“That’s £25.00, please!” shouted the bar-maid in a typically roaring, packed pub on a Friday night. £25.00! My internal voice screamed. I puffed my cheeks out and punched in the 4-digit code in the card-reader, knowing that my already shrinking bank account was now going to shrink rapidly every time it was my turn to get the next round.
I understand that it’s Friday night, the end of the working week where the masses congregate to the nearest bar or pub to ‘unwind’ by making up for the week by excess drinking, had now manifested itself as tradition - a sacred night - in modern society and in my life. As I downed my third or fourth beer (at this point, my memory starts to go through the ‘fuzzy-head stage’), I now had to stagger back to the bar, request for more drinks, pay for the drinks and carefully meander through the crowd back to the table without spilling a drop.
I eventually reached the table with success, sat down and watched as my friends guzzled down their drinks: it was like watching a group of Water Buffalos under the brutal African sun desperately guzzling down precious water from a shrinking watering hole. It was at this moment as I observed them - and my beer - that I had an epiphany: I didn’t enjoy this anymore. I cannot keep doing this every Friday night: the staggering around the place, the slurred speech, the fuzzy-head feeling, feeling nauseous every time I drank (this may only be how I feel when I drink - everyone is different, of-course) and - the worse of them all - the dreaded hangover scheduled the next day that will make me feel, again, nauseous and unproductive.
Now don’t get me wrong I do, on the odd occasion, enjoy a drink to socialise; the effects from them, though, I dislike. So, after recovering from the scheduled hangover, I decided to research and find an alternative from alcohol and came across a variety of alcohol-free beverages. I knew about alcohol-free beer beforehand i.e. Carlsberg and Heineken; it’s when I throughly searched the web did I then discover that there were also alcohol-free/low-alcohol Ale, Stout, Cider, G+T and Wine! This was fantastic! I felt like a kid in a candy store; I had to try them all!
A few months down the line, I continued to experiment with these new alternatives and every time I indulged in a new one I was taken by surprise of how identical - or better - they were by smell and taste compared to their alcohol cousins.
When I switched over to alcohol-free/low alcohol beer, I immediately enjoyed and savoured the flavours, sharpness and bitterness of the chosen beverage of that day, where previously, I would I just chuck the drink down my throat. No more fuzzy-head feelings, no more feeling nauseous during and after drinking and of-course…no hangovers! I would wake up the next day with a clear head, productive and full of energy. But it’s not just the tastes or the low-alcohol contents that is awesome, it was the health benefits that come with them.
Before I go into more detail about the health benefits, I would like to just clarify that you should not take these as a guideline to a healthy lifestyle but as information that is comparing alcohol-free/low alcohol to alcoholic drinks.
Starting with the phrase ‘low alcohol’ which means more than 0.5% but no more than 1.2%; ‘de-alcoholised’ beer has 0.5% or less, ‘non-alcohol’ is pretty much no alcohol at all! And of-course ‘alcohol-free’ has an alcohol content of 0.05% or less.
Okay, back to the health benefits. Well for one, there are fewer calories in alcohol-free than there are in alcoholic drinks (ideal for those who want to get rid of the beer belly and the calorie-counters). Secondly, a few beers, such as Erdinger Alkoholfrei, contain isotonic properties that are great for that burst of energy. Thirdly, some beers, such as FitBeer, contain Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid. Last but not least, there are the gluten-free beers on the market for those who can’t have gluten in their diet - but there is one that is gluten-free and non-alcoholic: Ambar Celiacos 0.0%. A brief history on Ambar below just shows how far they will go to entice new customers.
In 1900, Ambar began brewing alcoholic beers in Spain where they would win awards in Madrid, London and Paris two years later, after production. 74 years later, they introduced their first alcohol-free beer: Ambar Sin. Fast forward to 2008, their first gluten-free beer, Ambar Sin Gluten, was brewed. But they didn’t stop there. In 2011, Ambar Celiacos 0.0% was their’s - and the world’s - first gluten-free non-alcoholic beer.
It’s only now when I sit down and observe my glass of Super Bock Pilsner 0.5% (my personal favourite) on my desk do I truly appreciate just how much time, hard work and passion that these breweries put in to satisfy and accommodate the tastebuds of the people. Now and then when I go into a bar or pub in London and see their catalogue of drinks with the addition of an alcohol-free/low alcohol beer, I know then that I can enjoy my drink, comfortably and in control.