I’ve never been particularly “cool.” My musical tastes run to 80’s pop and musical theatre—think Billy Joel and the soundtrack of Fame. I dress in what might generously be described as “Grad Student Redux.” And although I’m married to a Foodie, I still eat pop tarts.
But when it comes to alcohol—and in particular, the beer I drink—I think I might finally have achieved some measure of coolness…in my mid-50’s. Allow me to explain.
I’ve aways been a beer drinker. In my youth, when I valued quantity over quality, I wasn’t terribly discerning. Budweiser…National Bohemian…Coors Light: it was all the same to me. Back then, Corona with a lime qualified as upscale.
Around the time I hit 40, however, I discovered that hangovers in midlife weren’t nearly as much fun as they used to be. Wine and spirits, in particular, seemed to trigger particularly bad headaches. By then I was also living in London. Had I still been living in the U.S., I might have elected to swap beer for pot, as many of my American friends have done. But marijuana isn’t legal in the UK. And telling people you don’t drink in a country where pubs are more numerous than libraries is a complete non-starter. Plus, in the immortal words of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, I like beer.
So I needed a solution, one that would enable me to keep drinking beer without getting drunk. Enter low-alcohol beer (LAB), and its even milder cousin, no-alcohol beer (NAB). LAB is typically classified as having no more than 2.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), while NAB tops out at o.5%. (Personally? I’m willing to go as high as 4% when I’m really letting my hair down).
When I first got onto my “NABLAB” kick around 2016, not that many people were drinking low-alcohol beer. I distinctly remember when a craft beer shop housing some 400-plus types of beer opened up within spitting (stumbling?) distance of my home. I would waddle into this establishment—a diminutive 50-something Mom amid a sea of 30-something hipsters sporting beards and lumberjack shirts—looking for variants on the aptly named Small Beer. The proprietors delighted in the challenge of finding something for me that fit the bill.
Little did I know that I was setting a trend. Over the past decade, NAB sales have climbed 90%. With the rise of the wellness movement, younger people don’t want to consume as much alcohol anymore, and old-timers like me lack the tolerance to do so. Needless to say, with this rising demand for no- or low-alcohol alternatives, the taste, quality, and variety of the offerings have exploded as well. As I started reading article after article about the rising appeal of NABLAB, I thought, Wow! I’m really onto something.
So quite possibly for the first time in my adult life, I now cool. When I go into a restaurant and ask about the low-alcohol beer selection, there is now an array of options, rather than just one. Others at my table often follow my lead, asking me which brands I recommend. It’s like finally being invited to the “grown up” table at Thanksgiving.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re still likely to find me curled up at home watching The Sound of Music on a Friday night, clad in a velour cowl neck sweater and wearing a mood ring, while my frozen pizza heats in the background. But damn it, I’ll be sipping my 1.7% APV pale ale like there was no tomorrow. And loving it.