Jeff Stevens of WellBeing Brewing Company
Whether you’re watching the game or relaxing on the patio, cracking open a cold beer with family and friends is certainly one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s something Jeff Stevens understands, and he’s made it his goal to allow even more people to enjoy it. He’s the founder of WellBeing Brewing Company, a craft brewery dedicated to creating innovative non-alcoholic beers.
Stevens was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. He came to St. Louis by way of Chicago, where he worked for one of the city’s alt weeklies. When he met Ray Hartmann, founder and former owner of The Riverfront Times, Stevens was convinced to come work for the paper. “It seems like it was a lifetime ago, but it was a lot of fun,” he recalls. He worked for RFT in sales and marketing before moving to the advertising agency Momentum, where he stayed for 10 years, eventually landing in the role of creative director.
Stevens’ career with Momentum took him across the pond to the company’s London office, and both at home and abroad, he found himself working with several alcohol companies, including Bacardi and Anheuser-Busch. “Most of what I did was marketing for beer and spirits,” he says. “I handled everything from Super Bowl commercials to the ads on freezers at convenience stores.” There was some irony to Stevens’ situation; he had made the decision to quit drinking when he was 24. “I was marketing all of these beers that I couldn’t drink,” he notes. “There were never any good options for me.” In 2016, he decided to take steps to solve that problem.
Stevens learned from his friends in London that Europe was seeing a rise in non-alcoholic craft beer companies. “As soon as I heard the idea, I loved it,” he says. “I love the world of beer and everything it stands for, the connectivity, friendship, music and sports. It’s such a great product. I had experience around start-ups in St. Louis, and it seemed like it was a good time for me to bring non-alcoholic craft brewing here.” He started working on WellBeing Brewing, and the company launched in early 2018 as the first brewery in the United States solely dedicated to non-alcoholic craft beers.
St. Louis was the perfect place to start his idea, according to Stevens. “When people think of beer cities around the world, St. Louis always is near the top of the list,” he explains. “There are of course the huge historic breweries, but the city also was at the forefront of the craft beer revival. The beauty of establishing a brewery here is that everyone understands and loves the business. There are so many people with so much knowledge. All of the ingredients for success are right here. It’s like a new wave of innovative beverages, and if we can be a part of it, that’s great.”
Stevens was able to use the connections he made while marketing for beer and spirits companies, like Jim Groczyca at Anheuser-Busch, to start his own. Groczyca has since moved to lead O’Fallon Brewery as president, and the two have partnered to produce WellBeing’s offerings. To ensure the highest quality product, Stevens imported vacuum distilling technology from Germany. The method lowers the boiling point of beer, which means the flavor isn’t boiled off when removing the alcohol. “It allows us to make the best-tasting non-alcoholic beer,” Stevens notes.
WellBeing’s first offerings were its Heavenly Body Golden Wheat and Hellraiser Dark Amber. When creating new varieties, Stevens looks to the craft beer world for inspiration and picks brews he is interested in trying. “I worked with beer for so long; I know about the brewing process and how to describe it, but there were so many varieties that I never had the chance to sample,” he explains. “The first coffee stout I ever had was ours, and the same goes for IPA.”
The company lives up to its name by creating options that are better for people. Not only do WellBeing’s beers have less calories than regular ones, they also include ingredients that are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. “Our Victory Wheat has electrolytes, so it’s also a functional beer,” Stevens says. “We really want to innovate new kinds of brews with a variety of healthy, plant-based ingredients, like elderberries, hemp, and pro- and prebiotics.” Along with expanding WellBeing’s product line, he’s looking forward to making it more widely available.
With the continued rise of non-alcoholic spirits and drink options, WellBeing is at the forefront of the trend, and Stevens expects people to continue putting more thought into what they drink. “In the last few years, I’ve seen that people are more open to having conversations about alcohol consumption, and there is less of a stigma around choosing not to drink in social situations,” he notes. “I hope those trends continue to rise. As people start looking at how they drink, maybe some nights, they’ll choose to drink our beers. That is really exciting.”
Photo: Bill Barrett