category in 2017 to over 20%.”

ATHLETIC-SD-BREWERY-4636The non-alcoholic craft beer segment is the fastest-growing category in beer and has been for four straight years. Global non-alcoholic beer sales totaled $16.65 billion in 2021. Worldwide NA beer sales are forecasted to surpass $23.2 billion by 2025.

Off-premise sales of non-alcoholic beer in the U.S. grew from $80 million in 2017 to more than $300 million in 2021. Athletic Brewing holds an 11% share of the overall non-alcoholic beer market in the U.S.

Athletic is a certified B Corp that has grown from 10 employees in 2019 to over 200 nationwide. Over 50 Athletic teammates will work out of the new Milford brewery.

Athletic beers are available at on-and-off-premise retail establishments in more than 40 states. The company has plans to distribute its beer in all 50 states in the coming months, and it will continue to sell its entire portfolio of offerings via its best-in-class e-commerce platform. Athletic currently ships over 50,000 packages a month directly to consumers. In addition to availability across the U.S., Athletic beers are sold in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Since day one, Athletic has donated 2% of all sales to trail and park cleanups and maintenance via its “Two for the Trails” program, which eclipsed $1M in donations in 2021 and will again in 2022.