I have been incensed by some of the things I have both heard and read over the past week. I feel a little hypocritical as a year or so ago, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have said the same or similar. All I can surmise is that these people are talking from a place of ignorance. That is not meant in a judgmental way, it is simply a case of lack of knowledge and understanding.
On the way home from Portsmouth on Monday we stopped off at a pub in Hungerford. Never been there before. On entering, it was clear that it was more of a restaurant/pub. It was however gorgeous and full of character. We declined a table but asked if we could stay for a drink. I asked what non-alcoholic beers they had. The response was: “We don’t stock anything non-alcoholic as there isn’t much call for it around here and the sell by dates are too short. I have ginger beer?” Now bearing in mind that this is a pub off the beaten track, where the majority would need to drive to and not even a Becks Blue in sight is quite concerning in this day and age. The offered ginger beer was accepted, but it wasn’t even a premium brand. It was a mixer. Sell by dates too short? Really?
Later this week, I caught part of a conversation. I don’t know the context, but the analogy that I heard was this: “It’s as pointless as a non-alcoholic beer.”
Then I see the article in written by The Guardian, headed up (click the following to go to article) “Low-alcohol wine is not wine, it’s grape juice. Where’s the joy in that?”
The sale of non-alcoholic adult drinks is booming for a reason. There is a high demand for these beverages. No-one can dispute the mass of talent out there in the production of new quality wines and beers, either low in alcoholic or alcohol free. We should be encouraging our supermarkets to provide a wider choice for mindful drinkers and I applaud those who are leading the way; Tesco and Waitrose. The pricing still needs a little work as non-alcoholic versions are priced up with their alcoholic counterparts, despite no duty.
I would encourage everyone, drinker or non-drinker to try what’s out there. When I attended the Mindful Drinking Festival in the summer, it gave me the opportunity to sample something of pretty much everything. I learned about the processes for removing alcohol or brewing without. It is a real skill. There is a Christmas Festival taking place in London this weekend if anyone is interested; https://mindfuldrinkingfestival.com/ One of the most interesting things I observed at that festival was that there was a large number of people who stumbled across the event, unaware that it was mindful drinking. The look of shock and/or surprise (in some cases horror) on their faces as they were told the actual alcohol content was amazing. Some new fans were born. I have my favourites as you already know, both in the beer and wine categories, as well as some great options in the soft drink arena.
One thing the article does get right is that there is more to wine than the taste. I totally agree, yes, it is the pleasure. That pleasure does not have to mean “mildly tipsy” or indeed tipsy of any kind. The pleasure is in the experience. I want a choice. Importantly when I go out for a meal or to a pub to socialise with friends, I want to feel like there is a choice to be made, not just a few options that are forced upon you. Believe it or not, not all non-drinkers want a coke or an orange juice. It is a treat for me too. I was so excited and delighted when I went out for Sunday lunch with my husband’s family. Bees Knees Sparkling Wine, both the rose and the white was on the drinks menu. It was being sold at £9.99 for a bottle, whereas their cheapest alcoholic wine was priced at £16. It was chilled perfectly and tasted wonderful. Most importantly for me, I was able to join in with a glass of wine accompanying my meal. My mother-in-law tasted it and commented that she shouldn’t have too much more as she would get tipsy (that word again!) I didn’t spoil her enjoyment by saying that she had no chance!
I am tempted to have a party where all the drinks are non-alcoholic, but not tell anyone. I know this has been done before I would love to try it with my favourite non-alcoholic options. I could invite all those journalists and sceptics out there. After all Big Drop Brewery won a World Beer Award (silver) this year for their stout in a blind testing where the category was alcoholic. I rest my case.
I do acknowledge that there are many great beverages out there that are non-alcoholic outside of the wines and beers available. For me Sunday lunch accompanied with a cup of tea, doesn’t give me the experience I personally want. I will also say that since giving up drinking, my taste buds have come alive again and things do taste different. Please don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.