Zero-proof drink entrepreneur Andy McMillan has a story he tells where, in 2021, he approached several Portland breweries about teaming up on a non-alcoholic craft beer. He got “laughed out of the room,” he says, by brewers who didn’t see NA beer as real beer.

A few years later, that seems like shortsightedness on behalf of the brewers, whom McMillan politely demurred to name in an interview with the Mercury. Year after year since the pandemic, the NA drink industry has steadily grown—with a noticeable boom in 2021—fueled by a surge in sobriety, moderation, and health-consciousness. 

A few Oregon powerhouses, like Deschutes and Crux, offer one or two NA versions of their beloved brews, but the most prominent craft NA brewery is Athletic, from Connecticut (Connecticut!). Seeing as the Pacific Northwest is home to about a quarter of US hop production, this region's NA beer innovation could be doing so much more.

That's precisely what McMillan, the brain behind recent NA cocktail bar popup Suckerpunch, and former Hopworks brewer Justin Miller are primed to do with Heck, a completely non-alcoholic Portland craft brewery.

Heck’s flagship release, Silver Linings IPA, has everything you’d want in a West Coast IPA—a bold but balanced punch of citra and cascade hops and a clean finish that keeps it endlessly sippable. Miller says he loves visiting hop farms and hand-selecting hops, and you can taste this passion and specificity in the beer the way other NA options haven’t come close to. 

Too many NA IPAs lack the full, sticky body that typically develops during a long fermentation process, leaving them tasting at best like a diluted version of the real thing. Silver Linings does not suffer this condition—something Miller credits to traditional German brewing methods and an intentional NA brewing process, rather than the common technique of brewing the beer alcoholically and then dealcoholizing it after the fact. 

Silver Linings pours with a satisfying head and heft. PHOTO BY BLAIR STENVICK

And for those of us who imbibe first with our eyes, Heck’s got those boxes checked as well: The groovy color gradients put the label right at home in the aesthetics-obsessed Portland beer scene, and the brew pours with a satisfying head and heft that announces itself as a fucking beer—nothing “near” about it.

Silver Linings quickly sold out its limited release online sales run in March, but you can still find it stocked in bars and restaurants around town. 

McMillan and Miller have big plans for Heck beyond the flagship IPA. Keep your eyes peeled for their second release, Gentle Persuasion Golden, sometime in April. Future releases could include a fruit sour beer (something I’ve yet to find in the NA category), some dark beers, and plenty of creative collaborations with Portland breweries. A Heck tasting room could pop up someday—fingers crossed.

McMillan is sober, and Miller enjoys long periods of not drinking, but they both stressed that Heck isn’t just for sober people. It’s an ideal second or third beverage of the night, after you’ve gotten a sufficient buzz but still want to keep the fun of drinking good beer going. It’s your buddy during Dry January, or sober weekdays, before 6 pm, or however you find moderation working for you. It’s also, in my opinion, an excellent fucking beer, and you should drink it. 

Back in 2020, when I first experimented with sobriety, I wrote in this very publication that I couldn’t ever see myself getting into NA beer, dismissing it as “a drink whose main selling point is the lack of something.” I lost this pretentious hang-up when I discovered the pavlovian relaxation that comes with cracking open an Athletic or NA Heineken, but still missed the creativity, abundance, excellence, and element of surprise that characterizes Pacific Northwest craft beer culture. 

Crushing my first can of Heck and then immediately reaching for another, felt like I’d come home—and that the future of NA craft beer had found a strong foothold in the Portland brewery.

For more info about Heck Beer go to