Food In Canada

Harmon’s crafts non-alcoholic beers for the sober curious

By Nithya Caleb   

Products Editor pick Non-alcoholic beer Ontario

A family trip in late 2019 to San Diego, Calif., inspired Steve Abrams, the co-founder of Toronto-based Harmon’s, a non-alcoholic craft beer brewing company, to delve into the world of non-alcoholic beverages, partly inspired by his wish to not consume alcohol.

Abrams is no stranger to the beer industry. He founded Mill Street Brewery in 2002, which is where he cemented ties with Rob Doyle, Harmon’s brewmaster and co-founder.

Abrams and Doyle began toying with the idea of creating a non-alcoholic craft beer. The duo was firm in their belief that the best way to create great-tasting beer would be to use classical brewing methods and quality ingredients. The challenge then was to stop the fermentation at the right moment, so the beer’s alcohol level stood below 0.5 per cent, the maximum amount permitted by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for non-alcoholic beers. After many trials at Doyle’s home-based mini-brewing station, Doyle perfected a formulation that’s unique to Harmon’s.

Harmon’s uses certified organic ingredients to create its brews, which includes a pale ale, an award-winning lagered ale and a hazy IPA.

Rob Doyle, Mick Cuch, Harmon’s sales and marketing VP, and Steve Abrams.

In 2021, Harmon’s began to sell commercially. The going was tough for many reasons. The pandemic had almost decimated the beer sector. Further, not many people knew about non-alcoholic beverages. A large part of Abrams job is to educate consumers about the benefits of non-alcoholic drinks. He slowly found success and acceptance in small cheese and beer tasting sessions and similar boutique-sized bespoke events. In 2022, Harmon’s sales was under $500,000.

Supply chain constraints were another challenge for the Harmon’s team. Most of their ingredients are sourced from Europe and the U.S., which was, unsurprisingly, affected by a weak global supply chain. Another issue was finding a brewery that could deliver consistent results. They finally found their ideal co-packer in Equals Brewing Company, London, Ont.

Food in Canada’s associate editor Monica Ferguson sampled the beers. “The Lunchbox Lagered Ale has everything to be expected in a classic beer. It is light and refreshing and easy to drink with a tiny amount of foam and carbonization. The taste was slightly sweet and fruity and paired well with salty pretzels,” she said.

“I could taste orange and citrus notes from my first sip of the Jack Pine Pale Ale. It had more layers than the lagered as well as more hop and complexity,” she shared. As suggested by Doyle, Ferguson paired the ale with jalapeño chips. According to her, “the subtle spice in the chip really complemented the layers in the beer and made each sip that much more refreshing. I could definitely see myself enjoying this beer outside whilst enjoying the great outdoors like the postcard suggests.”

The Hazy-Day Hazy Ale “was surprisingly” her favourite. “It had a tropical flavour while also offering bitter tasting flares. This is my ideal winter beer as it is a bit heavier than a lager or pale ale. I really enjoyed the hops here. The Chicago mix offered a nice contrast in taste pairing,” she added.

She also concluded that “each beer was great and carried its own taste and flavour. All three were very enjoyable and taste exactly like traditional beer, just without the ABV.”

You can buy Harmon’s beer at select retail outlets as well as online.

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