Special guest Brian Anderson, also known as the Sober Barkeep, joins the Options Save Lives weekly stream to talk about non-alcoholic beers and spirits and how they can help contribute to moderation and sobriety.
Voiceover: Welcome to the Options Save Lives weekly live stream, where we spend an hour each week exploring life improving topics through the lens of alcohol recovery, and the Sinclair Method. Every week we take on a new question, topic or common challenge to empower people to either build a better relationship with alcohol, or to eliminate it completely. Episodes are filmed live on Twitch at twitch.tv/cthreefoundation, and the audience is encouraged to ask questions and engage with the host and guests. The Options Save Lives weekly stream is hosted by Executive Director Jenny Williamson, and is produced by the C Three Foundation with the support of R Street Institute and other generous sponsors. For more information about the C Three Foundation, or the Sinclair Method, visit our website at cthreefoundation.org.
Jenny: Hello everyone. Let me make sure all of my sound pieces are on. It looks like everything should be fine now so hopefully you can hear me. Thank you for tuning in to the Options Save Lives weekly live stream. As always, I am Jenny Williamson, Executive Director at the C Three Foundation and your host for the next hour. How is everybody out there in the audience today? We're broadcasting live from the C Three Foundation office here in Fort Myers, Florida. Go ahead and let us know where everybody in the chat is watching from, and if you're a first timer to the stream, welcome. We're glad to have you.
So this week we're going to talk about non-alcoholic beverages with Brian Anderson, also known as the Sober Barkeep. So what drinks do you guys in the audience think about when you hear someone say non-alcoholic beer? We know there can be some division over the place of non-alcoholic drinks for people in recovery. Ultimately, it's a personal decision that each individual has to make for him or herself. But if you're on the Sinclair Method, or you're moderating, or sober curious, or if you simply want the experience of drinking without the hangover or intoxication, we hope you'll find this episode a great resource. So how many of you out there in the audience have favorite NA beers, wines or spirits? Go ahead and put those in the chat area. We're going to run the Q&A as you have questions today. And as always, the more interactive we can be with our live audience, the more fun it is for all of us. So if you have questions, if you want to know if Brian has reviewed something specific or anything else, put it in the chat area and let us know.
So let me go ahead and introduce our guest. Brian Anderson is an engineer by trade, working in the space industry since 1986. He began his Sober Barkeep YouTube channel in August of 2020. He stopped drinking alcohol in 2015 and began to be curious about non-alcoholic beer sometime around 2018. While searching for non-alcoholic beer reviews on YouTube, the only ones he could find were made by the manufacturers themselves, so he decided to fill the niche himself. When he started, his plan was to simply document his thoughts on the products and thought he'd max out at about 30 episodes. But during the late 2020 time period, and especially into 2021, the non-alcoholic beer and spirits market exploded. Now he has more than 200 review episodes on his channel, with plans to continue adding reviews with no end in sight. So welcome to the show, Brian.
Brian: Thanks for having me. This is gonna be fun.
Jenny: So it looks like our internationals and our normal audience is out there today. So we've got some people, for your information, that are out there in the UK.
Brian: Okay. I’ve got folks that follow the channel from UK, Australia, a lot of Middle East. So I've got people all over the globe that kind of watch.
Jenny: Awesome. We've already got a Thatcher Zero NA cider mentioned here. So…
Brian: I would love to get a hold of that. That’s out of the UK. It’s one that I have not been able to get hold of yet. I would absolutely love to try some of that.
Jenny: Yeah, I hear, I keep hearing good things.
Brian: Yeah, I do too. I've seen, there's a Facebook group that I post to that’s primarily at the UK and they speak very highly of it. If I can ever get a hold of it, it'll be on the channel very quickly.
Jenny: So before we dive right in, let's start with an easy icebreaker.
Brian: Okay, cool.
Jenny: Having watched your channel I know that you are, you film most of your episodes at a guitar bar.
Jenny: And so what is that one song that every single time you hear it you either have to turn up the volume or sing along?
Brian: It's probably, gosh. Hotel California every time, but any AC/DC, I’m cranking it loud enough to bust the windows of the car.
Jenny: That's pretty much...
Brian: I'm an old school rocker. I mean, I'm in my 50s. I'm an old school rocker. The guitar bar is actually my home bar. And there's, in my guitar room, I used to have when I had it downstairs before I moved it upstairs where I'm at now, the bar was in the same room with all my guitars. I’ve got seven guitars, and so that's how it got its name. It's just, it's been, I've had it around since when I was drinking and resurrected it once I started the Sober Barkeep.
Jenny: Well that's fun. Yeah, for me, it'd be Bohemian Rhapsody every single time.
Brian: Absolutely. I’m with you on that one.
Jenny: That one just screams, turn it up. All right, so let's go ahead and dive into our chat about non-alcoholic beers. And there are a lot of different reasons why people drink non-alcoholic beers and spirits. So what led you down the path into the NA drink world?
Brian: Well, I quit drinking in 2015 and I didn't drink anything for about three years, three and a half or so years, and I travel a lot for work. I was in Burbank, California at the Marriott across the street from Burbank Airport and they had a nice bar. It's was nice outside and I was sitting there and normally I drink Cokes. You know, actually what I found in my business, being sober at the bar running into people in the industry, you find out a lot of really interesting information when people start drinking and you don’t. But that night I was just sitting there by myself and I thought maybe an ice cold beer would be great right now. And they had a non-alcoholic beer called Bucklers on there, I’d never heard of it. I had heard of the O’Douls and I heard of the St Pauli Girls and never had any desire really to try it. And I thought, you know, I'm just going to try one of these and just see. I was by myself, felt safe, I hadn’t drunk in a long time, had no desire to drink alcohol but just the taste of a cold beer sounded good. So I tried the Bucklers and I thought, you know, this is actually pretty decent. It's a pretty good replica. It kind of scratched that itch that I had for cold beer. No alcohol, didn't get drunk. Didn't wake up the next morning with a hangover, and I thought “That’s pretty cool.” So I started doing some research on it, and that's really what started the whole Sober Barkeep thing.
As you mentioned, I'm an engineer and recovered alcoholic. I'm a little OCD. I kind of, you know, the addictive personality’s there. So I started doing research, digging in, going “What's out there?” and started finding that there were some things that you could, especially Athletic. Athletic Brewing Company was just starting, had started becoming, you know, releasing more flavors. I found that you could order stuff online from them and a couple of other companies. There's a Total Wine just near me here – I live right outside of Houston in League City, Texas – and they were carrying a decent amount of non-alcoholics, and I was surprised, because I really didn't realize there was that much out there. And since I couldn't find reviews from anything other than the manufacturer, I thought, you know, manufacturers are always going to tell you how fantastic it is. I'm just, I'm going to start drinking this stuff and figuring out what to do and don't like. I was documenting, you know, if nobody watches it at least I'll have, I'll know what I thought and I can always go back and look and think and see what I thought when I was tasting it for the first time. And that was the whole genesis of the Sober Barkeep.
Jenny: And so, let's talk about the explosion in the NA beverage market, the craft brewers, the shift from big market alcohol companies into this sector. A lot of that just happened in the last couple of years. So, let's talk about that a little bit.
Brian: It's been insane. The non-alcoholic beer market has exploded. There's so much out there. New vendors coming out. There's new producers especially in Canada. It seems like Canada has really taken off, a lot of new producers. And I had a deal with afbev.ca, where he would ship me stuff and basically sponsored, because I couldn't get the Canadian stuff, and he was sending me the Canadian stuff, basically sponsoring an episode every Friday. And we were going through some just amazing stuff and there continues to be more Canadian beer. In the United States, you’ve got Athletic Brewing Company which puts it seems like every, every month they're putting out two or three new experimental products, and then they'll spin some of those off as what they keep around, but they tend to be more seasonal, but it's just amazing what they're putting out. And it's just been incredible. The market has gotten to the point now to where, if you were a beer drinker and you want to try this, or you are a beer drinker and you want a non-alcoholic, there's going to be something out there that’s going to scratch your itch, from low calorie stuff which I don't like at all, which is why you don't see a whole lot of that on my channel, because I don't want to try something that other people like, and I just don’t like it. If I’m going to drink beer, I want that full body flavor and you get that with calories. So you’ll tend to see more of that on my channel than the low calorie versions of the stuff that’s out there. But there’s something to scratch every itch, from an American lager to a very deep, dark Porter style beer. The one I just reviewed and released today is a Dunkel Weiss which is a dark wheat beer, a German style dark wheat beer, and so there’s just a wide variety out there.
The other thing that surprised me was the non-alcoholic spirit, which is kind of a weird thing to say, because the spirit basically alludes to the fact that there’s the alcohol in it. And when I first started that I was very, very skeptical, because there were very, very few. Seedlip was out there, and there were a couple of others that were just starting. And I kind of jumped into it a little bit and wasn’t real impressed, but very quickly you had Free Spirits Company, you had Monday, you had Lyre’s that started producing and kicking stuff out, and just incredible replicas for non-alcoholic spirits. Now, I’m always very clear and try to be very honest with the non-alcoholic spirits. Very few of those, if you were a neat whiskey drinker, you’re not going to find something to scratch your itch. But if you liked Manhattans or if you like Old Fashioneds, there’s a lot of rums out there, there’s a lot of tequilas out there. If you like Margaritas I can make you a Margarita that will probably convince you it has alcohol in it, because there’s some really good stuff out there. But it’s grown. When I started it wasn’t there. It’s there now and it’s just getting better and better and there’s new companies coming out. Tennyson just put out something that they call it a Black Ginger and it's not trying to replicate any known spirit. It's a new creation and it is absolutely phenomenal.
Jenny: What's the flavor profile on it?
Brian: It's kind of a bitter, you know. So it's kind of maybe a vermouth, but it's really not. Maybe amaro. Probably the closest thing that you would find would be an amaro. But it’s got a very orange forward flavor to it, but it's not sweet at all. It's got the orange peel kind of and it's great in mixed drinks. I’ll sip it alone, but it's great in cocktails you can just make some amazing stuff with it. The Pathfinder just came out which is an amaro style. It’s made with hemp, which may turn some people off but there's no CBD, there's no THC in it. But it is a unique on its own, closer to an amaro. I made a Black Manhattan with it which is probably as close to the real thing as you're gonna get. It's just absolutely amazing. So there's just some really cool stuff. And the market just is evolving every single day. It's just amazing to me. Every time I turn around, there's either a new beer or a new spirit that’s popping up.
Jenny: Yeah, and I know that I get the emails from Athletic and I feel like they're releasing or re-releasing something new every week at least and sometimes more than one.
Brian: Yeah, and I'm very selective with what I pick from them, because there's just so much stuff and, you know, I know the styles I like. So that's what's really weird is, I pass on some of their stuff and it's just incredible the amount of stuff they put out, and all of it is really good. There's been a couple of I didn’t like, but very few.
Jenny: Yeah, I know. I've tried the Seedlip, I forget which variety, the one that's more spiced I think, and basically I found that it's good for tossing into ginger beer or cranberry juice.
Brian: Right for ginger ale a little. Yeah but Seedlip is such a light flavor. Ginger Beer can overpower it.
Jenny: Yeah, you need a really heavy pour in order for it to…
Brian: Yes you do, and you do that with most of the non-alcoholic spirits. You're gonna, you're gonna put more in there, especially if you're using a mixer with it like ginger beer. You're gonna go heavier on the non-alcoholic spirit than you would with an alcoholic spirit.
Jenny: So we've got a couple of comments out there. Someone has mentioned Radler Zero. Have you done the Radler?
Brian: There's not a Radler brand. There's, the Radler styles are out there. There's a couple of them. There's a German Radler. Gosh I'm trying to think what brand it is. I've got it. It's reviewed on the site, and it's pretty good. The Radlers, at this point, have tended to be a little too sweet for me. I like, and you know, if you like that then it's there, because there's some lemony, sweet Radler style non-alcoholics out there. I liked mine to be a little more puckery, you know. I wanted that lemon puck, you know, that more tangy kind of stuff to it and it's not there. I haven't found that yet. But there's some amazing, oh crap, the styles of beers that are out there, the sours. I’m sorry to swear. There’s some really good sours. If you like sours, there’s some really good sours. There’s a couple of Canadian companies that make some amazing sours. And I've got several of them that I've reviewed but there's some good stuff out there.
Jenny: We've also got mention of, and I didn't know that this one even existed, Tanqueray’s NA gin. Which, Tanqueray was the first alcohol that I just constantly bought. I would go through, I lived in Florida, my mother had a lime tree in her backyard and I would just go through bottles of Tanqueray with the fresh limes picked from my mother's backyard. So I didn't even realize they had an NA. Have you tried that one?
Brian: They do? Not yet, that's one you can only get in the UK. It's not available in the United States yet. I don't know if they're gonna roll it out in the United States, because obviously you can get the leaded version here very easily. But if they do, I will definitely, that’s another one. Gordon's has an NA, Gordon’s gin, which is another big gin manufacturer that's only available in the UK. I haven't tried either one of those yet. The non-alcoholic gins tend to be some of the stuff that you're going to see more of. There's more of those than any other, and I think it's because the juniper is pretty easy to replicate. And the ones that are very juniper heavy, there's some really good ones out there. And Free Spirit Company makes a gin that's more citrus based, which you know, you get those two styles of gin and it does a very, very phenomenal job with the citrus based. Monday does a great juniper based gin, it’s very heavy juniper and then Lyre’s has one that's kind of in between.
Jenny: And then speaking of things that you can only get in the UK, and this one won't surprise you, the Guinness Zero. Have you heard any rumors yet on when they're bringing that to the US?
Brian: I know a guy. I gotta a guy in the distribution business and he's keeping me informed. Right now he does not have a date yet, but as soon as there's a date, I plan to start hitting about it on the channel. Right now, according to him, they have not released, they don't have a release date. They were looking at late summer of this year is the last I heard, and so we'll see if that actually comes into fruition or not. You know, they had the quality control issues where they had to recall it in the UK, but they have now re-released it in the UK. And you can get it although it's kind of hard to find there, because people snatch it up as fast as it's released.
Jenny: And what I'm seeing in the comments here is that it is tricky to find, partially because it's Dry January. And last week we actually, I think it was last week, one of our audience members mentioned that, or a couple of weeks ago, that during Dry January in the UK, they actually put their non-alcoholic beverages in a more front and center display so that people can find them more easily.
Brian: You’re starting to see a little of that in the US but you know, like if you go to Total Wine right now they'll have an end cap that's Dry January, but it's not nearly – the UK’s about 10 years ahead of us.
Jenny: And Athletic even had a Dry January Party Pack or something like that.
Brian: Yeah, they do. Free Spirits Company has one. Monday has that as well. There's a couple of companies that do that, but as far as the beer goes, I think Athletic are way ahead of the game. Athletic is probably the biggest and highest quality overall producer of non-alcoholic beers in the US and then Lyres is by far the widest range and consistent quality of non-alcohol spirits. You know they're out of Australia but you can get the entire expression in the US and in the UK.
Jenny: Our top four viewer and market areas are US, Canada, UK and Australia. So I'm sure the Australians, when they watch the replay of this, will be glad to hear some of that.
Brian: I’ve got a lot of folks in the Middle East that view. They can't get a hold of a lot of stuff. But obviously, you know a lot of the Muslim countries, there's, you know, alcohol’s banned. So the non-alcoholics, there's a potential that they can make it into the market there. Because there's people that would love to drink the non-alcoholic stuff in some of those countries, you know, and they're very interested in it. Some of them are able to get hold of it, some of them aren’t.
Jenny: So, as we continue to see an ever widening range of people, including people who are in recovery, people who for health reasons, either have to reduce or eliminate alcohol completely, people who are sober curious and even people who still drink regular alcohol, they're all becoming NA enthusiasts. How do you see this impacting this already growing market?
Brian: It's gonna be interesting, and I pulled this up. You mentioned Dry January. WhistlePig is one of the biggest producers of rye whiskey in the United States of America and one of the highest quality. They put this out for Dry January. It's a non-alcoholic rye whiskey and it's made by one of the biggest producers of alcoholic rye whiskey. This is what, we've been kind of waiting to see what happens. You know, you've seen in the beer market, you’ve seen Bud put out Bud Zero, you've seen Busch puts out the non-alcoholic Busch, Busch NA. So some of the major beer producers are doing it. They're not doing it on a mass scale, but they're starting, you're starting to see more and more of those. This is the first that I've seen so far, other than like the Gordon's and the gins over UK. In the US, this is the first US producer that I've seen that’s put out an NA. They kind of did it tongue in cheek. They said they would continue selling it through January, but they've sold out at least twice so far. I think it was much more powerful than they ever anticipated. Their packaging is really funny. They are donating to the Bartender Association, because bartenders are hit in Dry January. In the holidays, everybody's drinking. All of a sudden in January, there’s a big, it's a big dip. And what's interesting is, the market is seeing a dip in January, which means Dry January is real in the United States now. And number two, you're seeing somebody like one of the premier rye whiskey producers put an NA out, so I think things are, it's not just going to be a continued explosion of new companies. I think you're going to start seeing some of the traditional companies potentially, putting out non-alcoholic versions of their drinks.
Jenny: And do you think that that may increase or decrease the number of rotating special small batch brews that come out? They kind of come out and then you try them, you love them, you never see them again.
Brian: I think what you're gonna, you know, it’s going to be just capitalism at its finest. The companies that put out the best stuff are going to survive. And some of these, you know, there are people that won't drink Busch NA if there's, that's the only thing. They'll dry up and blow away before they'll, you know, before they'll drink that. They’ll drink water only. Those are the people that love the craft beer. The ABCs, the Athletic Brewing Company, the Bravus’, they are, they're looking, they are after a market of people that are not your Budweiser and Coors beer drinkers. They’re your more craft beer drinkers that have now gone non-alcoholic. I think the folks that are putting out good quality products are going to survive. Some of these other companies that aren't putting the attention into it, they probably won't survive, which is unfortunate. But at the same time if you're not putting out a high quality product…
Jenny: Then you don't deserve to survive.
Brian: That’s the way it works.
Jenny: So what's the most obscure drink that you have reviewed?
Brian: Probably, there's a beer, I’ve drawn a blank on the name, that’s out of Poland that I found in Nashville, Tennessee. My brother lives in Franklin, and I found it Nashville and we drank it and filmed an episode. It’s one of the early episodes. It was absolutely disgusting. But it was an IPA out of Poland that was really just bizarre. There have been, there's a Canadian beer that I tried that was a lychee. It was really good. I never would have never thought of lychee in a beer, but it was a sour and it was absolutely fantastic.
Jenny: I would think that more for a cider or even as a kombucha flavor. But I wouldn't think about it for beer.
Brian: No. It was a really well done lychee beer that I was able to review out of Canada. It's fantastic. So those are probably some of the more obscure. From the spirits side of things, Lyres just put out their absinthe, which was kind of an odd, because absinthe by definition is typically a 50 to 70% alcohol spirit. It's amazing. You can make some really cool non-alcoholic cocktails with it. I was surprised. I kept writing them. They always advertised as being available and they weren't producing a product for almost a year after I stopped bugging them. And they finally put out in the US and it's become a big seller. If you like that style, and like those types of drinks, I've got several episodes that I've done on my drink of the week that I do that uses that and it’s kind of an unusual, you wouldn’t expect to see that a non-alcoholic. It's there and it's good.
Jenny: So before we started broadcasting, you and I were talking about different styles and preferences, so you'll find this comment from our audience, somebody thinks very much like I do. She says “I don't think of Budweiser and Coors as beers. They're lagers. And it’s funny because a lot of people, you and I are in one of the same NA groups on Facebook, where people will call lagers, quote unquote, “real beers.”
Jenny: And it’s my least favorite style, so why don’t you talk a little bit about different styles.
Brian: There are people that will only drink the Buds and the Coors. You can give them a dark beer and they're gonna go, that's disgusting, I don’t like it. There's people like my buddy Robert Key, who’s got his own Facebook page, and he’s been on a couple of episodes, that's not beer to him, you know, that stuff is just disgusting. And beer to him is the high end craft style beers, Boulevard, you know, the ones that put out a really unusual, unique, very crafty, very meticulous detail. That's what beer is to Robert Key. Again, he wouldn’t drink Coors if you paid him, or Budweiser. But I got a buddy also that I went to Alaska with. That's all he’ll drink. Bud Lite and Miller Lite, that's it. That’s all and he will drink nothing else. So, and that's what's cool is that the non-alcoholic beer market has gotten to the point now where if you're either one of those spectrums, or somewhere in between, you're gonna find something out there you like. It’s not just the crap St. Pauli Girl and you know the stuff that used to be around forever.
Jenny: Right? I mean, I tried the Heineken 0.0, and the reason I don't buy it anymore is because it literally does taste exactly like a Heineken and I really wasn't that big of a fan. It was dead on to what I remember a Heineken tasting like.
Brian: You betcha. I rated that I think a five, four and a half or five, and I don't drink it because I don't like that style of beer, but it is dead on. If you are a Heineken drinker, go get some Heineken 0.0, because it is just dead on.
Jenny: So talk a little bit, for those who may only have like their preferred style in their mind, talk a little bit about the different styles that are available in the NA beer market.
Brian: In the beer market you got everything from, you got Coors put one out. Coors is, I don't like Coors, I've never liked Coors but I rated that one extremely high because if you like Coors beer, their Coors NA is absolutely a dead on replica. So you've got that style. It's more the Budweiser, Coors, Busch, those are out there. You got sours, we mentioned that earlier. If you're a sour drinker, there's several different companies that have put out some really nice sours. Untitled Art has a couple, two or three. Untitled Art, you can get a hold of any of Untitled Art’s beer. It's phenomenal if you like that style. There's also the porters, the darker, really dark beers. There's several good versions out there, Athletic Brewing Company makes a couple of them. There's also more like, there's a couple of peanut butter stouts out there, and the stouts tend to have that – you can get regular stouts but there's a couple of them that are in the peanut butter style. I love that.
Jenny: The Nature Nut? I went crazy for the Nature Nut. The Nature Nut was phenomenal from Athletic.
Brian: The Nature Nut was phenomenal. And if you like that style, which I do, I love it, it's like a meal in a glass and I just absolutely love those dark, deep, really heavy – I was a Guinness drinker when I drank – and I love that style of beer. So there's that out there. There's also the wheat beers. There's several different whether you like the Belgian wheats or you like the German wheats. You know, if you like Blue Moon, I just reviewed one, Ceria makes one that is just, it’s actually because the guy that produces that was the brew master for Blue Moon and so he, actually the Ceria product is a dead on replica of Blue Moon. I can say that because I’m not selling.
Jenny: I’ll have to check that out.
Brian: They can't say that, but I will tell you, if you liked Blue Moon, go get the Ceria product. I've reviewed it. You can kind of see what I, there's two different products that Ceria makes. I'm trying to think which one it is. I think it’s the Grainwave. Yeah, because the Indiewave was more of a IPA. The Grainwave is a dead on for Blue Moon. There are several out there that make great wheat beers, German style wheat beers. In fact, the episode just released this morning is a Dunkel Weisse which is a dark wheat beer, German dark wheat beer. I love that style of beer. It’s very hard to find. It is the closest thing to the real Dunkel Weisse that I've ever tasted. Athletic Brewing Company just released it and it’s fantastic. So there's a wide range. Depending on what you like, there's probably one out there and there's a chance I've reviewed at least one of that style on the channel.
Jenny: Now the one I was certain I was never going to find in an NA version, I got lucky and actually not one but two manufacturers at least came out with one last year, and that's the pumpkin beer.
Brian: I hate pumpkin beer so didn’t try it.
Jenny: I love pumpkin beers and I never thought I'd find one that I could drink and so when WellBeing came out with theirs, I jumped on that and that was just a pumpkin pie in a can.
Brian: WellBeing’s got a huge following.
Jenny: I personally love them, the ones that I've had, which are pretty much the Hellraiser and the, I think I might have tried their wheat. But any beer that I can get in a bottle, I'm going to get that in the bottle as opposed to a can
Brian: I will too.
Jenny: because in most cases it eliminates that tin taste.
Jenny: It can sometimes be in regular beer. But, and maybe you've noticed this as well. I feel like in NA beers, if there's going to be the tin taste, it is much more prevalent in NA beers.
Brian: If you pick, if it's there, you're going to pick it up a lot stronger, absolutely. Yeah, I'll do the same thing. The one style I didn't mention a minute ago that is actually the most prevalent is IPA. If you like IPAs, there's such a wide variety of IPAs out there. It's just, it's nuts. Anything from the juicy IPAs to the double hops to just the single hops. There are just, there are massive amounts for every, not only if you're an IPA drinker, but if you're a specific style of IPA drinker, you're probably gonna find it.
Jenny: Right because the, for instance, the Lagunitas IPNA and the Sam Adams Just the Haze are both IPAs, but one's more of a traditional IPA flavor, while the other one is more of a hazy juicy, citrusy, drink it after you've mowed the lawn type of IPA.
Brian: The Lagunitas is interesting because it's like a classic early IPA. It’s not super hop, it’s hoppy I mean because any IPAs is, but it's not. It's more a tame hop than say some of the, there's a couple of Athletic Brewing Company ones that are just, I mean it's like grabbing a hop bud and sucking on it.
Jenny: High IBU.
Brian: That, I just don't like that. I understand it. I appreciate it. I know people love that. That’s one of the things I try to do on the channel too. If I don't like it, I'm not just gonna go, this is disgusting. I'm gonna explain to you what it tastes like. I will tell you I don't like it. But I will tell you there's a lot of stuff that I don't like that people love, and I try to explain what it tastes like and they’ll end up buying it based on seeing on my review, simply because that's what I try to do. I don't want to, I want to be fair, you know, there's some of it I think is just disgusting and I can't find any redeeming values, and I'm going to say that. I think Bud Zero is horrible. It doesn’t taste like Bud. It's, for a massive producer, they did a horrible job with their non-alcoholic, and they should have done much better, because they’ve got a ton of money they could have put into it. They could have done like Busch and ended up, or like Coors, and ended up with beers that tastes exactly like the flagship product, but they didn’t.
Jenny: Yeah, a lot of times myself, just because I know what my tastes are, I will find the reasons why someone else did not like something as a selling point for me to go try something. That happened with the Santa Clausthaler. The Santa Clausthaler, someone said “You know, this is just really sweet, and it tastes like cider and it's all cinnamony” and I'm like, I am on it.
Brian: It’s just like Christmas in a bottle.
Jenny: I ended up. I bought it. I bought a six pack and it was so good that, you know, and when I bought it, it was the last six pack at Whole Foods. And when I went in the next time they had two six packs sitting there and the little sign saying that they were only going to sell it through the end of December, and I'm like, “I’m taking them both. I don’t care”
Brian: You know, that’s a funny one. You know, you review that, and if I’m reviewing it as a beer, it's not that good. I bought a couple of six packs both Christmases because it's just, it tastes like Christmas.
Jenny: For me, I thought it was a mulled cider type of taste.
Brian: Exactly, that’s exactly what it tastes like. It's like a chilled mulled cider and if you like that, and I would not drink that anytime other than between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I’ll drink it because it just kind of gets you the spirit. But that's what it is. It's a niche and it's, but it's fills it.
Jenny: I almost brought a bottle to drink on air today, but my sinuses, my allergies were acting out this morning so I figured I'd stick with the water, but no, I love it. I've still got two of the six packs left. Well, one and a half of the six packs left, and I'm like okay, well, you know, I gotta get through them before the shelf life goes. So that's, which leads me to another question. A lot of people I see make questions about the shelf life and how that affects non-alcoholic beers where full leaded alcohol beers may last a little longer, so that can affect buying decisions. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Brian: I don't have anything, any scientific data to back this up, but I will tell you I have noticed that the taste and flavor is affected after about six months. And you know, I think, you know alcohol is a preservative, and I think it does, even though beer is only 5% at most usually, you know, some number seven, some number less than five, there's not a ton in there, but I think it does actually help extend the shelf life. I've had cans of non-alcoholic beer that I’ve had sitting too long that have exploded. I don’t know if they're going into some kind of fermentation cycle or what. That happened with some Bravus beers early on. Happened with a couple of ABC beers, and I think I've not seen that happen to me a while, and I've not heard of it happening, so they may have figured out what was going on there. I don't know if there's some impurities in there that the alcohol would normally just kill that didn't because there's no alcohol in it. But it's I think there is a shelf life thing. And I typically if I'm not gonna drink it in six months, I'm going give it away to somebody that will. I got a kid down the road who quit drinking about a year and a half ago that loves it, because he'll take whatever I don't use and I I'll package it up and send it down there to him.
Jenny: So let's go back to your channel and I'm going to go ahead and flip over to the screen that has your playlists on it, so they'll be able to hear us but they won't see us here.
Jenny: So with more than 200 reviews, you never thought you were going to get that many, when did you decide you needed to start organizing these into playlists by style?
Brian: I had a couple of people that asked me to do that, and I thought, well that was just stupid not to do that all along, because it does organize. You can also, you can search YouTube you know, there's a little magnifying glass on the channel. And so just search keyword if you're looking for a hefeweizen or you're looking for a specific beer, you've looking for Bud Zero. I did a review on that, just type Bud Zero in there, it should pop up. But I try and I'm going to continue to try to add more of the playlists. There's enough wheat beers where you'll see one there for wheat beers. There's, I need to do one for, I can’t remember if I did one for IPAs. I think I did just recently, because there's so many of them. One of the things people are very interested in non-alcoholic whiskey so I've got that. One thing, you're gonna see a non-alcoholic wine in there, but you’re not going to see very many of those because we haven't even talked about that, but there's just not, I haven't found any really decent non-alcoholic wines. I found a couple sparklings that I think are good, but they're having a hard time producing what I consider quality non-alcoholic wines.
Jenny: Yeah, and I kind of see that too, but I was never a huge wine drinker to begin with, with one exception. The only wine I really ever enjoyed was basically German Rieslings, that was it because I love the sweetness.
Brian: I love wine. I love the dark, dry tannic reds and so that's probably why I'm having a tough time. I can appreciate the others, but it's just that, to me the non-alcoholic wine market is not quite there yet.
Jenny: Yeah, and that's what our audience is saying as well, that you know, comment “Haven't found an NA wine I would drink more than once.”
Brian: Yeah, I agree. It tastes like tannic grape juice at best, and you know, that's the highest quality stuff I've found so far. A lot of it just tastes like, well, you remove alcohol from wine, it’s grape juice. There’s gonna have to be some kind of breakthrough that can figure out how to add the quality that alcohol provides to wine, because it’s going to have to be added back in. You can't just strip the wine out like you can with beer, because there's quite a bit more alcohol in wine. You know in the spirits world, what they're doing is they're getting chemical. They're doing it with chemistry. They're replicating the flavors. They're not, with the exception of WhistlePig, where they've actually stripped it out. In most cases what they're doing is replicating, and they're using things like capsaicin, or ginger extract to add the heat.
They've not done that with wine. They’ve just stripped the alcohol out in most cases, and it's just it's not…
Jenny: It’s aged grape juice.
Brian: You're gonna have to figure out that additive back in and if it's not capsaicin it's going to have to be something different that adds that mouth feel and the experience that alcohol provides to wine that makes it not grape juice.
Jenny: Yeah, and as a person who has always loved stouts I found that early on with some of the NA stouts, because they were just dark water.
Brian: Yep, yep. They had to figure out how to, and they've done that through, when you create a stout and strip the alcohol out of it, it's not very good. When you create a stout with a yeast that only ferments to one half percent alcohol or less, all of a sudden you're starting to get, and that's, you see what's happening is you've got, instead of stripping the alcohol out of beer, a lot of cases what they're doing is, they're doing arrested fermentations, where they're either using a yeast that doesn't ferment beyond the half of 1%, or they're stopping the fermentation before it gets beyond one half of 1% alcohol. And so those kinds of techniques are tending to lend themselves to the much more tasty and delicious, deeper, darker beers. I think you could strip the alcohol from a lager and it'd be okay. It's more of these craft beers where we're having to get really crafty or end up having to do some great creative things to get the taste profile where they want to be.
Jenny: Well, if I recall, that process of, of just stopping the fermentation process and capping it, that's even used in some of the full on leaded beer breweries. For instance, I know Dogfish Head, for some of their extremely high ABV brews, they actually cap the ABV at 18%. And they had, I remember when I was still drinking alcohol, reading about how they had determined that allowing the ABV to rise above 18% did nothing to better the quality of the beer. And so they wanted to just continue to be reasonable because really at that point, they had brewed beers that were liquors.
Brian: Yeah, a couple things. Legally above 18% you have to market it and sell it differently. And number two, it stops tasting like beer and starts tasting like a liquor or a spirit at that point. And so yeah, you'll find the arrested fermentations there, because some of these, you know, if you got a yeast that’s going to go beyond about 12%, a lot of times it's going to go way beyond 12%. And so you’ve got to do the creative things like arrested fermentation. I think because they did that in the high end world, in the high alcohol world, they were able to figure out how to do that effectively, because some of the early arrested fermentation non-alcoholic beers were disgusting, because it tasted like yeast, because you had a ton of yeast left that didn't ferment, and they didn't figure out how to get that taste out of there. So some of those early arrested fermentation non-alcoholic beers we’re disgusting.
Jenny: Was that the NA Funk that people talk about?
Brian: That's exactly it. So now they've got, what they've done is they figured out how to create some yeasts that don't want to go beyond much beyond 1%, 2%, and they're able to arrest those back and below half of 1%. And so you don't end up with a ton of extra yeast and they figured out how to remove that yeast and, because you can remove the yeast and still have a yeast flavor. You know, it just, it happens, and so they figured out, and so, you know, you're just seeing more and more creativity in the market and that's what's creating the higher quality non-alcoholic beers.
Jenny: So, one of the big questions, and this, I’m pulling one that isn't even on my list today. One of the big questions I always see is, how come it costs so much more when there's no alcohol in it? Shouldn't you pay more for more alcohol?
Brian: Well, just because it's doesn't have that particular component in it doesn't mean that it didn't, it's all in cost of beer. Alcoholic beer because they produce so much of it, you know, the more you produce, the cheaper it is, just typically is, you know. Non-alcoholic beers are really small production, with the exception of Athletic Brewing, which now is actually massively producing, but Athletic Brewing is constantly putting money back into the system. And so they're not making a ton of money, because they're building more breweries or they're creating more flavors, or they're refining their flavors like we were just discussing, figuring out new ways to create the beer to get a higher quality taste. So yeah, it does cost a lot more. It's just like the cost of a craft beer. You go get an Untitled alcoholic beer, they're $18 a four pack, and so when you look at $15 for a four pack for a non-alcoholic, it's actually cheaper. And so some of these craft beer places, if you go compare non-alcoholic beers to craft beer, all of a sudden they're not as expensive as you thought they were. Same concept.
Jenny: Yeah, I know that some seem to be a lot higher and some seem to be quite reasonable. I know I was thrilled when I found the six pack of the Santa Clausthaler for only $7.50. I was thrilled.
Brian: Clausthaler has been around since 1978. So their production costs aren't nearly as high because they've got an established product. They’ve got an established product line. They’ve got established recipes. So they're not, you know, they don't have a big wide range of products that they put out. And so they're able to keep the cost low. So therefore their cost is low, so therefore the cost to consumers is low because that beer has been around longer than almost any [garbled] beer that's on the market right now. It was produced back in the late 70s in Germany, and it's been it's been a quality product for decades.
Jenny: So how many different countries are represented in your review list?
Brian: In mine, Poland is an outlier, I’ve done one. I've done primarily Canadian, US and German beers when you look at the beer market. I've got a UK beer I'm getting ready to roll out here in the next couple of weeks that actually is made by the same producer that does Mockingbird agave, which is a tequila spirit alternative out of the UK. So I've got that one. Those are probably the primary. I've done a couple of Belgian and a Swedish beer. There's a lot more if I could get a hold of that’s created over in Europe that I just can’t get. But those are the ones I’ve got. From a spirit standpoint, Australia primarily because that's Lyres. And then a bunch of the US producers and a couple of UK producers. And that's what I can get my hands on right now. There's a ton of UK spirits that I would love or just European spirits, non-alcoholic spirits I'd love to try, but I just can’t get hold of them.
Jenny: And so, let's talk about the one thing we haven't yet, is the debate. So many people debate whether or not people in recovery can or should drink NA beverages.
Brian: You know it's got to be a personal decision. In my mind, there's a bunch of different ways to go through recovery. There's AA, there's, you can go to a psychologist, there's you guy’s method. There's a bunch of different ways to quit drinking. In the end you’ve got to decide how to quit yourself. And so it's a personal decision, and I think drinking non-alcoholic beverages is also a personal decision. I think it's one that you've got to make. I have a hard time with some of the hardcore AA people that come in and are just so adamantly about, you can never drink it, non-alcoholic beer. Well I drink a ton of non-alcoholic stuff and I haven't drank an alcoholic beverage in almost seven years, and I've been doing this. I drink a ton of non-alcoholic stuff because of my channel. Not once have I drank any of that and gone, “Oh I want to go drink.” Not once. That's me. Now, am I saying that everybody would be okay drinking non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic spirits or non-alcoholic wine? I can't say that, because, again, it's a personal journey. It's somebody, you got to get to the point to where you have truly decided not to drink and you're not drinking. And then at that point I have a hard time figuring out how it's going to trigger you. Because if you’ve truly decided you're not going to drink anymore, and you've made that decision, and you've truly made that lifestyle change, then drinking non-alcoholic beer is like drinking a Dr. Pepper. I mean it's just another non-alcoholic beverage. And you know the whole idea of, well, it’s got alcohol in it, well so does a banana.
Jenny: So does orange juice.
Brian: A hamburger bun, most hamburger buns are anywhere from one to 1.2% ABV so, you know, don't give me that crap. I'm not buying it. Again, it's a psychological thing. It's a, does that, is it going to trigger you? And if it does, I question why it trigger you. But again, that's not me. I’m dealing with it my way. But the fact that it has less than one half percent alcohol in it, that argument is garbage. Because your body actually processes it faster than you can drink it, and so that's not the issue. The fact that it has less than one half of 1% alcohol in it is not what's triggering you. It's got to be something else. You know, is it, it reminds me of something that makes me want to go drinking? Is it close enough to the real thing that it makes you want to go drink the real thing? And then you got to question why you'd want to do that, because I can drink the non-alcoholic, tastes like the real thing, not get drunk and not have a frickin’ hangover. That's what’s incredible. I could start drinking at 10 am, drink all day long and I don't get drunk and I don't have a headache tomorrow.
Jenny: Right. Yeah. And with the Sinclair Method, it's, you know, most people start out at moderation, and they gradually reduce their drinking. We encourage people, if you're really having to deal with habits and stuff, try to work in non-alcoholic drinks in between your full leaded ones, because that reduces your overall consumption. We have a lot of people who, I like to call it, they go accidentally sober. They, they've not, like their entire point of starting this treatment method is to reduce the cravings, to regain the ability to drink moderately. And they'll get down to the point where they're drinking once a month, and then it's once every couple months and then it's, “why am I even doing this?” And non-alcoholic drinks are a great way to still enjoy the social benefits of cracking one open, while not having the physical and emotional, and potentially traumatic events from being intoxicated.
Brian: Right, and, you know, I think that’s great. Kentucky 74, the spirit makers, they market theirs as drink it as a non-alcoholic beverage, or you can cut the amount of alcohol by doing 50:50. Put a shot Jack Daniels, a shot of Kentucky 74 in your drink. I think it's great. I think if people, I wish I could drink alcohol, I can't, okay. And people that can, that's fantastic. But if they want to start drinking less, this is a great way to do it. I think this is a great way to augment. I actually, I happen to know that a couple of manufacturers of non-alcoholic spirits still drink, they drink less, but they’re still, and that's great. I don't have a problem with that. And I'm not, I am not going to be on a crusade to go, “You need to just drink non-alcoholic beverages.” My family, I’m the only one that doesn't drink. In this bar that I’m sitting at, I’ve got alcoholic spirits in here. I mix drinks for my wife almost every night. I make her a mixed drink. I make me a mixed drink. Hers has alcohol in it, mine doesn’t. That's just our lifestyle. That's the way we do it. But I think this, the variety and quality of products that are in the beer and spirits market now, non-alcoholic, provide that capability for you to be able to enjoy reducing the amount of alcohol intake that you do. It wasn't quite there before. I believe over the last two years it's got there, and it's just getting better every single day. So if you want to reduce and still have a cocktail, or still have a beer, you can do that and reduce or completely eliminate your alcohol intake and still enjoy and still have quality products. And that's what that my channel has really become is, can I provide you a review of something so that you can see that there's stuff out there you can enjoy? I didn’t think that was what it was going to be, but that’s where it’s at.
Jenny: So we're almost at a time. So two final quick questions. One, do you take requests?
Brian: Sure, I do, and I've done that several times. I've had people say “Hey, can you try this and review it?” If I can get a hold of it, I will review it.
Jenny: And two, and this is something I can't believe I didn't put on my own list, but comes from the audience. It's a comment. It says “I found it strange that when I bought the Tanqueray NA gin in the self-serve aisle in the supermarket, I had to have an assistant come over and clear it the same way as if it was alcohol.” And I know that here in the US for instance, Total Wine, they do the same thing. You have to still show [ID]. So, that's just basically at least here in the US because all of those laws are regulated by at a state level. That's just, it's going to vary.
Brian: The laws haven't caught up with the explosion in the non-alcoholic market. Even though non-alcoholic is a legal term and non-alcoholic beverage is actually, in the United States anyway, it's a legal term. It means that that product has to have less than one half of 1% alcohol. Not gonna have point, point 0.49, but it's a legal term. But the funny thing is, they haven't really caught up with, okay, if it's non-alcoholic, my 12-year-old should be able to buy it. Well, but it says beer on it. So it's kind of a cultural thing. And the laws just haven't caught up yet. Yeah, you're gonna be carded most of the time when you buy a non-alcoholic six pack of beer. You go to a grocery store and buy one. They're probably going to ask for your ID.
Jenny: And someone says that in the Netherlands it didn't happen.
Brian: That’s cool. And you know, I think Europe is about five or six years ahead of us in the non-alcoholic market, all of Europe. In the amount of products they have, in their Dry January celebration, all of that stuff is about five or six years ahead of where the United States currently is.
Jenny: Alright, well we are out of time. Audience, you guys have been wonderful as always. Thank you for spending the last hour here with us. Are you guys excited to try any new NA beverages? If so, go ahead and put that in the comments. And please join me in thanking our wonderful guest, Brian Anderson.
Brian: This was fun. Thank you for having me.
Jenny: So, audience, go ahead and fill the chat area with some gratitude. I don't know about you guys, but I had a lot of fun today. If you came in late, or if you want to share or watch the stream again, we're gonna have today's video up on our website, YouTube, Vimeo, Anchor and Spotify, hopefully all by the end of the day, and as soon as we're able to we'll add the transcripts and closed captioning as well.
Next week, we're going to be joined by Claudia Christian and we are going to be discussing how to support a loved one who is on the Sinclair Method. So if you're supporting someone's TSM journey, please make sure you watch next week, and if you're on TSM and you're wondering how to get your spouse, significant other or family member on board, please encourage them to tune in next Friday.
If you found value in this broadcast, we hope you'll hit the donate button in our profile or head to our website and make a donation at cthreefoundation.org/donate. You can follow our channel and get broadcast alerts, and you can subscribe to our channel to go ad free and get some bonus emoji to use in the chat. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can subscribe for free and you can also do all the standard Twitch stuff like send gift subscriptions to other viewers, cheer, drop bits, host our channel, all of it.
If you'd like to suggest a guest or a topic for a future broadcast, we've got a link to a Google form that's been dropping in the chat and is also on the main -Oh it just literally popped up as I was saying that, and it's on the main Schedule page on our website. If you're on the Sinclair Method, you're looking for more peer support, or if you just want to join the C Three Foundation community, we've got you covered with groups on Facebook, Discord, and our Options Save Lives forum. So that is it for today everybody. Have a wonderful weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with others. And I will see you again right here next week on Twitch at noon Eastern. Bye, everybody.
Voiceover: You've been watching the Options Save Lives weekly live stream hosted by Executive Director Jenny Williamson, and produced by the C Three Foundation with the support of R Street Institute and other generous supporters. For more information about the C Three Foundation or the Sinclair Method, visit our website at cthreefoundation.org. If you have a question you want answered live on air, to make guest suggestions, or to support the show, let us know. You can reach us through our website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on Discord. Join us each week as we continue to discuss more ways to help you build a better relationship with alcohol, or to eliminate it completely. Because recovery from alcohol use disorder is not a one size fits all process. Options are available and Options Save Lives.
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