Bend, Ore.-based Deschutes Brewery recently embarked on a new endeavor to create a high-quality non-alcohol beer that rivals the experience of a full-strength craft beer. The result is Deschutes’ alcohol-free Irish Stout, a traditional Irish-style stout with coffee-like roasted malt character, light chocolate and a dry, light-bodied drinking experience.

For decades, the most prevalent non-alcohol beers have been lager styles. Deschutes paved the way for craft with Black Butte Porter, a dark beer among lagers, and thinks with its longstanding commitment to quality and reputation in the craft brewing industry, the craft brewer can do this again in the non-alcohol craft beer segment by bringing a more flavorful craft drinking experience to this growing category, it says.

“This has been a passion project for me,” said Veronica Vega, new product development director for Deschutes, in a statement. “It is a way for us to connect with a growing population of people, including young people, who are looking to reap the health benefits of an alcohol reduced or alcohol-free lifestyle and still enjoy the act of drinking beer.”

Studies show that currently 22 percent of millennials say they are drinking less alcohol and the majority indicate it is for health and wellness reasons and craft beer trends indicate growth in non-alcohol beer.

To produce the quality, alcohol-free beer, Deschutes partnered with Sustainable Beverage Technologies to utilize its proprietary BrewVo process that gently manages alcohol content, while maintaining flavor and aroma. The beer fully ferments after all processing takes place, and then a proprietary technique preserves the mouth feel, it says.

“The process we selected was based on producing the best flavor, enough to surprise our customers that the beer indeed is non-alc [sic],” Vega said.

The BrewVo process was developed by Patrick Tatera, Sustainable Business Technologies’ founder, who combined his passion for home brewing and expertise in engineering to create this patented brewing process that also is environmentally friendly and sustainable, the company says.

“While working with a consortium of breweries on various development projects, we discovered that the BrewVo technology, while developed for production of full-strength beer, was capable of producing the best tasting NA beers on earth,” Tatera said. “Peter Bouckaert and Grady Hull, formerly of New Belgium Brewing, helped us prove our NA beer capabilities for matching the full-flavor spectrum of a full-strength beer.”

Sustainable Beverage Technologies later developed a non-alcoholic beer that took home a gold medal in the national craft beer competition Best of Craft Beer Awards, where it competed against full strength beers in the session beer category.

Deschutes is releasing its non-alcoholic Irish Stout this July 8, direct to consumers through its website with a consumer response program to gather feedback before a larger release later this year. It also will be available for purchase through Deschutes Brewery pubs and tasting rooms while it lasts.