A beer after a hard day at the office feels right. Waking up paste-mouthed in yesterday’s work clothes doesn’t. Moderation is everything, but it’s also not the best option for everyone. Sometimes it’s best to opt out, and better still to opt out without turning down a tipple.
Non-alcoholic beer, like grandparents, is a product of prohibition era boredom. Traditionally, it has been terrible, but that is finally changing thanks to new brewing technologies and an increasingly competitive market. For people who like hops, NABs are becoming a totally viable option.
Here’s a beginners guide to going zero proof for fun (and profit):
Having a free meal and a couple of drinks on the company card is fun, until you’re too drunk to negotiate — or go back to your desk. Switching to NABs while your client’s busy taking shots puts you at an advantage, but that’s not even the point. The idea is to keep your day on track.
Everyone’s gotta do it at some point, but being the responsible one while your friends are getting tanked is always a bit awkward. Not that your friends should be judging you in the first place, especially if you’re getting their asses home, but having a near beer instead of a seltzer in hand might just make the situation a little more tolerable.
Your growing beer gut is proof that beer is basically liquid carbs. Having a soda at a bar instead doesn’t make much of a difference: A regular can of Coke packs 140 calories and a whopping 39 grams of carbohydrates. One serving of the classic NAB O’Doul’s Amber (which honestly isn’t that bad, by the way), on the other hand, only has 90 calories and 18 grams of carbs.
The taste of beer can be enough to relax you – and sometimes you just don’t want to deal with the effects of alcohol. Brewers have come a long way in getting NABs to taste like the real thing. When it comes to near beer, flavor has been the biggest complaint since day one: It’s hard to get right, considering that the dealcoholization process involves heating regular beer to 173 degrees F to get the alcohol out, essentially re-cooking the brew and destroying subtle flavors. New low-temperature techniques are helping brewers retain beer’s delicate essence.
Trust me: Guys are pretty stupid when they’re nervous, and they’re even more stupid when they’re nervous and drunk. If you’re the kind of guy who needs to have a drink to get rid of the jitters, give your date a break and switch to NABs once you’ve relaxed a bit. If things are going well, there’s no reason to run the risk of running your mouth off.
One of the fastest-growing markets for non-alcoholic drinks is the Middle East, where religious and local customs prohibit the consumption of alcohol, but people still want to have that beery party vibe. Even in the United States, there are a multitude of cultural reasons you might not be able to reach for a Heineken, but its near-beer counterpart Buckler is almost as good as the real thing.
I’d never thought about NABs until a heavy-drinking friend met me at a bar and ordered an O’Douls. Before I could give him shit for it, he explained that he was on a month-long cleanse after a month-long bender, and drinking non-alcoholic beers gave his liver a chance to recover without his having to sacrifice afternoon hangouts at bars.
A bit of booze goes a long way on poker night, fueling your more daring side. But too much and you think a pair of kings is a great hand, and suddenly you’re down a hundred bucks and you’re too smashed to get home. Switch it up next time and down a pack of Clausthaler Golden Amber instead. Keep your head clear and don’t drink your winnings.