Can I Drink Non-Alcoholic Beers?

(0.18) Helped or hindered?
(1.02) The pros and cons
(2.11) Find alternatives
(2.52) Feeding the little monster

The Touchy Subject

Let’s take a look at the touchy subject of non-alcoholic beers, and whether they’re right for you if you’ve quit drinking alcohol.

You might be thinking that non-alcohol beers will help you quit drinking, much in the same way as patches and gum can help you to gradually wean yourself off nicotine. Is it good to use no-alcohol beer as a substitute in this way?

Others would say that you’ll only be keeping the little monster alive, the alcoholic voice telling you it’s ok to have a drink.

If you are used to going out with your mates for a few pints at the weekend, you might see little harm in ordering a couple of bottles of NA (non-alcohol) beer. But are you treading dangerous waters? Is your little monster just biding its time before it can suck you under, back into the spiral of addiction?

The History

The first low-alcohol beers date back to the middle ages. They were used as a thirst quenching drink because the water was often undrinkable.

During prohibition, low alcohol and non-alcohol beers were brewed, although quantities of alcohol were often returned to the barrels once away from prying eyes.

Many modern breweries insist that they can produce NA beers of nearly the same quality as their alcoholic versions…

The Pros and Cons of Non-Alcoholic Beers for The Problem Drinker

Pros

You can drive after consuming, even in large quantities, because although there are trace amounts of alcohol present, they are not present in quantities that would cause intoxication.

The low quantities of alcohol in NA beers mean that they are acceptable for Muslims to drink.

“If a large quantity of a given drink intoxicates, then a small quantity of that drink is forbidden. Conversely, if a large quantity of that drink does not intoxicate, then that drink is not forbidden. On this basis, we can see that non-alcoholic beer is not an intoxicating drink, since it cannot intoxicate a person even if it is consumed in gargantuan quantities”

 

You won’t get kidney or liver failure, or the multitude of other conditions associated with alcohol abuse if you only drank NA beers.

There are suggestions that there could be minor benefits to drinking the brew based on the other ingredients, the malt and hops.

The Cons

Non-alcoholic beers are good for non-alcoholics.

Some studies have suggested that there is a placebo effect on the brain. The taste buds send dodgy signals to the brain, which are interpreted to be “alcoholic” in nature, and you get the simulation of drunkenness. (I can’t say I’ve experienced this one myself).

NA beer can cause the “anticipation of alcohol” (see later).

You’re teasing yourself.

It normally tastes like piss-water.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

You need to start thinking about alcohol as a part of your past life. It’s something that you used to do. It’s a part of your life that was having some pretty bad consequences.

No matter where you are on the “Am I An Alcoholic” scale, you are aware of your problem enough to be asking questions of yourself. Once you start asking those questions, you know that you have a problem, you don’t need anyone else to tell you.

In my opinion, you shouldn’t be looking for substitutes.

If you want to have NA beer so that you can feel a little normal down the pub with your mates you’re never gonna be able to get over it. You need to ask yourself why you’re in the pub in the first place. The acid test to see if a place or friend is right for you now you don’t drink any more is this equation:

(place or friend) – alcohol = ?

Take YOUR consumption of alcohol away and what is left for YOU!

You need to start looking for other things in your life. Once you find them you’ll never look back, or when you do look back you’ll be saying “Thank fuck for that, I’m over that stupid part of my life!!!”

The Anticipation of Alcohol

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that you’re keeping the alcoholic monster alive inside of your mind.

I was reading a book about Spain the other day by a very descriptive writer called James A Michener. In the book, he was talking about things that were typically Spanish. There are all sorts of images that can evoke thoughts of Spain including the bull, flamenco dancing, long hot golden beaches, paella, and chorizo sausage. As soon as he mentioned Rioja wine, my mouth started salivating and I pictured could see myself holding a tall wine glass, filled with a rich burgundy liquid, sniffing and sipping at the contents …and really, really enjoying it! It only lasted a moment, but it was enough to get my mind thinking…”Could I control it?”, “Perhaps, I’m being hasty quitting altogether!”

Right there was my little monster in action. It was the anticipation of alcohol. My mind is so used to drinking that something happened in there at that moment that caused a spark deep inside my brain, a little switch flipped over and chemicals were released into my brain which stimulated the pleasure centers.

If you’re looking for something familiar, you’ll find it right there in the NA beer bottle. The very nature of your mind means that you won’t be satisfied with the non-alcohol version. It’s alcohol’s version of a lap-dance…you’re only play acting. Teasing yourself! Maybe the next time, or the time after that, you won’t stop at a non-alcoholic beer.

What? A What? What’s That?

Five years ago, I gave up drinking for almost a year. It was a timed-quit so I knew I was going to be drinking again by the time my brother’s wedding rolled around in November.

Anyway, we were invited to the wedding of one of Esther’s best friends that was taking place on Samos, one of the Greek islands. We had a great time, but apart from Es, my son, and the bride, I didn’t know anyone else in the group. So I felt a little out of place and started craving alcohol crutches.

I was already six months into the quit and I wasn’t going to have a real beer. So, the next time we were at the bar, one of the biggest bars along the village seafront, I thought I would order a non-alcoholic beer, just so I could be playing more of a part in things.

I went up to the bar to order a round…

“I’ll have two pints of larger, a glass of red wine, a glass of white wine, a gin and tonic, a coke, and an alcohol-free beer” said I.

“A what?” asked the barman.

I tried to repeat the order.

“No, no…just the last drink!” he said.

“Oh right, an alcohol free beer” I repeated.

“What’s that?” asked the barman with a confused look on his face.

“A beer without any alcohol” I said like I was stating the bloody obvious…

I thought he was going to fall on the floor, his big belly flying up and down ‘cause he was laughing so much…”What’s the point in that?” he managed to spew out…

I have to agree!

In my case, I won’t be even thinking about it again!
Thanks for staying all the way to the end. I know some of these posts can get a bit long. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments about the post. Let me know if I can help you in any way, I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Until next time…

Onwards and upwards.

Kev

About The Author

Kevin O'Hara

If you want help quitting drinking alcohol, I recommend you join our Mastermind Coaching Program. Here you will find all the help you need with daily exclusive informative videos, Q&A's, and monthly Roundtables on relevant topics. The Mastermind Coaching Group has many supportive members at various stages of their journey. Here you'll find non-judgemental motivation, support, and accountability. Click here for more information.

9 Comments

  • Jonas

    Reply Reply August 16, 2014

    I’m a new non-alcoholic, just found all your you-tube videos by accident (google), but I really enjoy the many topics and the sheer number of them…. they are definitely helping me

    Anyways, I agree with the barman joke above when he says “what’s the point”, but then what are you doing going up to the bar in the first place?

    I find drinking non-alcoholic beer really helps me with the urges I get, because it doesn’t really taste that great, so it’s kinda of a reminder how awful beer tastes, and usually one 0.5% beer will take away the urge completely. It might not be for everyone, but it definitely helps me remember the taste of beer when all my mind is saying “need that alcohol”.

    Kevin, my point is that you should have elaborated the pro’s and con’s a bit more, seems like you ended it saying “no”.

    Thanks for all the videos, I’ve signed up, hope the “subscribe” button works (doesn’t seem to acknowledge me pushing it”

    John

    • Torsh Johansen

      Reply Reply April 19, 2015

      John,

      I agree. It can be a Great Pro for many, and it can be a Bad Idea for others. It’s a great pro when you became alcoholic and craved alcohol pushed on by the social ties to it all… and you couldn’t just SIP a beer.

      Some people, alcoholic or not (depending on one’s over-arching definition or not), drink beer because they like the taste of beer and the mental association with it — not necessarily to get drunk, despite having latched on to that, of course. The taste doesn’t have to be grand — although, try Edingers — it’s good tasting and a true NA beer.

      What the bartender said — I don’t agree. Example: CORONA

      People like drinking Corona when it gets sunny and warm outside, even though in blind taste tests, it’s one of the LOWEST rated ones. So why drink it? It’s a mental association. Not to get drunk (per se). Not because it by itself tastes great. But by association it ends up being a great ‘taste’.

      A better tasting NA beer — after a while, face your demons, don’t run. You aren’t left out being the “non drinker”. OH, you’re drinking beer. Just a good non-alcoholic variety. Strongly helps when your addiction was fueled by the experience and the mere taste of a beer.

  • Michael

    Reply Reply September 5, 2014

    I am AF now for nearly 5 months. Kevin a massive thanks to you – i found your videos about week 2 into my new life and they helped enormously. Anyway, i didnt drink AF beers to begin with but now i do…tried a few different ones and there are some really tasty ones out there – some German ones are excellent. To be honest i’m not sure they do taste like regular beer – i’ve kinda forgotton what regular beer tastes like anyway. But, they are just very tasty drinks, a couple of bottles is enough and they are a nice change from water and orange, especially on a warm summer afternoon. I’ve never felt the urge to try a real beer afterwards…no need, as i know i dont need alcohol in my life. So for me, AF beers are just a really tasty drink that i can enjoy. I’m loving my new life – i have a real hobby again, as opposed to drinking every evening. Keep it up Kevin you are an inspiration!

    • John

      Reply Reply September 5, 2014

      I agree with Michael when he says AF beers are a nice change from other liquids like water and juice and soda.

      The AF beers I drink are much lower in calories than pop or even juice, and it’s the carbonation that I enjoy.

      Like him, I too do not feel any urge to drink real beer afterwards…..the thought of intoxicating my brain disgusts me…. I hate that feeling of being wired…… and I have a video of myself the last time I drank, even though I didn’t know it would be my last time drinking, it was the first time I videotaped myself, and watching it back, I could see that my eyes were droopy, my speech was slurred, it was more of a sedative than anything enjoyful…. it’s hard to imagine why I was so hooked on drinking for so many years. I am only a month into sobriety, but with Kevin’s videos, and reading his e-book, I feel quite confident in abstaining in the future.

      The AF beers are a coping strategy for me whenever I do get stronger-than-usual urges to drink, but they are also just a refreshment when I’m really thirsty and crave something cold other than water.

      John

  • vax

    Reply Reply March 8, 2016

    For me NA Beer is totally great cause I can drink it and not get drunk in a bar while the rest is fucked up doing stupid things no mention the hangover next day…

  • Ray

    Reply Reply April 22, 2016

    I was told to stop drinking in Feb by my gastroenterologist found I have mild surface irregularity of the liver suggesting cirrhosis but all my liver enzymes and AFP are good. He said I might have cirrhosis or not. Only way to know is liver biopsy and that doesn’t come w/o risks. I was a fairly heavy weekend drinker – 12-15 per weekend. I don’t miss hard liquor but do miss a couple beers with dinner on Saturdays. Are NA beers okay for my situation. I had two Odouls last night and enjoyed them

  • John powell

    Reply Reply July 29, 2016

    drinkihg to many none alcahol beers harmful to healh

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply January 6, 2017

    Just had my check up dr said time to quit dam gonna be hard aint no rock star at 57

  • Ron berezan

    Reply Reply February 24, 2019

    Been over 1 year and 2 months on non – alcoholic beer and I feel this is great for being with friends and not been bothered by your peers some friends even have the odd non beer and it’s becoming more common and accepted

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