The Untold Truth Of O'Doul's Non-Alcoholic Beer

Beer's been part of the human diet for a (very) good 12,000 years. O'doul's? Around 30 years, but more on that in a minute. According to, when our ancestors developed agriculture, they also started brewing grains. They grew grains on purpose. The theory is that they found fermentation by accident. Once they had it, they kept on brewing.

Modern brewers can take credit for all sorts of things, from bottling to canning to mass production. Spicing beer? Not so much. A tasty tidbit from Smithsonian Magazine: ancient Egyptians seasoned their brews with herbs, including coriander and thyme. Even non-alcoholic beer isn't new. Small beers, Open Learn teaches us, had just enough alcohol to keep bacteria out of the brews that made up part of a worker's pay; in the early 19 century, the Temperance movement brought low-alcohol beer back to the market. 

So non-alcoholic beer's been our companion for generation after generation. In the late 20th century, Anheuser-Busch turned history into pleasure, producing a malty, grainy low-ABV brew the pickiest drinker would want to drink.

Beer-lovers, meet O'Doul's. 

O'Doul's might sound like a family name, but the brand is all Anheuser-Busch.

When you think of Anheuser-Busch, you might think of anything from Bud Light to Four Peaks to Stella Artois. You aren't likely to think "cutting edge." Think again. Anheuser-Busch has been around since 1852, but it isn't old. It's savvy. Just look at non-alcoholic beer. For many people, non-alcoholic brews are a brand-new trend — or a bundle of brands jammed in something sparkly and fresh. Those people don't know about O'Doul's.

As the last millennium faded into the past, Anheuser-Bush brought a complex, flavorful beer into the market. Not astounded? The new beer was non-alcoholic. It was brewed in a traditional fashion, with respect for the rich history and traditions of brewing. After that, the alcohol was removed, or most of it was. By law, non-alcoholic beers must have under .05% alcohol by volume. Lean and anything but mean, O'Doul's has 0.4% ABV.

O'Doul's was a wise investment of time and talent. With more and more people interested in living more healthfully, lowering their alcohol intake, and enjoying every possible pleasure, non-alcoholic beers are cool commodities in restaurants, shops, sports stadiums, and bars. Newcomers have to prove themselves. O'Doul's has three decades of delicious low-proof behind it.

Keep an eye out for ice-cold O'Doul's art. As Beverage Daily shows, Anheuser-Busch sometimes dresses their '90s baby extra-well, with limited edition designs by artists across the nation. That's right: Your non-alcoholic beer can look as good as it tastes.

O'Doul's is of drinking age — and then some

As the LA Times tells the tale, in 1990, two major brewing companies — Miller and Anheuser-Busch – kicked off commercial campaigns for their new non-alcoholic beers. The ads kicked up a fuss among pro-sobriety activists.

The era's rising interest in sobriety was the very reason big brewers were rolling out barrels of non-alcoholic beer. O'Doul's ads had the catchy theme of "O'Doul's for Every O'Ccasion." Their target drinkers were men between their mid-20s and mid-30s, guys who wanted to have a drink and stay grounded through meals with colleagues and clients.

Anti-alcohol activist Ray Chavira had founded a private nonprofit, The Los Angeles County Alcohol Policy Commission. He put his powers to work protesting the release of non-alcoholic beers, with their mandatory ABV of lower than 0.5%.

Speaking of pregnant women, minors, recovering alcoholics, and people on probation who were barred from drinking alcohol, Chavira pushed to have live warnings aired with every ad. This sparked debates and accusations, including that brewers were making non-alcoholic beers to get students to drink — as if any teen would waste a fake ID on buying alcohol-free beer.

As for those ads that lit the fires? One 1990 commercial, with its serious voice-over and close-ups of condensed water vapor steaming from a cold bottle, promised that O'Doul's "taste will win you over." For once, advertising doesn't lie. 

When it comes to non-alcoholic beers, even boozy brew-lovers can appreciate O'Doul's

Whether you're bypassing booze to build a healthier diet, clear your mind, or get ready for a triathlon, O'Doul's means being able to crack open a cold one without breaking your rules. While sober-curious explorations and alcohol-free months are great opportunities to develop tastes for everything from tea to kombucha, O'Doul's offers beer-lovers a way to keep the alcohol down and enjoyment high: no compromise required.

Yes, non-alcoholic beers have a bad reputation. Do they really deserve it? With a few decades in the market, O'Doul's has earned its place in beer history. It's also earned high marks in taste tests run by the full-force beer-lovers at The Growler. What's the feedback? O'Doul's trounces non-alcoholic beers' rep for being thin and flavorless, with the full, well-rounded flavor of a macro amber lager. That's a beer worth drinking, whether the weather or the month is wet or dry.

O'Doul's is vegan-friendly (but it isn't gluten-free)

For vegans, getting a good drink can be a challenge. Whether it's wine, beer, or hard liquor, animal and fish products have a way of creeping in. (American Craft Beer says isinglass, a gelatin made from fish bladders, is often used to clarify beer.) Brew-loving, sober-curious vegans have a double challenge: they have to find a beer that's non-alcoholic, with nothing fishy about it. There's a liquid solution to the dry vegan dilemma. It's O'Doul's.

According to Anheuser-Busch, they don't have to use fish or animal ingredients. There are a few exceptions: the honey beers, with their not-so-secret ingredient, and the Bud Cheladas, which have shellfish. O'Doul's? It's vegan-adoring. Never mind safe. 

Instead of isinglass, the brewer relies on beechwood, which draws yeast as magnets do iron, and aging. Give beer time to age, and the yeast will settle down — right down onto the beechwood at the bottom of the tank. When the beer's removed, the wood and the yeast stay behind, and what's left is a flavor-forward, sunshine-clear O'Doul's.

It isn't a safe choice for all drinkers. Made with barley malt, this non-alcoholic brew is far from gluten-free. O'Doul's is great for vegans; but people with celiac disease have to reach for a different glass. Want proof the brew's vegan-friendly? You can trust PETA on this. At the time of writing, O'Doul's is the only non-alcoholic beer on their list. You knew O'Doul's was special. Now, you know it's unique.

O'Doul's paired up with a popular dating website

When people date to impress, they often reach for the wine list or cocktail menu. To land a hot date with one of the coolest potential partners, O'Doul's brought 0.4% alcohol, rich flavor, a crisp laid-back attitude, and straight-from-the-brewery honesty. In 2021, says Marketing Dive, O'Doul's made a match with Match. That looks like a typo, but that date was no mistake. It also wasn't exclusive. The pair set out to make other dates extraordinary. From a romantic perspective, you could say they kicked things off with charitable intentions.

It was dry January: one month to Valentine's Day, with COVID adding frost to icy temperatures. Making midwinter anything but bleak, Match and O'Doul's composed Virtual Date Kits. As Adweek observed, this was about making dating easier for folks who don't drink, or who want to try dating without alcohol.

In a sweepstakes, the new couple gave away a hundred kits, each holding a smart start to a new relationship. O'Doul's cans donned a new design. Dieline featured the graphics, with the beer's name set in a Match-blue heart. There were custom socks for comfort, a candle to light the booze-free way, dating conversation cards to save those who get stumped for what to say, and a selfie light and smartphone stand to catch that moment when dry daters realize they can be stone-cold sober and ready to fall — in love.

O'Doul's can give you a good beer fix, but it can't get you drunk

Things might be different if you were a mouse — or the size of one — but if you're a human-sized human, wherever you fit on that range, O'Doul's won't bring you a boozy buzz.

We all know what it's like to be tipsy. Muscle ease, thoughts get fuzzy, inhibitions diminish, and reflexes slow so much it's dangerous to drive. Most people reach the borders of drunkenness when their blood alcohol level hits 0.4% (via Steady Drinker). Here's a mathematical moment: There's 0.4% alcohol in one 12-ounce bottle of O'Doul's. Per the American Red Cross, the average adult has 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood in their body. To hit 0.4% alcohol in your body, you'd need to make a major donor to sparkly vampires and fill the space in your veins with around 19 bottles of O'Doul's.

In a 2012 study, researchers tracked 67 people. The volunteers drank no alcohol for five days, and then downed one-and-a-half liters — a little over two-and-a-half pints — of .04% ABV beer in one hour: a stomach-stunning achievement. When volunteers knocked back all of that alcohol-free beer, the maximum blood alcohol level was .0056%.

Your body is an efficient machine. It can process the alcohol in that O'Doul's almost as fast as you can drink it, Steady Drinker says — but don't try to outpace those volunteers. Your stomach won't thank you. Even worse, you won't enjoy your O'Doul's. 

Folks in recovery shouldn't reach for O'Doul's

Maybe you realized giving up alcohol's a smart thing to do. Maybe you just earned your six-month chip. Maybe you went through alcohol rehab. Whichever way, congratulations! Alcohol is one of the toughest substances to beat. 

There are solid reasons why, if you're in recovery, you shouldn't be reaching for that frosty bottle of alcohol-free O'Doul's. O'Doul's has an ABV of 0.4%. Some people in long-term recovery say it's best to steer clear of the slightest temptation: even one that's less than 1%. Why choose a trigger when it's safer to stay away?

The pros at Lakeview Health, an addiction treatment and recovery center, note that drinking is linked with habits and lifestyle choices. Maybe that's going out for drinks with friends after a game, or tipping back a few brews with colleagues to celebrate closing a hard-won deal. With an O'Doul's in hand — it looks the same as everyone else's beer, tastes like good beer, and feels like good beer going down. It can feel like everything's fine, and the sweet, worry-free days are back. What you're drinking is non-alcoholic, and you're in control. One evening, instead of going to a meeting, you decide to hang out for another round. That's fine, and so you do it again ... and again. 

That high-risk road's recovery experts say we should stay away from old habits and hangouts. From nicotine to whisky, hazardous habits have ways of winning us back.

O'Doul's can still get you in legal trouble

A New Mexico resident, Gary Southern, was driving through 91-degree heat, with an icy O'Doul's cooling him down. For a beer-lover behind the wheel, O'Doul's is a natural choice: get your hoppy happiness with no alcohol attached, right? As a KQRE reported, the law didn't see it that way.

A police officer pulled Southern over, and asked to see the bottle. After Southern handed it over, the officer sniffed it. What did it smell like? Beer. The officer called a sergeant, who administered a sobriety test — which Southern, who'd been drinking nothing stronger than O'Doul's, passed. The sergeant read the label. The words "contain alcohol" determined Gary Southern's fate: a ticket and a court date. Because O'Doul's contains alcohol and is sold in the liquor section of shops, Judge Joe I. Dominguez found Southern guilty. With a job to get to, Southern missed the 15-day window to appeal.

The conviction wasn't as smooth as O'Doul's. It stuck in his craw, so he learned the legal standards, and fought back. Five years after the ruling, the Albequerque Journal tells us, Southern was still trying to have his case re-heard — trying and failing. That's enough to make anyone crack open a nice cold O'Doul's ... but maybe not on the road.

O'Doul's is non-alcoholic, but it you try to buy some, you could be carded

When David Sautter was 38, he had a favorite drink and a shopping habit. The former: O'Doul's, because it had everything he liked about beer, from appearance to flavor, and it wouldn't get him anything approximating drunk. The latter: buying O'Doul's at a nearby 7-Eleven. The problem: Whenever he went to get his favorite non-alcoholic beer in the store, the Washington Post says, what he got was carded. It wasn't because he looked like a teenager, but because store policy was to ID anybody who bought an alcoholic beverage.

Sautter called 7-Eleven to get an explanation and was told that they'd sell non-alcoholic beer only to customers who were over 21 — the demographic an O'Doul's brand manager confirmed was the one the booze-free beer's producers wanted to reach.

To Sautter, 7-Eleven's policy was baffling. He didn't let himself get snared in the red tape. Instead, he did what any sensible beer-drinker would do. He took his business elsewhere, so he could get his O'Doul's chilled and hassle-free.

O'Doul's was a drinkable part of a fifth-grade history lesson

History can be tough to teach, and finding creative ways to reach students can be as great a challenge. A Michigan schoolteacher was teaching her students about the realities of local life in the 18th century, when water wasn't always safe to drink and beer was both a healthier choice and a common quaff. To bring the lesson home — or to the classroom — an inspired student brought O'Doul's to the fifth-grade class.

The teacher figured it would be okay for the student to share the brew; O'Doul's, after all, is non-alcoholic. A deep read of the label reveals that O'Doul's weighs in at less than 0.05% alcohol — about the same as the commercial kombucha, by Healthline's measures. Sure, there are parents who pour a bottle of strawberry 'buch for their kids ... but, according to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, it's a misdemeanor to serve non-alcoholic beer to kids.

No children were forced to taste the beer. Some sampled it. A few took bottles home. In school and at home, MLive reports, no one seemed fussed about O'Doul's appearance in the class. The student who brought the beer didn't get in trouble. The teacher's supervisors described her as a responsible person who wouldn't put students at risk.

In the end, everybody learned at least one lesson, and a modern beer brought students a taste of history.