Meet Athletic Brewing Co-Founder Bill Shufelt

Photo credit: athletic brewing
By Molly Ford · 01/12/2021

When Bill Shufelt decided to quit drinking alcohol, he didn’t want to quit beer. But the flavorless, watery options on the market weren’t going to cut it. That’s why he co-founded Athletic Brewing—to make an ABV-free line of craft beers for discerning drinkers. Running the Connecticut-based brewery with John Walker, an award-winning brewer, Shufelt has grown the company to include a staple line of beers plus regular releases that sometimes sell out in 30 seconds. We caught up with the co-founder to learn more about what goes into a great non-alcoholic beer.

TFL: Can you tell us how Athletic Brewing got started?

Bill Shufelt: I was just a normal guy who loved craft beer, good food, and social occasions—but I also had a serious day job, loved working out, and liked to feel good and eat healthy. I didn’t really understand why those sides of me had to be mutually exclusive. I pondered that while training for my first ultramarathon (which required stopping drinking for a month), and I came to the conclusion that beer needed an overhaul for modern life. I knew that if we could make great beer that was inclusive of all, we could have an unbelievable positive impact on the health and happiness of tens of millions of people. From that realization on, I quit my job and have been obsessed with non-alcoholic beer since!

TFL: What sets your beers apart from other non-alcoholic products on the market?

Bill Shufelt: We have invested more in process, people, and quality than anyone ever has in non-alcoholic beer. We own the only two breweries in America dedicated to the production of non-alcoholic beer. Our co-founder John Walker is a highly awarded craft brewer who decided to commit himself to elevating non-alcoholic beer to the level of the best beers out there. We like to say “brew without compromise”—so you don’t have to sacrifice your taste or experience to enjoy Athletic beers. We use an entirely different, patented process unlike anyone in the beer world to brew our beers. We also use careful ingredient selection, including all organic grains. And that investment in quality is apparent in everything we do.

TFL: You have four different styles available—can you describe your most popular one?

Bill Shufelt: We’ve brewed and sold more than 30 beers so far in 2020, but by far my favorite is Run Wild. It’s won the most awards and is the beer I grab from my fridge 75 percent of the time. It’s the perfect, crushable, session IPA coming in at only 70 calories and no alcohol. It’s made from organic Vienna malt and a mix of Pacific Northwest hops. It pairs pretty much perfectly with any weeknight meal and you’ll wake up with an extra hop in your step.

TFL: Do you have any recommendations for pairing your beer with food?

Bill Shufelt: Run Wild IPA plus any kind of tacos; Upside Dawn Golden Ale alongside seafood, light fare, or pasta; All Out Stout with chili, burgers, or veggie burgers; and Free Way Double Hop IPA with your Friday night Netflix.

TFL: Can you tell us about your subscription service, The Athletic Club?

Bill Shufelt: It’s a great way to jump to the front of the line and take the pressure off your monthly beer supply. Athletic Club members get first and exclusive looks at limited release beers (that sell out to the public in 30 seconds sometimes), club-only merchandise, and events. Club members also enjoy nearly 10 percent off on all beer purchases. It’s a great way to “set it and forget it” and always have fresh, cold beer on hand.

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