Advice,  Eat & Drink

Is it OK to Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer in Sobriety?

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

The whole point of participating in an alcohol-free life whether it be temporarily or permanently is to not drink alcohol right?  So shouldn’t non-alcoholic beer be a good option?  The answer to this question isn’t as easy as that and it really comes down to the individual and only that individual knows what’s truly right for them.

For starters, non-alcoholic beer will usually have at least traces of alcohol but most contain around 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).  Thankfully that amount will never get you drunk or make you feel buzzed and, as a matter of fact, ripe bananas contain up to 0.5% alcohol.  There’s also hidden alcohol in products like soy sauce, malt vinegar, and some brands of Dijon mustard.  So if you’re avoiding the immediate physical effects of alcohol and you don’t have an alcohol addiction, NA beer is probably a great choice for you.

Which brings me to my next point.  Even though you don’t feel the effect of that tiny amount of alcohol doesn’t mean your mind doesn’t.  NA beer tastes and smells exactly like regular beer, some more than others, and to many of us with an alcohol addiction, that can be all it takes to start the cravings.  These sensory cues can trigger floods of memories too.  Part of the difficulty with addiction is denial and “forgetting” all the horrible ways alcohol screws your life up so the memories you get from the smells and taste of NA beer will probably be good ones, or at least disguised as good ones.  Having these rose-coloured glasses on can then make cravings stronger than your rational voice and the thoughts of having a stronger drink can easily slip in. 

The placebo effect when drinking non-alcoholic beer can also happen when you’re in recovery from alcohol addiction.  The mind is very powerful and can make you think you feel the effects of intoxication even though you’re not and this can cause intense cravings.  And you know us alcoholics- once we have one drink we can’t just stop.  We need more, which only makes this placebo effect that much more dangerous.

So it’s up to you if you can partake in some near-beer when out with friends.  If you’re just taking a month off or want to avoid a hangover NA beer is probably a good option for you.  But if you’re a recovering alcoholic the risks are way too high and you’re better off sampling the mocktail menu- at least that way you’re just drinking fancy juice.


  • John van Gurp

    I participate in a couple of Facebook groups for people who have stopped drinking and had an interesting discussion about NA beer a while ago. There were a few points that I’ll relay here, but basically people were all over the map with their opinions. Some say yes it’s fine and others say no way!

    I suspect the 0.5% is just a super small number they put on the label to cover their asses but that in reality it’s likely 100% alcohol free. That’s just a guess mind you. I think it’s like food labels saying “may contain trace amounts of milk, or nuts” just because the same factory is used for products containing those things. I could be wrong.

    Some folks say NA beer is a trigger that will bring on full fledged drinking again. Others say it’s absolutely not a trigger, based on experience.

    My own experience here 9 years after I decided enough was enough, is that I can easily have one NA beer and it has no impact or trigger effect at all. Nowadays it’s a little treat that is so distant from my old habits that there’s not even a connection, and I realize also that when I drank beer in the past the purpose was to get drunk. It wasn’t the beer I wanted so much as the buzz. So this NA beer is just a fuzzy, tasty beverage.

    I’m commenting here before I’ve even read the rest of your site and will now go browse the other articles. Thanks for raising this and sharing your openness! I’m with you on this journey! 🙂

  • Heather Wright

    I have finally “willed” you into reality!
    I’ve been searching for someone to take this exact challenge with me.
    I’m coming up to 3 yrs sober and I’ve been like a “mad dog with a bone “ trying to get AF drink options into Canada.
    I’ve contacted our Import/Export Food Nd Beverage at the Ottawa Government level.
    Canada is not even on the map when it comes to AF drinks/cocktails, events and consumer concerns.
    You are someone I would really like to sit down and talk with.
    I believe it’s possible to put pressure on our Federal Government to allow the importation of AF Suppliers (mostly located in the UK). The reasoning behind the non-allowed AF cocktails into Canada was a very poorly concocted excuse about labeling.
    My belief also is that any established that serves alcohol should be required to offer a Non-alcohol option.
    The trend for AF is on the upward trend and is moving fast in the UK. Exciting shit happens around AF in the UK. The social dynamic in their approach is awesome. Pop-up AF Bar events that “do “ fill venues.
    I went full steam into changing this but quickly realized I was completely out of my league.
    If you would like a sounding board, idea mixer, person who has the same goals for sober alternatives.
    As a side note: the membership at the only recognized alcohol resource is at it all time low. AA is struggling to keep its members and due to that there are more “moderation/ sober month groups appearing which both show low success rates in long time sobriety.
    Currently I’m soul searching in Asia for a month.
    I’ll be back in February. Keep me in mind if I can be of any assistance in bringing AF “everything/anything “ to Canada.
    I’ll be following you…(not like in a weird way)…
    Your friend in battle,

    Heather Wright

  • John Howard Newcomb

    Appreciate your point that there may be issues with non-alcohol beer for those folks with a difficult alcoholism background but for those of us who don’t have that, non-alcohol beer is a good choice if we enjoy and miss the beer taste.
    As well, being able to enjoy the convenience of buying our “near-beer” in grocery stores – and not pay sin tax – is a another good thing.

  • Carol

    I desperately need to quit drinking. I am a 62 year old women and have drank since I was in my 30’s. I need to stop for me and several health reasons. I am finding it very hard so I am going to keep reading this site for encouragement and things that can help me. I haven’t had a drink since Jan 6th and was a daily wine drinker.

  • Bill B

    I think it depends on the person. I’m only 1 year into my sobriety, and I’m finding that AF beers are doing a good job of ‘tricking’ my brain that I’m drinking alcohol. And I can stop at 1 or 2 now, the compulsion to drink everything I have in the house is gone.

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