I quit drinking alcohol close to nine years ago after a particularly terrifying brush with alcohol poisoning in college. While every individual has their own reasons for avoiding it—religion, health, safety, etc.—the fact remains that not drinking alcohol is becoming more commonplace and much trendier.
When I first cut alcohol out of my life, the majority of places I visited didn’t have much in the way of non-alcoholic options: Shirley temples, virgin daiquiris, straight sodas and tomato or fruit juices were as much as could be expected at the average bar or restaurant. Now, bartenders are able to make nearly any cocktail into a mocktail and are experimenting with new tastes and trending ingredients to create unique concoctions totally independent from their alcoholic predecessors. In response to the growing number of consumers seeking healthier, no or low alcoholic (NOLO) options, beverage producers have been steadily growing their lines of ready-to-drink (RTD) options that not only offer alcohol-free alternatives, but also provide consumers with additional health benefits and mood enhancements. It should be noted that the term non-alcoholic is legally applicable to any beverage containing less than 0.5% ABV and the majority of products that are fermented or go through alcohol removal processes still contain low levels of alcohol.
One of the most common options historically available for those of us who want to drink, but don’t want to get drunk, are near beers. Near beer is made in much the same way as regular beer—mix together water, barley, yeast, hops and other flavoring ingredients and brew—with the only major difference being an additional step to remove the alcohol.