Sober Curious: Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverages

 

What is Sober Curious?

Alcohol is a beverage with perennial popularity across the globe, but many people feel the need at some point or another to reduce how much they drink. Whether it’s out of concern for one’s health, an adjustment to the leisure budget, or just an exercise in self-discipline, going sober part of the time can be a challenge. This is where the sober curious lifestyle comes in. There are many non-alcoholic options out there for you.

Sober curious isn’t as commonly known as sobriety, but there are a lot more people who practice it. While total sobriety and abstinence from alcohol is a choice usually made by people with alcoholism or other medical reasons for avoiding it, sober curious is a lifestyle chosen by people who are reducing their alcohol intake voluntarily to improve their overall wellness. Sober curious people might choose to reduce or abstain from alcohol for various reasons, such as reducing caloric intake to lose weight, improving sleep habits, learning how to socialize without using alcohol as a social crutch, or abstaining from alcohol during a period of athletic training.

Generally, people who are sober curious don’t quit drinking alcohol entirely, and they don’t quit out of necessity. Instead, they experiment with reducing their alcohol intake to adjust their lifestyle for health or mental wellness. 

A lineup of three flavors of HopTea at Das Stahl Bierhaus

Do non-alcoholic craft beverages taste like the real thing?

While non-alcoholic craft beverages are delicious, they don’t really serve as a one-on-one replica of the real thing. Even the best non-alcoholic craft beers and mixers often feature a bit of a different mouthfeel and flavor due to the lack of alcohol. 

However, this doesn’t make non-alcoholic craft beverages a poor substitute for alcoholic beers and cocktails. On the contrary, these beverages are a delicious and novel taste experience in their own right. You might even find yourself liking some non-alcoholic beverages better than their alcoholic counterparts.

What Is a Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverage?

Just because you quit or reduce drinking alcohol as part of a sober curious lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to quit drinking socially. Thanks to new crafting technology, there are plenty of non-alcoholic craft beverage options that allow you to replicate the experience of having a beer or cocktail without the alcohol intake. 

Most of the flavor of well-made beer and cocktails comes from the adjuncts added to the beverage. Because of this, mixologists have been able to devise many new concoctions that successfully imitate the look, taste, and feel of a traditional alcoholic drink without including the alcohol.

How Are Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverages Made?

There are several methods that non-alcoholic brewmasters can use to remove alcohol from beer or prevent it from building up in the beer as it brews. Here are the main methods used to create non-alcoholic craft beverages: 

Limiting or eliminating fermentation: Fermentation is the part of the brewing process which causes the build-up of alcohol in the beverage. By withholding the yeast responsible for fermentation or arresting fermentation partway through the process, most of the alcohol in the drink can be removed.  

Special yeasts: One of the newer technologies used in brewing non-alcoholic craft beverages is special yeast strains that don’t consume all the conventional sugars (such as maltose) of traditional brewing yeasts during the fermentation process. This leads to much lower alcohol content in the beverage while still maintaining many authentic flavors that give alcoholic beer its flavor depth.  

Dealcoholization: Dealcoholization, or removing alcohol from the beverage, can be achieved through a few different means. These include membrane filtration, reverse osmosis, and vacuum distillation. Dealcoholization is the process that is most often used by larger breweries for their non-alcoholic brands. 

The biggest challenge in removing alcohol from alcoholic beverages is maintaining the same mouthfeel and flavor of the original beverage. Thanks to the specialized equipment used in crafting non-alcoholic beverages, this aspect of the craft is improving all the time.

Styles and Types of Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverages

When most people think of non-alcoholic beverages, chances are they will think of O’Doul’s or some other brand of “near beer.” However, the non-alcoholic craft beverage industry has blossomed over the past two decades. There are several different categories of non-alcoholic craft beverages that are now available: 

Non-alcoholic beers: While the selection for non-alcoholic beers used to be extremely limited compared to the selection for traditional craft brews, the non-alcoholic beer niche has expanded. Now you can purchase non-alcoholic beers in a variety of styles, including non-alcoholic beers designed to emulate traditional European styles.

Non-alcoholic wine: If you enjoy the different fruit profiles present in wine but you’re trying to avoid the alcohol, non-alcoholic wines can offer the same range of flavors. The biggest difference you’ll notice between alcoholic and non-alcoholic wines is in the mouthfeel. The lack of alcohol gives non-alcoholic wine a lighter touch. 

Non-alcoholic spirits: Non-alcoholic spirits are relatively new to the market, but have gone a long way toward helping mixologists come up with non-alcoholic cocktails that emulate the real thing. Non-alcoholic gin is a common spirit used in mocktails because of its botanical nature. However, non-alcoholic whiskey is still a growing field since it is harder to replicate in flavor and mouthfeel.

Non-alcoholic pre-made cocktails: Like non-alcoholic spirits, non-alcoholic cocktails are meant to impart the flavors of a traditional cocktail without the intoxicating alcohol. Since it is a very new market, the quality of non-alcoholic pre-made cocktails varies wildly from brand to brand. 

The goal of non-alcoholic craft beverages is twofold: to bring the person drinking it all of the flavors and aesthetic experiences of drinking alcoholic beverages without the alcohol, and to offer alternative substitutions to intoxication.

Other than imitating flavor, the other major way that non-alcoholic craft beverages try to mimic alcoholic drinks is by including adaptogens such as lavender, passionflower, and other botanicals that have been proven to reduce the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in the body. 

This can help induce the same kind of mellow feeling alcohol does without the accompanying hangover or other health issues.

A lineup of four non-alcholic beers including Bitburger Pils, Guinness Kaliber, Weihenstephaner lager, and Einbecher Pils.

Advantages of Trying a Sober Curious Lifestyle

If you’re used to drinking full-strength beer or spirits, you may be reluctant to give non-alcoholic craft beverages a fair shot. That’s understandable – traditional beer is delicious! 

However, you can take advantage of some serious benefits if you swap to non-alcoholic beverages for at least part of your drinking experience. Here are some of the upsides of choosing a non-alcoholic drink:

Safe driving: For those who need to drive, non-alcoholic craft beers offer a similar social experience out at the bar without the need to call a taxi at the end of the night. They’re also a good choice for your social group’s designated driver.

Hydration: Dehydration is the number one cause of headache pain in a hangover. Luckily, non-alcoholic drinks won’t dehydrate you like alcohol-based beers and beverages will.

Delicious taste: Several decades back there were only a few brands of non-alcoholic beer, and none of them had a very good reputation for taste or mouthfeel. In the modern drinking scene, non-alcoholic craft beverages are just as delicious and complex as their traditional counterparts. You might even prefer some of them over the real thing! 

Experimenting with non-alcoholic drinks doesn’t mean you have to go off alcohol forever. But there are enough offerings on the market now that being sober curious isn’t the culinary and social punishment that it used to be.

 

 

Ready to start shopping? Das Stahl Bieraus has the largest selection of non-alcholic craft beverages around.

Check out our recommendations!

 

 

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