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Zero per cent alcohol on the bubble

Non-alcoholic drinks are increasingly popular with punters, but Wairarapa producers are yet to join the trend.

Zero per cent craft beer has grown its market share overseas, rising in value from US$7.8 billion in 2018 to about $10 billion in 2021 with a 3.5 per cent volume share of the drinks industry, according to ISWR Drinks Market Analysis.

Wairarapa Wine marketing manager Rebekah Glover said she isn’t aware of locals producing non-alcoholic alternatives.

“As far as I know there isn’t any, simply because we don’t produce as much as regions like Marlborough.”

Martinborough Brewery head brewer Eugene Black said tapping into the zero alcohol market isn’t one the cards for the business any time soon.

“I did get excited a while ago about non-alcohol beer. If we were a larger brewer, it would be easier to justify.”

That’s because the product is difficult – and expensive – to produce.

“To be able to label it as alcohol-free, it needs to be below 0.5 per cent. But the more alcohol removed, the more taste that’s lost,” Black said.

“And to make it alcohol-free, you need to pasteurise it, so the beer doesn’t re-ferment, or remove the alcohol and then pasteurise it. The equipment would be hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Unleaded Bar is a non-alcoholic pop-up bar in Greytown that launched in spring 2021 as part of Truckstop Greytown.

Bar manager Shane Kelly said non-alcoholic drinks have boomed in popularity since covid.

“People drank silly amounts during the lockdowns, and they weren’t keen to continue. That’s where the first growth came from.

“We’re also seeing younger people as a more responsible generation who are choosing to try non-alcoholic drinks.”

Some beverages are easier to replicate than others, he said.

“Cocktails are popular. You can do mojitos, espresso martinis, and margaritas, and it’s hard to tell the difference.

“Gin is quite easy to make non-alcoholic. No one’s nailed whiskey or vodka yet.”

Nonetheless, the options for non-drinkers have both increased and improved.

“There was always the alcohol beer like the Zero Heineken,” Black said, “but now they are much better. Craft breweries have gotten on board, like Garage Project and Sawmill.

“It’s brilliant to have that option, compared to when there was just Appletiser and sparkling grape juice.”

Carterton Bottle Store owner Vishal Basra agreed the expansion in non-alcoholic options is a good thing.

“If you’re hanging out with a group of friends who are drinking, but you don’t want to drink – those are the kinds of situations where people are buying the alternatives.

“They come in almost the exact same packaging, so it’s much easier to fit in.”

Basra said the alcohol-free alternatives are yet to reach their full popularity.

“It’s slow at the moment, but I imagine it will increase in the next couple of years. Still too early to say.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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