The new wave of alcohol-free beers helped me cut down

Tom Hallett | November 2018 | 6 minutes

Like lots of people, I'd always viewed alcohol-free beer as a bit of a joke. What's the point in drinking beer if it doesn't make you drunk? Isn't alcohol-free beer just watery rubbish anyway? Things changed when our baby girl was due to make an appearance.

"At the time, I was unwinding with a beer or two a few evenings a week and having the odd weekend binge. Nothing too heavy. But probably enough to prevent me driving to the labour ward at short notice.

"I knew I'd find it difficult to give up the beer completely, more out of habit than anything else. So I decided to give alcohol-free beer a go, despite my previous reservations.

Beers that rival the real thing

"After being pleasantly surprised by the beer I plumped for – Brewdog's Nanny State – I went in search for more alcohol-free beers. And while I did come across a few that most definitely didn't come up to scratch, I also found loads of decent alcohol-free beers and lagers that rival the real thing in terms of aroma, mouthfeel and flavour.

"It's not just lager either – pale ales, stouts, IPAs, wheat beer, sours and bitters are all covered by a burgeoning alcohol-free beer industry.

Nowadays, I do still have the odd full-strength beer. But I'm more likely to reach for an alcohol-free beer when I fancy a drink, something that I'm not alone in doing – sales of non-alcoholic drinks in the UK are up 58% year-on-year.

Trace amounts of alcohol

"At this point, it's probably worth mentioning that many beers considered "alcohol-free" do have trace amounts of alcohol – up to 0.5% ABV. But this is so little that it’s certainly not enough to get you anywhere near tipsy, no matter how much you drink.

"That said, research has shown alcohol-free beer can give you the sense of being drunk. This is why many people find it helps them unwind, and why people in recovery may decide to avoid it.

"Even though the amount of alcohol in alcohol-free beers is tiny, you may also want to speak with your doctor or health professional if you're avoiding alcohol because of a health condition, just to be on the safe side.

The benefits of a clear head

"With a young baby growing up fast, the lack of alcohol in a drink I enjoy has been a major boon for me. Not only do I keep my wits about me when I unwind with a beer, but I've also got a clear head for those middle-of-the-night screams and early morning wake up calls.

"So far though, Georgie's been pretty good at sleeping, touch wood…

"Swapping alcoholic beer for the non-alcoholic variety has also allowed me to get more done in those rare moments when I get a bit of time to myself, usually late in the evening.

"Instead of getting a bit too ‘relaxed’ after a couple of beers, I'm still up for doing bits round the house or even going for an evening run.

"Which brings me onto the benefits of alcohol-free beer as a great post-exercise recovery drink. It's rehydrating (rather than dehydrating like a regular beer) and replaces some of the salts and minerals our bodies lose when we exercise.

"Research has also found that alcohol-free beer reduces inflammation and reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold. It's certainly got less sugar and fewer nasty additives than your typical sports drink.

Health credentials

In fact, alcohol-free beers are generally pretty healthy, with fewer calories than their alcoholic equivalents and less sugar and additives than alternative drinks like fruit juice and cola.

It's just a pity that many pubs and bars haven't cottoned onto the fact that non-drinkers want more than water, lemonade or lime and soda when they're on a night out.

There's still time for that to change. In the meantime, I'll continue making sure I have a good selection of alcohol-free beers waiting in my fridge.

About Tom

Tom Hallett is a blogger and writer based in Hampshire, UK. He reviews and writes about alcohol-free beer at steadydrinker.com. Follow him on Twitter @steadydrinker.