Keeping beer from falling flat

Keeping beer from falling flat

Niagara College’s food and wine institute helps craft an award-winning non-alcoholic beer
December 2, 2014

When MADD Virgin Drinks wanted to add a tasty craft beer to their lineup of non-alcoholic drinks, the company turned to Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI). The line of alcohol-free drinks is produced under licence to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It was created to provide an alternative to alcohol for designated drivers, pregnant women, or anyone who wants to enjoy the flavour of alcohol but avoid its effects.

The beverage line donates 10 percent of net sales to MADD to support the organization’s ongoing efforts to eliminate impaired driving. It includes red, white and sparkling wines, cocktails, and now, thanks to the collaboration with CWFI, the first craft-brewed, alcohol-free lager on the market, which recently won gold in its category at the US Open Beer Championships.

MADD Virgin Drinks wanted to sell alcohol-free beer that actually tasted like real beer, not a weaker substitute. So in the summer of 2012, CFWI researchers began working on the project, including conducting taste tests with more than 400 subjects and analyzing different natural ingredients to brew the perfect alcohol-free lager. The first batch of MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager was manufactured in April 2014 by Waterloo’s Brick Brewing and since then, MADD Virgin Drinks has sold more than 11,000 cases of it, generating more than $500,000 in sales.

In Canada, the alcohol-free line has been sold at Shoppers Drug Mart for the past two years. MADD Virgin Drinks credits its partnership with the college — which just opened four new labs funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation —with the creation of its lager. The beer is now sold in the United States in 2,600 Walgreens stores and it is expected to be in the remaining 5,700 Walgreen stores by the end of 2015.

The CFWI is now helping MADD Virgin Drinks improve the rest of its popular line of products. Researchers are looking for ways to use natural ingredients to mimic the way alcohol feels in the mouth. If successful, the line will be able to continue to improve its alcohol-free products and strengthen MADD’s mandate of discouraging drinking and driving.