The UK is cutting back on alcohol, and not just for Dry January

At first glance, it seems like any other brewery. Young men with their sleeves rolled up to the elbows sit around wooden tables, sipping their first pint after a long day at the office. Light rock music and the sound of beer being tapped is heard in the background. But what makes ​BrewDog AF ​different is that you cannot order anything alcoholic.

The brewery is the world’s first alcohol-free (AF) bar and it opened on 6 January in Old Street, London. “A lot of people aren’t drinking as much as before,” explained Eleanor Breeds, Manager at BrewDog AF, “It’s definitely an upcoming trend, so we decided to jump in.”

The bar strategically opened during ‘Dry January’, an initiative aiming to cut alcohol consumption throughout the first month of the year. Breeds said that they are doing free draft beer refills for the entire month and that “a lot of people come in for that, it’s a good excuse.”

According to Statista ​research​, the current Global Beer Market is worth $615.9bn. Alcohol-free beer has 0.37 per cent share of the market, but by 2024 is expected to reach 3.6​ ​per cent.

Among the many ​low-alcohol craft beer producers, ​Big Drop Brewing Co. is one of the biggest. They were launched in 2016 and ​its products are currently on sale in 3,385 sites across the country, including BrewDog AF.

Nick Heath, PR Consultant at Big Drop Brewing Co. explained that low-alcohol beers have less than 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV), while alcohol-free ones are below 0.05 per cent ABV. “We think the market is going to grow exponentially,” he said, “with alcohol-free beer on tap becoming commonplace.”

In general, it looks like more Brits are going ‘NoLo’ (no or low alcohol) even beyond Dry January. NHS ​statistics show that alcohol consumption has declined by almost 10 per cent from 2011 and a Portman Group ​survey​ ​found out that over half the drinkers polled have tried a low-alcohol product.

Factors behind this could vary from being influenced by a social media trend (​#AlcoholFree has 414,000 posts on Instagram) to dietary commitments, to wellness concerns. In fact, ​research shows that in recent years the UK has seen a shift in awareness and behaviour around health, especially among millennials.

London student Lavinia Puder, 22, is also “trying” Dry January for health reasons. “I don’t drink alcohol that much, but I like the occasional social drinking,” she said while enjoying her peppermint tea, “I think fitness-wise it’s not the healthiest thing you can do.”

Doctor Richard Piper, CEO of ​Alcohol Change UK​, an ​addiction recovery charity, thinks that “signing up for Dry January is a brilliant place to start.” The charity’s ​reports​, in fact, suggests that 31 alcohol-free days help people to drink more responsibly all year round.

However, according to a Global Drug Survey study, the UK still leads the way in boozing habits. British people reported getting drunk an average of 51.1 times in 12 months, almost once a week. 

Lavinia agrees that she is now more aware of her drinking and that an alcohol-free bar like BrewDog AF is a great idea. “Honestly,” she says smiling, “when I want to have a good night out, I don’t necessarily need alcohol to have fun.”

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