What I Do: Jeff Stevens, founder of WellBeing Brewing Co.
Jeff Stevens is founder of WellBeing Brewing Co., a craft brewery dedicated to nonalcoholic beer and other NA beverages. Last year, following a successful collaboration with Schlafly on Match Day (an NA version of Schlafly’s famous pale ale), the two breweries formed a long-term partnership, putting Schlafly in charge of WellBeing’s wholesale operations. Not only does the move help WellBeing continue to grow, Stevens explained, it’s also freed him to focus on the part of his job he enjoys most: developing new, innovative products. Here, Stevens explains how WellBeing overcame the challenges of NA beer production, and what inspired him to take the leap from a successful career in advertising to beer production.
“The key is that [WellBeing’s] beer fully ferments; it has alcohol in it, it's made just like it would normally be made. So, it has all the body, mouthfeel, flavors and aroma [of beer].”
“Then the beer’s put through this vacuum, which lowers the boiling temperature. Beer would boil at the same temperature water boils; it would scorch the beer if you tried to boil the alcohol off, and you'd ruin it. This brings the boiling temperature down, but it doesn't ruin the beer [or] the flavors, mouthfeel and crispness.”
“Historically, nonalcoholic beers have [used] other methods: limited fermentation or stop fermentation, where the sugars aren't fermented, so they're sweeter. And then you’ve got to add stuff to them. … But even that technology has gotten better, because there's different kinds of yeasts.”
“When I first started, I'd worked [in advertising] in London a long time; I had a lot of friends over there, I'd been there recently on a job. And my creative team had shown me this idea for a nonalcoholic [beer] brand. There was one in London that’d just started, Big Drop, which is now in the U.S.”
“We were sitting, drinking O’Doul’s, and we all asked ourselves – and this is 2015 or 2016 – ‘Why do nonalcoholic beers suck so bad? Why?’”
“And it's a really good question, because craft beer was happening big time, and there's a million different styles. … No one cared or put any effort into it – it was always an afterthought.”
“So, I started doing all this research on nonalcoholic beer, and … you couldn't find a craft beer brand of nonalcoholic beer in 2015, 2016 in the U.S.”
“I finally found this dealcoholization plant out of Munich and imported some beer from Germany, like a case of something for $500. And it was delicious.”
“We decided to import the technology. Fran [Caradonna] was at O’Fallon [Brewery], I knew [owner] Jim Gorczyca from my A-B [Anheuser-Busch] days. And that's where we ended up putting the plant.”
“I'm glad we own this technology and can make the best, really high-end beers, I think that will serve us well. … But there's all kinds of interesting other products that we need to also learn to make.”
“There's a whole world out there of sparkly, cold beverages, who knows what these will ultimately be. … There's this whole category of things that have not yet been invented that are complex, interesting to drink, don't have alcohol but could have a variety of other things, from healthy ingredients to THC, CBD – who knows what might be in drinks in the future.”
“That's what I find exciting, and why this Schlafly deal makes so much sense. I want them to take over this business that I've been running, that they're really good at doing. And I would like to get back into doing what I really enjoy, which is innovating and creating these new drinks, these new, healthy things.”