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Non-Alcoholic Beer Review: Athletic Brewing Co.’s Upside Dawn

Ashe Samuels
Last Updated: April 4th, 2023

Cutting back on alcohol has been one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. With Athletic Brewing Co. making such winners as Upside Dawn, I miss very little of my former habit.

For many people, however, stepping into the non-alcoholic beer space isn’t a smooth transition. Since many brands offer watery and tasteless brews, your good decision can still feel like a mistake. Fortunately, Athletic Brewing Co. consistently impresses with its top-notch portfolio. Most of their offerings have not only won a slew of awards, but they’re also regular staples in my kitchen.

I’m going to be doing non-alcoholic beer reviews starting with Upside Dawn, Athletic Brewing Co.’s golden ale. I’ll take a look at flavor notes, pricing, food pairings, and dietary support so you can ease into your new sober (or sober curious) lifestyle.

Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beer Review: Upside Dawn

Who is Athletic Brewing Co.?

who is athletic brewing co

Athletic Brewing Co. is the very first non-alcoholic craft brewery in the United States and a go-to example of how to go sober in style.

The co-founders, Bill and John, threw their hats into the ring in 2017 to push back against flavorless, metallic non-alcoholic beer. They’ve spoken firsthand about their desire for better-tasting non-alcoholic craft beer, citing reasons ranging from fitness to preference. A little personal investment goes a long way because their passion shows in every new offering.

This brand’s proprietary technology helps their craft beer taste much better than the competition. While they’re understandably hush-hush about the details, it’s a difference you can taste. They offer a main year-round portfolio, limited-edition offerings, and experimental options (some of which are exclusive to their club membership).

Upside Dawn Fast Facts

The Upside Dawn is part of their main portfolio, a bright and breezy non-alcoholic golden ale. It boasts a Silver from the 2022 Best Of Craft Beer Awards as well as a Silver from the 2022 London Beer Competition.

Below are a few fast facts!

Upside Dawn is Vegan-Friendly

If you adhere to a vegan diet or are considering it, try a pack of Upside Dawn! This craft beer is vegan-friendly and only contains the following ingredients:

  • Water
  • Malted barley
  • Oats
  • Hops
  • Wheat
  • Yeast

You Can Enjoy a (Mostly) Gluten Free Golden Ale

If you have a gluten intolerance, you may be able to add this golden ale to your list. Athletic Brewing Co. removes the majority of the gluten, but they’re upfront that trace amounts may still be left over.

To be considered gluten-free, a product must have less than 20 PPM. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so review your tolerance levels before buying and consult with your doctor first.

Dieters Will Enjoy the Lower Calorie Count (and Low Sugar)

Many craft beers hover between one hundred to three hundred plus calories. Clocking in at just fifty calories, Upside Dawn is a tasty addition to a new dieting regimen.

This golden ale also has low sugar, no fat, and just twelve carbs.

Athletic Brewing Co. Upside Dawn Beer Review

I’ll make things clear up front: Upside Dawn is one of my favorite drinks of all time. I regularly crack one open with lunch and it’s had me seriously consider getting a subscription.

I’ll break down what makes it so wonderful and why you should consider giving it a try.

How Much Alcohol is in Upside Dawn?

Upside Dawn’s alcohol content is 0.4% per the non-alcoholic limit of 0.5% or less by volume.

Color: Deep Straw

upside dawn beer color

Right off the bat, this golden ale lives up to its elegant name. Upside Dawn showcases a deep straw color and an off-white head, a drink you just have to pour into a glass.

Aroma: Clean and Crisp

The first whiff of this ale had me delighted. Upside Dawn is clean and crisp, boasting a subtle floral nose that isn’t overpowering – think the scent of flowers on the breeze instead of, say, a cloying potpourri.

After I gave the ale a swirl or two and let it breathe, I caught a faint sweetness. While craft beer can sometimes have a very different aroma than the flavor notes, this was a sign of more to come.

Body: Light/Medium-Bodied

Many non-alcoholic craft beers struggle to replicate the satisfying body of their alcoholic cousins. A common complaint is how runny and watery a lot of options are.

Upside Dawn has no issue with this, coming out in a weighty, light to medium-body that settles pleasantly on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Velvety

Refreshing carbonation mixed with a satisfying body result in a mouthfeel that’s like velvet. Every sip is a smooth, silky transition into flavor notes I can’t get enough of.

Flavor Notes: Balanced and Refreshing (and a Touch Unconventional)

upside dawn beer flavor notes

What does Upside Dawn beer taste like? A little bit of everything, really! Athletic Brewing Co.’s golden ale is incredibly balanced and makes for a crowd-pleaser across the board.

The initial taste is crisp citrus, just shy of a ripe lemon without being sour. The hops are quite subdued, too. The IBU is at a pretty low fifteen, so it never veers into the bitter or piney territory. While fans of IPAs might be disappointed at that, ale fans will appreciate the drink’s drier and fruitier character.

The finish blows me away. There’s a honeyed sweetness that lingers – genuinely like a lick of honey – but it’s far from sugary. As someone who generally steers clear of dessert beers, I’m thrilled Upside Dawn lived up to its promise of balance. If you don’t want something too sweet, you’ll be in good hands here.

Does that mean there’s no downside? It depends on your preference. Golden Ale fans may be frustrated at the lack of malt character here. I honestly can’t taste any, and while I’m a fan of malt notes, I don’t mind the fact it’s absent.

Food Pairings: Salty, Savory, or Smoky

Upside Dawn is balanced in terms of citrus, hops, and sweetness. As such, its middle-ground suits a slew of food pairings.

Chicken-based Dishes

Lighter beers are a shoo-in for chicken-based dishes to complement – not overwhelm – poultry’s mellow flavor. I enjoyed pairing Upside Dawn with chicken sausage over pasta or baked chicken thighs with mashed potatoes.

Flaky White Fish

The delicate flavor of white fish – such as cod or bass – will suit Upside Dawn’s subtle hop and honey notes. Its faint citrus will fulfill your need for a lemon squeeze on a batch of fish and chips.

Garlic Mushroom Skewer

If you crave a little charr with your craft beer, try a garlic mushroom skewer. The mix of earthy and smoky flavors will make your golden ale taste brighter, sweeter, and more refreshing.

Pasta Salad

A pasta salad with crunchy bell peppers, olives, or artichoke hearts will lend a touch of spice to bring out Upside Dawn’s honeyed finish.

Tossed Salad With Vinaigrette

If you prefer greens, a crisp salad with arugula, spinach, and tomatoes will make a nice side dish. Consider a salty vinaigrette (and maybe a little feta cheese) to bring out both the honey and the hops.

Overall Score: 9/10

upside dawn beer overall score

When I say this drink is a staple, that’s no mere platitude. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of how to pair Upside Dawn with my lunch.

Refreshing, crisp, and balanced, this golden ale is easily one of the best-tasting non-alcoholic beers available. This drink is why craft beer has frequently been dubbed an experience – you get the full gamut of a sweet aroma, velvety mouthfeel, and honeyed finish. While there’s not much classic golden ale malt, this deceptively easygoing drink impresses with its complexity.

If you’re looking to try some of the best non-alcoholic beers this year, check out Athletic Brewing Co. here.

I Recommend Upside Dawn For Drinkers Who Are:

  • Fans of drier and more balanced craft beers
  • Anyone who steers clear of very sweet, bitter, or hoppy brews
  • Vegan drinkers
  • Most drinkers with very mild gluten intolerance (consult your doctor first!)
  • People who regularly eat chicken, salad, or fish dishes

I Don’t Recommend Upside Dawn For Drinkers Who Are:

  • People who prefer more classic golden ale styles with malty notes
  • Fans of hoppier or more chocolaty beers
  • Drinkers with moderate to severe gluten intolerance


Still, got a few questions? I’ll answer them below!

Why Do I Feel Drunk After Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer?

This symptom is an interesting side-effect of non-alcoholic drinks. This phenomenon is rooted in the placebo effect, a health outcome rooted in your anticipation of a certain result.

Rest assured, you’re not getting drunk. You would need to drink two to three standard 4% or 5% beers before your blood alcohol content level becomes high enough for you to get buzzed.

Why is Athletic Brewing So Expensive?

A common barrier to entry is Athletic Brewing Co.’s higher-than-average price point. Their six-packs run between $12 to $14. Compare this to the average six-pack you’ll find at the grocery store which usually hovers between $6 to $12.

A big reason behind this price is their dedication to organic hops and sourcing local, all-natural ingredients.

What is the Difference Between a Pale Ale and a Golden Ale?

While similar in color and flavor, pale ales and golden ales are not the same. The golden ale is of British origin and is stylistically similar to a lager with its crisp flavor and lighter body.

To compare, pale ale is an American staple that focuses on classic American hops. It tends to be a little maltier or piney than a golden ale.

About The Author

Ashe Samuels

Ashe is a B2B copywriter, digital marketer, and graphic designer for the coffee, tea, and alcohol niches. Here I share industry news, review products, and analyze social trends.

Just so you know, if you click on a product on and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

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