Wednesday, January 31, 2024

With NoLo, No FOMO 

These gents were not interested in alcohol free anything other than free alcohol.

It's been so long since I've had a full-alcohol beer (anything more than 0.5%) that I don't think my opinion on the topic can be trusted. In my journey of non or low-alcohol beverages I’ve made some discoveries and I’ve found some good substitutions. For instance, Corona’s “Sunbrew” is very similar to Corona. “Like making love in a canoe, it’s ****ing close to water”, as it’s been said, but I guess any of the light lagers can be similar to their full alcohol versions due to their watery disposition. Peroni 0.0% is similar, though the German weiss beer Erdinger and Kronenburg’s 0.5%, while a little sweet, are close to their full alcohol counterparts. We’ve even found some wines too; a Chilean 0.5% Sauvignon Blanc, Tarapacá, and a German Pinot Noir that is 0.5% are also surprisingly good. At the LCBO a cashier asked me what the no-alcohol wine from Loblaws was like and I said, “Church wine.” She didn’t know what I meant because I suppose she was a heathen of some sort. I meant it was overly sweet and dry which puts it closer to prune juice than wine. What is more interesting now is that even the most typical “pub” will have at least one non-alcoholic beer.

Historically, a lot of beer was modestly low in alcohol. You couldn’t really be expected to get much done if you got smashed before operating a scythe in the fields. Beer and cider were very common beverages that, at a time before safe drinking water, were uncommonly safe due to the brewing process. The discovery of how cholera was spread through contaminated drinking water happened when John Snow (yes, really) noticed that patrons of a nearby pub who drank only ale were unaffected by the epidemic happening around them. Ironically, later in life, Snow became a teetotaller. I guess some people never learn. It’s interesting that the developments that made gin cheap and accessible (a permit, taxation and policy change), brought with it a wave of over-consumption, binge drinking, alcoholism and death, a little like our opioid crisis today.

A colleague of Benjamin Franklin kept a detailed diary and one account of a day noted, at the very least, that he drank seven pints of beer over the day, which seemed normal or unexceptional at least. It was probably similar to the low-alcohol variety that we trialled all day at the NoLo Beerfest at The Only Cafe. The low-alcohol beers were in the 2-3.5% range while the no-alcohol varieties were either too low to count, 0.0% or 0.5% (thus the nickname NoLo). I have theorized that these no-alcohol versions are somewhat like kombucha in that they are a complex and varied fermented beverage that I imagine does your gut microbiome some good. At least, I hope that’s true.

Ironically, since I’ve found many new NoLo drinks I’m actually drinking a lot more than I ever would’ve before. Years ago, I went through a summer when after work I would cap the day with a bottle of beer, then have one with supper and another for dessert (in the words of Johnny Cash). It didn’t take an intervention to know that wasn’t healthy and it made after-work runs a lot harder and more necessary. They don't call beer, "liquid bread" for nothing, but NoLo beers also have fewer calories. It’s a win-win really; less running and more beer.

Now my larder is stocked with white and red wines, cider and beer and even a couple of “mocktails”. Weeknight meals can be accompanied by a glass of something without repercussions. Even a “liquid lunch” can be free from complications. With alcohol being identified as a carcinogen I think there’s a lot of potential to enjoy the flavour rather than the consequences.

I’ve realized there are two aspects of alcohol I miss. First, the taste. That refreshing mouth feel of even small amounts of ethanol makes all the difference. Also, pairing a nice meal with ginger ale or water feels unsatisfying somehow. Second, is the social aspect. I don't really mean the gregariousness produced by alcohol, but simply being able to meet up with friends and share some time and words over a pint. It’s just not the same with water or a soft drink so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. When I drink NoLo, there’s no FOMO.



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