By Karolina Rzadkowolska
Founder of Euphoric Alcohol-Free
When you live in San Diego, the craft beer capital of the world, beer tasting becomes woven into the fabric of your social life. My husband and I would go check out new breweries and taste lineups of sours or Flemish style ales, not to mention big IPAs. With friends we’d picnic at Stone Brewery, celebrate at Ballast Point, or take our dog to Coronado Beer Company. We homebrewed and we went to game nights where a new craft beer was always on tap. This all matched my enthusiasm for wine as well, which equally called for visits to the Mexican wine valley. For a long time, my identity was rooted in considering myself a wine and craft beer connoisseur.
But a few years ago, I started getting sober curious. I felt so weary and low after drinking each weekend, and I couldn’t ignore how tired and unmotivated I felt for days. I felt dissonant between my drinking life and my supposed “healthy lifestyle.” Sometimes I drank way too much at a party or social event, which left me not only unwell the next day, but my skin crawling with shame of what I said or did. But then, there were other times too where I stayed perfectly within the lines, no more than two craft beers, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of headaches I woke up with the next day. If I couldn’t even have two beers, what was the point?! It’s like I was damned if I did stick to my rules and surely damned if I didn’t.
I hated waking up feeling fuzzy and in a mental fog that followed me around like a dark cloud all day. I usually didn’t drink on the weekdays and knew how blissful I felt waking up when I didn’t drink. It was starting to become clear to me. As much as I thought I loved trying new craft beers and wine, drinking didn’t make me ultimately happy.
But what was I supposed to do with this information? In my mind, quitting was something that people who drank vodka at six in the morning did. Sure, I overdid it sometimes and had a pretty regular drinking routine, but my drinking was way more in the gray of the spectrum. Luckily, I pushed through all these doubts and figured I had nothing to lose by trying a sober life. The deep restful sleep, the energy and motivation, and a pervasive sense of happiness convinced me that there was something incredible to this. But I didn’t want to do it the old fashioned way. I didn’t want to feel deprived, I didn’t want to feel left out, and I didn’t want to adopt a label. So with all the freedom and autonomy I have, I didn’t.
A month or so into my sobriety, I discovered craft nonalcoholic beer. This was a revelation. I mean no offense O’Doul’s, but when you come from the world of craft beer, the last thing you want to do is show up with a nonalcoholic beer that tastes like Natty Light. The Germans made much better NA beer, but still you don’t always feel like a European style lager. Here were cool companies making IPAs and stouts! And here I thought I would never get to have a stout again!
I brought my new NA beers to game nights, I took them to barbeques. Instead of feeling embarrassed about why I didn’t drink, I would openly share and hype up these awesome NA craft brews that weren’t zapping my energy or giving me a headache the next day. I tried Bravus, Wellbeing, Athletic, and Partake brewing companies and reviewed their beers on my blog Euphoric. When I traveled to Europe, I would check out the stores to see what they had going on in the nonalcoholic sections (a lot). Sometimes I couldn’t believe what I was tasting, how smooth and creamy and hoppy and complex these beers were. Having a nonalcoholic beer became everything I always wanted in a beer—a delicious treat signaling that I deserve to relax . . . without wanting another, having the night get carried away, or waking up not feeling like my absolute best self.
And you know, I’m not the only one. Market research predicts a huge percentage of the population will favor nonalcoholic drinks as wellness and self-development become more important while the stigma of not drinking dies down. Because that’s the thing, we want it all. We want to have the beer and run the half marathon tomorrow. We want to have fun on a night out with our friends and go to the 8 a.m. yoga class. We want to enjoy a beer or two after work and wake up ready to realize our entrepreneurial dreams. We’re sick of hangovers, feeling low and unmotivated, and the sense of bleh that follows drinking alcohol. I can’t wait to see how the craft nonalcoholic beer movement explodes because mark my words, it is the next big thing. We want it all and NA beer delivers.
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