Young drinkers lead the trend of non-alcoholic beer



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The Range of Beers at Nirvana Brewery

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There is now an increasing number of breweries that sell only low or non-alcoholic beer

If Becky Kean wants to organize a drunken party at her brewery, she'll have to buy beers from somewhere else.

That's because Becky's company, the Nirvana brewery in London, only brews non-alcoholic beer.

It currently produces seven different types of flavors, from pale beer to black beer and one with added green tea. And none of them will get you drunk remotely.

Go back in time, maybe a decade, and Nirvana would be seen with misunderstanding, or even ridicule, by many people. Yes non-alcoholic beers have existed for a long time, (in the UK, the pioneering Guinness Kaliber Lager was introduced in 1986), but they were more often peripheral low-sale products.

Always a pale beer, and generally not very pleasant to drink, they would be drunk by the designated driver. While he or she waited impatiently for his drunken friends to finally agree to go home.

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Becky Kean and her brother-in-law Andrew Keresey were inspired to ride Nirvana for their alcoholic father to drink decent beer

Fortunately, all this has changed in recent years as the tremendous growth in the number of craft breweries on both sides of the Atlantic coincided with more people choosing to drink less or no alcohol at all.

This has resulted in a large increase in the number of non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beers of all styles available for purchase, especially in the UK. And many know very well.

Sales are certainly growing now. According to a report, UK sales of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers increased by 28% in the year to February 2019, compared to the previous 12 months.

This sales growth is replicated in Germany, where up to one in every 15 beers sold is now priced as alcohol-free. Meanwhile, in Spain, which is the world's largest consumer of non-alcoholic beer – predominantly in the form of cold beers – they account for 14% of all sales.

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Big Drop Brewing

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Non-alcoholic beers are now available in most beer styles, not just pale tasteless lagers

Given such a vast and growing market, it is not surprising that a growing number of small craft breweries such as Nirvana are choosing to make only non-alcoholic or low-end beers.

"We only started in 2017, and now we're producing about half a million bottles a year," says Becky, 29. "And we've just started exporting to Scandinavia and Switzerland, and we're also looking at Asia and America Our sales have grown massively.

"We were inspired to set up the brewery because my father is a recovering alcoholic, and we wanted him to still drink a delicious beer. For many breweries, non-alcoholic beer is just a belated reflection, but we wanted it to be ours single focus ".

But what exactly is a non-alcoholic beer? That may sound like a stupid question, but in the UK unfortunately it's complicated. And you have to pay close attention to two different, but similar, percentage numbers.

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Big Drop Brewing

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Big Drop Brewing now ships 40% of its beer abroad

In most of the European Union, and in the United States, a beer can be called non-alcoholic if it contains less than 0.5% alcohol. Whereas in the United Kingdom an inland brewed beer can only be labeled without alcohol if it has less than 0,05% alcohol. If an English beer is 0.5%, you can only say that it is "de-alcoholized". As this is apparently disheartening to drinkers, most British brewers preferred to say "low alcohol content".

If that were not boring enough, 0.5% of overseas beers can be called alcohol-free when sold in the UK – they do not have to change their labels.

If reading the few previous sentences made you need a strong drink, Rob Fink, co-founder of the Big Drop Brewing Company, would probably understand.

Its London-based brewery also produces only low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers, exporting 40% of them to the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Canada.

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Big Drop Brewing

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Rob Fink of Big Drop wants British rules on non-alcoholic beers to be relaxed

"You can not get drunk on a 0.5% beer, no matter how many people you drink," says the 40-year-old. "It has no effect on any person. To put this into context, a ripe banana or slice of bread may contain 0.5% alcohol.

"This is important because at 0.5% you can brew a very good quality beer, but 0.05% is much harder – you have to tear off the alcohol, which removes much of the flavor."

Global trade

More from the BBC series, Taking an International Perspective on Trade:

In the United States, the non-alcoholic beer sector is much more in its infancy than the UK and the rest of Europe, according to Bill Shufelt, co-founder of Athletic Brewing. But he says it is now growing rapidly.

His Connecticut-based business was created in 2017 to make only non-alcoholic beers.

"The reaction of some people in the beginning was that we were crazy. There were jokes at our expense," says the 36-year-old. "But that always changed as soon as they tasted the beers."

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Sports Beer

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Athletic Brewing's Bill Shufelt says some people laughed when he told them about his plans to make only non-alcoholic beers.

Athletic now sells its beers throughout the US and has also started exporting them to the UK.

Beer writer Jeff Evans says the big rise in low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beer sales is being led by young adults.

"Young drinkers have a less rigid approach to alcohol," he says. "They are happy to drink when they are in a good mood, but at other times they will be happy without it.

"Young people who drink are also intimately associated with the artisan brewing industry, which is known for its experimentation and its focus on flavor.

Mr. Evans adds that "Today's brewers, with their creativity and flexibility," have found ways to create interesting, non-alcoholic beers that make "a great alternative" to regular beers.

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