The arrival of genuine summer weather has been a cause of joy for many and one of the things it tempts us to do is enjoy an ice-cold beer or more perhaps in a pub garden or outside a Tapas Bar or just on the balcony of the flat. But for many people joining friends for a refreshing glass of lager is fraught with risk because they are among the 7.5m Britons with alcohol dependency problems. But now it is becoming possible to slake your thirst without running risks.
I am not an alcoholic but for many years while I was doing a very high pressure job, I used alcohol to wind down at the end of the day. It never affected my ability to do my job and if I’m honest in many social situations it was essential to help me cope with chronic shyness. Last year I gave that job up and while I still work part time the stress has gone completely. But the use of alcohol had become a habit – a couple of beers followed by a bottle of wine each night was normal. As I re-evaluated my life I realised that I wanted to live a lot longer and enjoy a good quality of life. That meant doing something about my health and cutting back on the booze was a good place to start – except that I didn’t actually do anything.
Then I went away for a weekend trip which involved some monumental drinking and, on the way, back I realised that what I thought was the after effects of the drink was actually a really serious viral infection. For a week I could barely eat let alone drink beer or wine but as I improved, I realised that I had gone a week without alcohol. One week became two then three until it was 5 weeks – the longest period I had gone without alcohol since I had been hospitalised after an accident years before.
As I said I’m not an alcoholic and I didn’t want to be denied the opportunity to have a glass of wine with a meal or to celebrate a special occasion with a glass of champagne. So that is what I did – I now have a couple of glasses of wine once or twice a week and I feel great. I’ve lost weight, my blood pressure is down, I look better and I’ve taken up Pilates (I also seem to have a heightened sex drive buts that for another post sometime).
But I still wanted to be able to drink beer – sometimes quite a lot – how can you watch football on TV without a beer? And that is how I discovered that there has been a revolution in the brewing industry. There were a few “low alcohol” beers available in supermarkets and sometimes pubs that I had tried usually because I was the designated driver – most had a strange after taste although Becks Blue wasn’t too bad as long as you hadn’t already tasted the real thing.
Today, however, we are spoilt for choice and it seems that every week brings new products to the market. There is Peroni Libra to enjoy with your pasta– and Cobra Zero with your curry – both 0.0% ABV but now the craft brewers have joined in and it’s a revelation.
At this point I do need to give a warning to anyone who needs to avoid alcohol completely – please read the small print – some brews are “low alcohol” rather than zero. The two I’m about to recommend are both 0.4% ABV – fine for me but not if you need to avoid alcohol entirely but I’ll finish with a very nice completely alcohol-free beer.
Brooklyn Brewery have produced an American style lager called “Special Effects” and I swear its so good you could drink without realising it wasn’t 5% ABV beer. Brewdog, the independent Scottish brewer offers a choice of two low alcohol beers. The brilliantly named “Nanny State” has been around for a while and is a bitter rather than a lager though best served very cold – it is 0.5% ABV. The same company has recently introduced Punk AF a 0,5% ABV version of their Punk IPA.
Back when I was drinking too much my lager of choice was Estrella from Barcelona. What I didn’t know until very recently was that this family owned brewery has been making alcohol free beers for more than 30 years which might explain why their Estrella Galicia Lager 0.0% was such a pleasure to drink in the current heatwave.
It is getting easier to find low alcohol beers too – although there are places that really should know better that don’t – like the Royal Albert Hall – no demand for it apparently! Meanwhile our neighbourhood bar offers a choice of three.
If you want to explore the many other alternatives that are now out there take a look at the web site of the “Dry Drinker” – who offer literally dozens of alternatives and home delivery. Cutting back on the booze doesn’t heave to mean becoming a social pariah and as long as you don’t become evangelical about it (something I know is a risk for me) its perfectly possible to get your mates to understand that you have chosen to stay sober.
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