Beer with very low alcoholic content existed in America long before Prohibition. During the colonial era, it was called “small beer.” By the time Prohibition struck (1920), it had pretty much faded away, but the new reality resurrected the old idea.
Anheuser-Busch led the way into nonalcoholic beer with a product they named Bevo. Laws prohibited the use of the word “beer” on the label or in advertising, so manufacturers had to insinuate that the produce was like beer without using the offensive word. Bevo sold well for about six months into Prohibition. Other breweries climbed on the bandwagon: Pabst made Pablo; Miller made Vivo; Schlitz made Famo; another company named its product Nearo, getting as close as legally possible to the words they all wanted to use: “near beer.” (The -o ending seemed to be the common factor . . . )
But all of a sudden, the market evaporated. I suppose that, having tried the nonalcoholic version, most people saw no reason to drink the substitute. People who wanted to drink real beer shifted to home production, where they could buy beer starter (malt extract, which was legal since it didn’t contain any alcohol) and make their own.