Drop Bear Beer Co. – New Beers, More Awards & An Alcohol Free Brewery

Drop Bear Beer first arrived on the UK alcohol free scene back in 2019 launching with two unique beers – the Tropical IPA and Yuzu Pale Ale.  They packed massive flavours into two non-alcoholic beers that also happened to be gluten free, vegan friendly and low in calories. With such a fantastic combination, it’s no wonder they’ve proved massively popular with alcohol free beer drinkers. 

Drop Bear Beer Co founders Sarah McNena and Joelle Drummond
Drop Bear Beer Co founders Sarah McNena and Joelle Drummond

Since their launch, founders Joelle & Sarah haven’t rested on their laurels.  Instead, they’ve launched two more non-alcoholic beers, run a successful crowdfunding campaign and won numerous awards. 

Alcohol Free Growth For 2021 

You may think after all this work and success during a particularly challenging 2020 that they might be thinking of taking a well-earned a rest for 2021, but it seems not.  Instead, they’re taking on their biggest project yet for 2021.

With a New Year and big plans ahead, now seemed the best time to catch-up and find out more about what the future has in store for Drop Bear Beer Co.  I caught up with Joelle to discuss awards, new beers and their big plans.

Taking on Alcohol Free Stout 

The first of their post launch new beers was the Bonfire Stout and Joelle told me about their experience with this beer. “the stout isn’t ever going to be the biggest style for sales, but it actually is it does sell very well – much more than we’d expected and more than the market research suggested.”

Drop Bear Beer Co Bonfire Stout
Drop Bear Beer Co Bonfire Stout

Joelle continues “It is probably the most divisive beer because it has that specialty smoked malt and it’s just not for everyone. I think if you like stuff like Guinness or more traditional flavours, it would appeal to you” 

Launching a Non-Alcoholic Lager 

For their second new beer of 2020, Sarah & Joelle moved onto yet another beer style, but without losing their focus on brewing great flavour into the new offering.  With that, the New World Lager was born. 

”The lager took a lot of time. It was a pain. Lager is really hard. There were so many lagers out there in the market and we didn’t want to just release another standard lager. Why just repeat it?

Drop Bear Beer Co New World Lager Flavours
Getting the flavours right were key in the New World Lager

“We didn’t really feel like that was that on-brand for Drop Bear. We’re really into our craft flavour profiles, innovation and just trying out weird stuff and seeing if it works. We thought we’d try and emulate the movement of IPL’s in the alcoholic craft beer scene and bring that over into a core range in the alcohol free market.

“As far as I’m aware it’s the first alcohol-free IPL to be part of a core range. I was a bit nervous because it was so hard to get it right. I think with ale little you’ve got a little bit more to hide behind as there’s more going on. Whereas with a lager even with the craft lager it is simpler and any little mistake is amplified. We had to really try a lot of different things, but we did know that we wanted to call it the New World Lager inspired by New World hops from New Zealand because we just absolutely love those flavours. I think they’re really great and they were just different to the lager that we could get our hands on.” Joelle told me.

A Brave New World

Even with three successful beers behind them, there were some nerves about the launch as Joelle explains. “When we launched the first edition, you know the Brewers like it, the sommeliers, like it we like it, but you never know how a general consumer is going to like it. We told ourselves “let’s just keep calm launch”. We know it’s on the surface of very good beer it should be fine. Let’s see how it goes.”

Drop Bear Beer Co New World Lager launch celebrate
Reasons to celebrate after a successful launch of the New World Lager

Their nerves turned out to be unfounded.  Joelle says “it went crazy.  People absolutely loved it. I think people really like that it wasn’t overly sweet. There is definitely a sweetness to it, especially if you compare it to our other beers.  A lot of alcohol free lagers you sometimes have a bit of a weird aftertaste and that’s something that we were really keen to avoid and I think we managed.  It’s been very popular, not yet our best seller, but it hasn’t had enough time in the market and it’s definitely catching up.”

With three alcohol-free beers already launched in such a short time, you might be forgiven for thinking that adding a fourth would be easy. Far from it as Joelle explains “I’d say we were working on it for probably nine months, but really working on it, not just like every now and again.  It was a lot of work.  After the stout, definitely the most time-consuming one.”

Winning Awards 

Listening to customers feedback has also been an important part of the brewing journey as Joelle explains “You can’t listen to every good or bad review, but you can always listen and make little tweaks. It’s paid off because we then got our first product awards which were really happy about, especially when we’re up against the bigger players who were a bit more established.”

All their hard work in tweaking and listening to customer feedback has clearly paid off with a string of awards for their beers: 

Joelle and Sarah being handed the Welsh Start Up Awards Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019

It’s not just making great beer that they’ve won awards for as they’ve racked up a couple of business awards for: 

Joelle says “it’s good to get recognition for the business model as well. That’s always important because with craft beer it’s definitely a passion, but you do need to also run it as a functional business”

New World For Drop Bear Beer

After taking the UK market by storm, Sarah and Joelle have now got their eyes on expanding Drop Bear Beer globally.  As Joelle explains “We have also been doing quite a bit of Exports. That surprisingly started during the pandemic, but in a way it has seemed to be a good time to do it because things have been pretty bad in the UK and there are countries that have faired a bit better.  Sales have been really good, particularly in Canada – that’s been a really massive market for us. The other ones are definitely all on their way up too.  It’s great to see Drop Bear becoming this Global brand.”

Their expansion already making it to North America & Europe and they’re now looking to go even further. Given Sarah’s Australian background, it seems almost inevitable that would be the next step in their plans.

“It’s not been the easiest one to make happen, but I think it’s going to go really well. I think Australian consumers are going to really respond to the branding and the flavours.  They do really like their craft beer. “explains Joelle.

Even Bigger Plans for 2021 

With everything that’s happened since they launched, Sarah and Joelle could be forgiven for wanting to take a break in 2021, but that’s not the Drop Bear Beer way.  Instead, they’ve got even bigger plans.

On 1st January they launched a crowd funding campaign to raise money to build their own alcohol-free brewery. [Note: For full disclosure – at the time of writing I’m considering investing a small sum in Drop Bear Beer]

Drop Bear Beer Team Big Plans
Drop Bear Beer team have big plans for 2021

Joelle told me why they were looking to make such a big step “It’s going to be the second dedicated alcohol-free brewery in the UK and one of just a handful in the entire world. It’s a big deal. It’s going to be a massive game changer for us as a company in terms of profitability, but also recipe development, innovation and collaborations.

“We get a lot of breweries want to work with us, but the contract brewing model does make that difficult. I think also for the industry it’s a game changer because it further validates the fact that it is beer. You still get that opinion of some that it’s not real beer. It is. It’s a lot of work if it’s not!”

More Alcohol-Free Beers

The good news for us alcohol free beer lovers is this means for new and exciting beers for us to try as Joelle explains “We are building a strategy around limited editions and collab beers.  This is something we’re looking to do more or less biannually and we’re definitely open to adding to the cold range. It would just have to be the right beer.”

Joelle continues “the limited edition model allows consumers to drive what is added to the core range. They can tell us what they really love, what they don’t love so much, so we can make the decision that way.”

Exciting Times Ahead

Watching the Drop Bear Beer journey since they launched in 2019 has been great fun.  Sarah and Joelle’s passion for making exciting alcohol free beer that’s packed with flavour is apparent in abundance, but so is their drive to turn Drop Bear into a massively successful business. 

They’ve adapted and grown through a tough 2020 and now look forward to taking Drop Bear Beer on an even bigger adventure in 2021.

Get Yours Today 

You’ve heard about their journey.  Now do you want to try their beers?

You can buy all of the Beers from the Drop Bear Beer Co at Wise Bartender. Just click on the links and use the code GOODSTUFF to get 5% off.

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