In years gone by, alcohol-free beers held little appeal for adventurous brew-hounds. If you were designated driver or having a break from booze, soda water or soft drink were about the only beverage choice to “clink” at an event. But fast forward to 2023 and there’s a good chance you’ve seen a low or no alcohol beer in the clutch of a mate’s fist. In fact the low and no trend has grown so rapidly it already has its own moniker: LoNo, and 32 per cent of Australian craft beer drinkers consumed an alcohol-free beer in the past 12 months, compared to just 15 per cent in 2020. Yet to be convinced? The movement is showing no signs of losing steam with industry experts predicting LoNo alc consumption will increase by a third by 2026. Time to jump on (or is it off?) the wagon!
As winemakers, distillers and brewers bend over backwards to create palate-worthy alcohol-free drinks, the brewers at Heaps Normal have the privilege of some quiet high fives, having already done a lot of the recipe groundwork. “When we launched in mid-2020, there was a fair assumption that non-alc beer couldn’t taste as good as alcoholic options,” says Ben Holdstock, Heaps Normal co-founder. “Once we proved that we could make a delicious NA beer brew, the bigger stereotype to overcome was that non-alc beer was only for those who identify as ‘sober’. It’s been really exciting seeing the mindset shift towards non-alcoholic drinks that’s happened in a relatively short amount of time.”
With a commitment to preach-free products, Ben says that craft beer drinkers were some of the early-adopters of their product, thanks in part to wellbeing efforts being accelerated through the COVID years. “The mindful drinking movement had already gained traction overseas and the pandemic accelerated it,” he says. “Younger people are also drinking less and ‘wellness’ has become a priority for a lot of people.”
As a long-time brewer, Ben says he’d seen the downsides to booze-fuelled culture and had been assessing his own drinking habits when he got together with the other three co-founders to bounce around some ideas for what would eventually become Heaps Normal. “We were laughed out of more than one bar in the early days,” Ben says. “There just wasn’t a cracking, delicious non-alc beer on the market that people felt proud to put in their favourite stubby holder.”
Ben says it took incredible amounts of trial and error to create their first beer, Quiet XPA. “I loved the challenge of proving that we could do what was previously thought of as a bit impossible – create a non-alc beer that tastes so good you won’t miss the alcohol,” he says. “We brew beer with the same four ingredients as traditional beer – water, malt, yeast and hops – but almost every detail in the 15-step process had to be changed to make sure we ended up with a product that tasted like beer without any alcohol.”
The magic comes in rebalancing sugar levels, adjusting temperatures and substituting standard brewers’ yeast with the perfect non-traditional yeast. “We had to completely redesign the brewing process,” Ben says. So whether you’re sober-curious, on a health kick or pursuing mental clarity, a Heaps Normal might give you the refreshing knock-off you crave without any fallout. “Everyone’s reason for wanting to drink a non-alc beer is different,” Ben says. “But we don’t think sugary soft drinks or water are exactly inspiring options on a night out. Aside from the taste, there’s a ritual to cracking a cold one, that any beer drinker will tell you just can’t be replicated with a lemon, lime and bitters.”
Heaps Normal Another Lager A classic Aussie lager offering a quintessential crisp experience, sans the alcohol.
Heaps Normal Quiet XPA Unfiltered, with balanced bitterness and a subtle malt sweetness, this refreshing non-alcoholic beer is an incredible homage to your usual five percenter.
Heaps Normal Half Day Hazy The perfect knock-off can or sub between a few normal ones, this fruity, hazy pale ale has serious holiday vibes.
Products featured are available from 28/06/23 to 1/08/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.