Only With Love Brewing certainly love their big flavours. The two alcohol-free beers we’ve had from them so far delivered chocolate, cherries and vanilla in the form of Happy AF, and juicy tropical mango and citrus in the form of Juicy AF. The flavour dial is well and truly turned up to the max at the brewery, and so learning that their newest non-alcoholic offering was a West Coast IPA really got our imagination going, wondering what sort of hop bomb we are in for. I’m sure most readers will know the characteristics of a West Coast IPA, but for the uninitiated here is a brief overview. A West Coast IPA is all about the hops, and those hops tend to be varieties grown – you guessed it – on the west coast of the States. New World hops are known for their fruity aromas, and the IPAs they enable tend to have big citrus and tropical fruit flavours. There tends to be little malt on show, just pineapple, mango, grapefruit and more in abundance. They also gravitate to the high ABV values, which can be a problem when trying to replicate the flavours and overall drinking experience in a nolo version of the style.
Harmony AF is relatively new to market, having been released in December 2022, just in time for those new mindful drinkers and sober-curious buyers that Dry January brings with it. Like Juicy AF before it the beer uses a plethora of hops, being Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra and Magnum. That lot covers pretty much the entire crop of the Yakima Valley. If nothing else there should at least be some flavour in Harmony AF. The brewer has also gone down the route of adding a couple of adjuncts to their brew, in this case we have both orange peel and chilli. The rind should add to the bitterness of the beer, and we’ve seen chilli used several times in nolos to try and mimic the ‘alcohol burn’ associated with higher ABV brews. It’s only succeeded a few times in my opinion, in Mash Gang’s Stoop Extra Dry and Chug. Let’s see if it works here too.
Pouring the beer out from the can we get a hazy dark golden brown coloured liquid, with quite a few visible particles suspended in it – the orange peel perhaps? A big frothy head is produced and sticks around for a while, receding and leaving some good lacing after a few swigs. Aromas on the nose are mostly citrus, orange marmalade and citrus peel, but a decent kick of earthy pine in there too. There’s some vaguely tropical fruitiness going on in the background but citrus rules the kingdom of the nose here.
Bitterness kicks us in the face as we taste, a combination of both orange and grapefruit citrus and earthy resinous pine. There’s a background of juicy tropical fruits but once again citrus is dominant. Then, after a few mouthfuls we start to get the effect of the chilli. It’s really working for me, imitating the mild ‘alcohol burn’ of a decent IPA. I felt pretty rosy-cheeked, and had to check I wasn’t accidentally drinking a 6%-er by mistake. It’s the best use of chilli in a non-alcoholic beer yet, by far. The body of the beer is medium, probably helped by whatever’s floating in it. Carbonation is at a nice level, joining the chilli in giving a little tingle on your tongue. We get a long, earthy, resinous finish to the drink.
Harmony AF West Coast IPA packs a punch for sure. Citrus and earthy pine give your taste buds and olfactory epithelium a good beating while the chilli works to heighten your senses – meaning the experience is a full flavoured West Coast IPA. An alcohol-free beer that will fool the ‘full fat’ drinkers, and appeals to both markets in my opinion. Masterful nolo brewing.
Buy Harmony AF West Coast IPA
A select few bars may have Only With Love’s beers on draught when available, and their brews may be available in your local bottle shop. Online is currently the easiest way to get your hands on cans of Harmony AF:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the can)|
|Further nutritional information not supplied by brewer. Boo, hiss!|
|Water, Yeast, Hops, Chilli, Orange Peel, Wheat, Barley|
|Country of Production||United Kingdom|
|Brewer||Only With Love – https://onlywithlove.co/|
Harmony AF West Coast IPA Review
Big, bold, bitter and best use of chilli in an alcohol-free beer yet. If you’re a West Coast IPA fan you’re in for a treat.