I was wrong about non-alcoholic beer

My fellow soda haters, the sun rises on our time.

I was wrong about non-alcoholic beer

The Question

Hi Casey! Thanks for all you do. I’ve tried casually to drink a little less over this last year as I’ve gotten into lifting, and if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not sure being “casual” has done much for me. My life isn’t being ruined by alcohol by any stretch, but like you’ve mentioned, I’ve noticed what used to be a manageable couple drinks is weighing on me heavier than it used to. I’ve started to see more NA beers pop up in the store; curious if you’ve tried ’em, what your take on ’em is. Thanks again! —Jennifer

The Answer

I actually hadn’t! But since getting this letter, I have, and I don’t think it’s overstating things to say my life has been minorly changed. (If you are interested in more general drinking x lifting advice, here are two past posts:

How to work out effectively without completely giving up alcohol

17th-century whaler problems (drinking and calluses) )

I realize that NA beer feels, on its face, conceptually lame. I never saw myself dipping into this world. Having never really tried NA beer, I imagined the whole concept of NA beer was just for people fooling themselves with a subpar drink that had nothing to offer: not the utility of alcohol, not the taste, just a wet illusion with which to kid myself as I shaded into the nether realms of Middle Age. Not I, I said; I will rage, metaphorically as Dylan Thomas intended and literally as Lindsay Lohan intended, against the dying of the light.

Now I feel I was not only wrong, but I was being unfair. Is this a coping mechanism? It may very well be.

It’s time to explain where I’m at with beverages. When it comes to drinking things other than alcohol, water is fine. But I drink a lot of water. Liquid Death: I’m sorry, but no. Respectfully, I’m not paying for that.

Seltzer is too sharp, especially when it has only the “glanced at a pile of grapefruits” amount of flavor. I’ve never really liked any soda; both diet and non- are too sweet. All of this goes double when we are talking about “a drink to have with food.” Soda with food makes no sense (more on this in a minute). But if you are trying not to drink, your options are generally (a) some form of soda, or (b) water. Neither of these, to me, are ideal.

And then, there is alcohol. I like wine; I like beer. I like lagers, ambers, ESBs, red ales, sometimes a Kolsch, occasionally a pale ale or IPA, even more occasionally a porter or stout. I think of Magic Hat #9 and miss it often. I’ve done a lot of beer tourism, a lot of beer adventuring, and, while I like beer, I no longer feel as moved by the idea of “trying a new beer.”

If I’m having two drinks, I’m not even really feeling it that much night-of, but feeling it more than I’d like the next day. This is to say nothing of drinking enough (let’s say 3-4 drinks) to really feel like I’m having a proper evening. I’ll be waking up in the middle of the night, and I’ll be crawling across the floor the next day, searching for my will to live. I will be hangxious (well, more anxious), as well as depressed (well, more depressed). This means that there’s basically nowhere on the alcohol-consumption spectrum for me to go anymore that makes me glad that I did what I did last night. That means there is no point to the calories or alcohol of any given alcoholic drink, and every additional beverage is like a ticking time bomb to make me feel even worse the next day.

This kind of goes double for when I’m trying to keep up with any kind of working out. Even if I can get through a normal day with a night of three whole drinks behind me, my workouts are a fight for my damn life. And few things make me depressed (well, more depressed) than feeling like trash when I’m just trying to have a day of surfing or a nice hike or a lift. I like to have a good workout, and I don’t like to feel like shit. Or if I do, I want to feel like shit from too much working out, not too much drinking. These are my simple little truths.

There’s nothing wrong at all with having a bad hungover day once in a while, and I support everyone in their drinking endeavors. But to the extent that I enjoy beer flavors, and am not equipped to enjoy even a slight hangover, I arrive at the strongest pro-beer argument that I subscribe to, the David Chang theory of casual beverage pairing: