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.