The selection of non-alcoholic drinks continues to expand and improve as new products and flavours are introduced to meet growing demand. Zero-alcohol beer/cider, wine, spirits and ready-to-drink (RTD) products are outperforming low-alcohol versions, according to the IWSR, which tracks the global market of wine, spirits, beer, cider and mixed drinks in 157 countries.
Their research shows that improved taste, production techniques and a diversification of consumption occasions is leading consumers to embrace no-alcohol products. In a report released in December, 2022, IWSR expected no-alcohol volumes to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 per cent between 2022 and 2026.
Canadian consumers are part of the global, cultural shift to consuming less alcohol. Demand is growing for non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits selections, with many people switching between alcoholic and no- or low-alcohol drinks in the same occasion. Global figures show 78 per cent of consumers of non-alcoholic products also drink full-strength alcohol, which means anyone shopping for summer entertaining has more options to consider beyond the usual suspects.
The beer industry has done the best job to develop a range of increasingly sophisticated products that mirror popular styles and brands. Mass-market brands and artisan producers alike have created enjoyable near-beers across a dramatic array of styles and that effort has been rewarded with increasing sales, while non-alcoholic wine ranks a distant second.
The zero-alcohol ready-to-drink category is equally advanced, with innovative products that are aimed at consumers who fall into the “sober curious” category who are evaluating their drinking habits. Wine and imitation spirits meanwhile could use more high-end products that offer the same intensity and complexity of flavours and experience of drinking your favourite brand.
Here are 10 non-alcoholic selections that stand out from the growing number of products turning up on store shelves. Each works well as an aperitif by design, but I was especially interested in the ones that I would also like with a meal as that’s when I most often enjoy having a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Five Appetizing Near Beers
Bellwoods Stay Classy IPA (Canada), $3.98
Part of its ongoing experiments brewing lighter and lower alcohol style beers, Toronto’s Bellwoods has created this refreshing and flavourful non-alcoholic pale ale, which offers intense hop-derived aromas and flavours with some vibrant citrusy notes. Enjoyable on its own, this would be a pleasing match for barbecued ribs or steak. $3.98 per 473 ml can ($85.96 for a case of 24), direct from bellwoodsbrewery.com.
Corona Sunbrew 0.0
Sunbrew is made by extracting alcohol from Corona Extra and blending the non-alcoholic beer with vitamin D and natural flavours to produce a convincing replica of the smell, taste and texture of the original. It has that classic light (but not too light) Corona character that’s best enjoyed served cold with a lime wedge. That crisp and refreshing nature makes for an endless array of harmonious food pairings, especially with spicy dishes where chilies are involved. $12.95 for 6 330 ml bottles, available in Ontario, $10.97 for 6 330 ml bottles in British Columbia, $2.55 per bottle in Quebec, various prices at select grocery and specialty stores across the country.
Made in an easygoing style that is particularly enjoyable in warm weather months, Hefeweizen is a refreshingly fruity, highly carbonated wheat beer with a distinctive cloudy appearance. Some bartenders serve it with a slice of lemon to enhance its refreshing character. Partake’s seasonal release is low calorie (15 calories per serving), non-alcoholic version is balanced and refreshing in nature. It’s hazy, with delicate banana and spice flavours that make it enjoyable on its own or served with richer seafood dishes (salmon, scallops or lobster) or roast chicken or pork entrées. $59.99 for a case of 24 cans, direct from drinkpartake.com, various prices at select grocery and specialty stores across the country.
Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0
A high-profile sponsorship of the Aston Martin Formula One Team is helping to draw global attention to the launch of Peroni’s crisp no-alcohol lager which is brewed to the brand’s existing recipe and then de-alcoholized. Tasted side-by-side, the mix of hoppy and citrus aromas and flavours is virtually identical between the traditional beer and its zero-alcohol sibling. The light style is incredibly versatile in terms of food matching, working with snacks like olives, cheese or charcuterie boards, salads or meat, fish or poultry dishes. $12.95 for 6 x 330 ml bottle, available in Ontario, $3.45 for 355 ml can ($19.45 for 6), upsidedrinks.ca.
Sober Carpenter Irish Red Ale
Founded in 2019, Sober Carpenter is a microbrewery based in Montreal with a strong portfolio of satisfying, non-alcoholic craft beers. This medium-bodied, reddish-brown coloured brew delivers an appealing mix of molasses, nutty and earthy notes. The rich flavours complement pub fare such as shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash, but would be equally at home at a barbecue, think grilled steak or chicken. $38.99 for 12 473 ml cans, direct from sobercarpenter.com, $18.25 per 6 cans, soberlicious.ca, $3.29 per can, well.ca, $4 for 473 ml can in Nova Scotia (Bishop’s Cellar).
Five Top Mocktails and Zero Alcohol Sips
Atypique Amaretto Sour
Atypique produces five different premixed mocktails in cans, including a spritz, mojito and this sweet and tart amaretto sour. Fans would appreciate the full-flavour of this right from the can, but I found its nutty and apricot-laced flavours more refreshing served over ice with a splash of club soda or sparkling water. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry if desired. $2.99 per can, available at major retailers across the country.
Clever Gin and Tonic Rosé (Non-Alcoholic)
A ready-to-drink mocktail, with appealing floral, herbal and dark fruit flavours that are balanced by a refreshing tug of quinine bitterness. This gets the nod in a crowded fake gin and tonic category for flavours that aren’t too sweet or artificial (like no-name diet pop). $38.99 for 12 355 ml cans, direct clevermocktails, also available at select Metro and Sobeys locations.
Edna’s Mojito (Non-Alcoholic)
This continues to be my preference amongst the increasing amount of mojito-flavoured mocktails on the market. Fresh and pure mint and lime flavours lead the way in this enjoyable non-alcoholic single-serving can. Adding a dash of salt adds depth to the drink served over ice and enhances the zesty citrus flavours. $16.99 for four 355 ml cans, direct ednascocktails.com, $4.95 per 355 ml can ($18.25 for 4 cans), upsidedrinks.ca,
Eins Zwei Zero Sparkling Riesling
Leitz winery from Rudesheim produces a range of stylish alcohol-free wines for its Ein Zwei Zero label. Made with riesling grapes, this premium sparkling is made in a fruity style and benefits from the fact that the effervescent makes the peach and apricot-flavoured wine taste fresher and less sweet than it is. It comes in a conventional 750 ml bottle or 250 ml can, which is the format I’m recommending for its convenience. $4.25 per 250 ml can ($17 for 4 cans), direct vineland.com, $27.75 for 6 250 ml cans, soberlicious.ca.
Proxies Sparkling Rosé
This sparkling rosé is a seasonal release from Proxies, which blends juices, teas, spices, bitters, and more to create alcohol-free beverages inspired by different styles of wine. It’s also the company’s first single-serve package. A blend of riesling juice, strawberry and black currants, this gains interest from additions of lemon and lime zest for freshness and white peony tea, vanilla and lavender for structure and complexity. It’s tasty, when enjoyed right out of the can, but could also be enjoyed served in a white glass or flute with a niçoise salad or vegetable skewers. $40 for 6 250 ml cans. Available direct, drinkproxies.com,