| Non-alcoholic beer |
Vitality Brewing Company is headquartered in Stratford, Connecticut. Last June, I went to the company's bar demo. On the day of the visit, the sun was shining, and when I walked to the door, I smelled the long-lost smell of hops.
Bill Schuffett, 38, is the company's co-founder, and in 2017 he co-founded Vitality Craft with John Walker. He gave me a pint of Double Hedge, a cloudy Indian ale. The beer, developed by Schuffett and Walker, is still in the testing phase. I've been sober for a long time and this is the first time I've touched alcohol in 1888 days.
For the past 20 years, Americans have had a hard time drinking no-alcohol craft beer, a situation that has only recently improved. Back in 2016, you could find a bottle of Anheuser-Busch non-alcoholic beer in the corner of the refrigerator in the convenience store, even if you were lucky; in 2021, if you go to a chain winery, you can see the non-alcoholic beer of more than ten manufacturers. Alcohol craft beer, vitality craft beer is one of them. The non-alcoholic beer market in the U.S. is indeed tiny compared to Europe, which has a multi-billion dollar market, compared to just 270 million in the U.S. But in 2020 alone, the total market in the United States has risen by a third, which shows that Americans are beginning to accept non-alcoholic beer. Americans used to be prejudiced against non-alcoholic beer, an attitude dating back to the Prohibition era. In 1919, the "Walstead Act" was introduced, which stipulated that beer with an alcohol content of less than 0.5% was not considered beer, but only non-alcoholic beer. Today's non-alcoholic beer still uses the 1919 definition.
As I shake my glass, I admire the foam of the beer. On the side of the cup, you can see the bubbles slowly moving down. I sniffed greedily and it was Cascade hops, a pineapple and hay aroma from the American Northwest. I took the cup to my mouth and took a swig. My body, from my hands to my arms to my chest, felt like there was electricity running through it.
I drank and chatted with Shuffitt and Walker, and it didn't take long for me to get drunk, my face flushed, and my heart beat faster, but it was definitely not caused by alcohol. The Double Fence beer I had in my hand had at best as much alcohol in it as an aged banana. This little alcohol can be metabolized by the body in a few minutes. I think it's mostly due to the "placebo effect", which is naturally due to the aroma and taste of the beer, but the environment I'm in also contributes to it, the dim lights, the high stools, the bar and the fact that we're in a small circle , The atmosphere of drinking and chatting added to my drunkenness.
| Placebo Controlled Experiment |
In the early 1970s, clinical psychologist Alan Marratt of the University of Wisconsin did famous placebo-controlled experiments to demonstrate that expectations and the environment can influence the effects of alcohol. He led the students to recruit a group of people and divided them into four groups. In the experiment, the first group drank a cocktail of tonic water and vodka in a ratio of 5:1, the second and third groups drank tonic water, and the fourth group drank vodka. The experimenter truthfully told the first and third groups the composition of the drinks, but told the second group that they were drinking vodka and the fourth group that they were drinking tonic water.
The experimental results were surprising. The people in the second group didn't drink a drop of alcohol, but thought they had. People in the fourth group drank alcohol, but thought they hadn't. Several people were still shaking, showing obvious withdrawal reactions.
Not long after that, Marat moved to the University of Washington to set up a laboratory in the Department of Psychology to continue his previous research. Marat's student Kim Fromm described to me her teacher's lab: wine, wine glasses, bar stools, music, ambient lighting, everything, and it sounded like a bar. However, there are also secret monitoring and camera equipment inside, and a one-way perspective mirror is also installed, so that the experimenter can observe the whole process without disturbing the subjects.
Fromm's students continue to use placebo-controlled experiments to study the relationship between alcohol and sexual arousal, domestic violence, and disinhibited behaviors. "Does alcohol really make people more aggressive and more casual? I drink and I can just ignore it?" Fromm asked, "Or do people think they have a right to flirt after drinking Now? Everything has to do with everyone's presuppositions."
| Non-Alcohol Red Wine |
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of beer. My drinking habit was inherited from my parents, and for decades, I had a martini or whisky with ice at 6pm, and usually a little red wine for dinner. My parents' habits never changed, but I drank more and more without realizing it, starting with one or two cocktails, then three or four, and going from a glass of wine to a bottle and a half for dinner. Later, the more I drank, the more I started drinking on a sneaky note. This is all before quitting drinking, and I'm thinking, can alcohol-free alcohol bring me back to my old life? My wife, Lisa, was a little unhappy, and she thought it might put me in alcohol again.
Non-alcoholic red wine is a very poor substitute. People who really like to drink red wine can tell the difference when they drink non-alcoholic red wine. The 11-15 degree nectar juice and non-alcoholic red wine are simply the difference between clouds and mud. After the grape juice is completely fermented, the alcohol in it can be stripped to make a non-alcoholic red wine. No matter how the winery tries to do it, it is difficult to make up for the lost taste. Let's put it this way, no-alcohol red wine tastes like grape juice, which is clearly a drink for children.
Matthew Jukes, the owner of a non-alcoholic wine company, once said this analogy: "Without alcohol, red wine is like an animal without a spine." Satisfied with him, he decided to do it himself. Based on the acetic acid drink recipe and experimenting with new additions, he finally made Jukes No. 6, which at least tasted for adults.
Lisa and I tried a variety of non-alcoholic red wines, and only two were barely able to drink, a sparkling chardonnay from Nutty in the UK, and a sparkling rosé from a New York startup. Although these red wines are not good, I have gained some confidence that non-alcoholic wines may really work.
| Non-alcoholic spirits |
After tasting non-alcoholic beer and non-alcoholic red wine, it is natural to try non-alcoholic spirits. In recent years, alcohol-free spirits have developed rapidly. The UK's Seed Basket Company is a pioneer in this field. In 2018, Seed Blue began selling no-alcohol spirits in the U.S. for $35 a bottle.
Consumers who do not want to touch alcohol have two choices: one is to try to replicate the taste of the original spirits without alcohol; the other is to use other ingredients to achieve similar effects to alcohol. London-based Three Cups falls into the latter category. The company currently has three products, Active, Social Grow and Nightcap, which feature Hericium erinaceus extract, a kind of exciting mushroom, in the ingredient list. In addition, cineraria and schisandra, two plants that contain antioxidants, can be found in the ingredient list.
Dash Lilly, co-founder of Three Cups of Wine, emphasized: "The point is to answer why. Why would I drink this? When there is alcohol in it, everyone knows why. Confidence can get you on the dance floor and you can make mistakes. What if there's no alcohol in it?"
It's such a wonderful time to make a cocktail and then sit down at the table, read a book, and have a drink.
Founded in 2019, Chicago-based startup "Ritual Sense" focuses on alternatives to four types of spirits: whiskey, gin, rum, and tequila. Co-founder Marcus Saatchi said that if the next step is to make a vodka alternative, it will definitely sell well. America's most popular spirit is vodka, and its purity is one of the reasons why it must be replicated in order to make alcohol-free vodka.
Saatchi, like many people in the alcohol-free business, started on this path by controlling his alcohol intake. Saatchi also has another identity: a science fiction writer. In 2018, he suffered from alcoholism when he created his ninth work. Later, he made up his mind not to drink. “But I miss the lost sense of ritual,” he says, “that helps you focus on the present moment. Make a cocktail, sit down at the table, read a book, and have a drink. The time is too beautiful."
The non-alcoholic wine production process of "Ritual Sense" did not separate the alcohol, the reason is very simple, the whole brewing process itself did not add a drop of alcohol. The biggest difficulty in producing a spirit substitute is to imitate the fiery sensation of high alcohol, that is, the impact of forty to fifty degrees on the senses of smell, taste, stomach and brain. Saatchi scoured all kinds of peppers and condiments to find the best combination. In the end, he tried 500 combinations with the help of experts and finally found the right formula.
"Ritualistic" products may sound like a bit of a brag, but when I opened the package and saw the non-alcoholic gin, whiskey and rum inside, I realized that these things were so real, I was even a little scared. As George Cooper, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, mentioned to me, taste might activate something subconscious and flip some 'switch' in the gut.
One day, on a whim, I picked up a bottle of non-alcohol whisky that weighed exactly the same as any whisky I'd been drinking before, and when the cork popped, I smelled a familiar smell. But I put down the bottle and didn't take a sip. Who am I lying to? I want to get back the lost sense of ritual, but if I drink again for this and bring pain to my family, the price will be too high.
| Riesling at 11 degrees |
Two days after I gave up non-alcoholic spirits, the non-alcoholic Riesling white wine I ordered was delivered. That evening, I opened a bottle and poured two glasses. The golden liquid was particularly attractive under the setting sun.
I put the glass to my nose and smelled it, and the aroma was pleasant. I took a sip, it was too bad, and Lisa said it was a little sweet. I took another sip and it was much better. When I took the third sip, I was full of joy and the taste was amazing.
"I feel a little over the top," I said.
"I was starting to get a little drunk too," she said.
It was then that I realized something was wrong, and I rushed into the kitchen to find "11% ABV" clearly printed on the bottle. Logistics sent wrong!
The reason I felt nauseous when I took my first sip is because I haven't touched alcohol in five years, and when I touch it, I naturally have a strong reaction. I looked at the wine in the glass, and there was not much left. I've stopped drinking for so long, and now I've given up all my achievements and can't blame others. Who told me to "walk by the river often" and "how can I not wet my shoes"? However, I didn't go down the road of no return to alcoholism again. I told myself: just clear it, just start over.