It’s been around for thousands of years. It’s very popular, and it’s definitely alcoholic. Beer is a refreshing drink on a hot summer’s day.
I don’t drink alcohol though, and haven’t done for years.
In September 2015 Deb and I spent a month in Spain. Our first day was in Barcelona. We’d visited the Sagrada Familia cathedral and stopped at a cafe over the road for a drink.
My soft drink choices were very limited and then my eye fell on something interesting: zero alcohol beer: Cerveza sin alcohol, or Cerveza Zero. This was something I’d never come across in New Zealand, so I ordered one.
It had been literally decades since I last drank a beer but it tasted just the same as I remembered. It was cold, delicious and refreshing and became my drink of choice in Spain.
In October we were back home, and spring was in the air, with a promise of warm weather not too far away. New Zealand supermarkets are loaded with alcoholic drinks, so I scoured the drinks aisles for zero % beer. Nope. Not a thing. There was plenty of beer, both imported and local, either from mega breweries or little craft shops, but there was no sign of zero % beer.
I tried a bottle store or two, and yes, the zero % beers did exist. I’ve so far found 3 brands: a Clausthaler, a Moretti and a Bitburger. All imported, two German and one Italian. I like the Italian Moretti best.
Eventually I emailed the local supermarket and discovered something astonishing: they do stock zero % beer, but they don’t display it. Brent Doile, the Store Manager of Wellington City New World wrote on 27 November 2015:
Next time you are in shopping please ask a liquor attendant, the reason behind you not being able to see it is due to the new legislation.
With the new regulations [Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012] we are unable to sell anything that does not contain alcohol in our defined liquor area. Yes even zero alcohol beer, brewing equipment, wine gift bags, bottle openers, cork screws, equally we are now also unable to have on sale wine in a gift basket, this item can’t be on display as it contravenes both areas …
Morally we do not want to sell zero alcohol beer next to soft drinks, and having this product available as a non restricted item defeats the whole purpose of the new act, trying to [reduce] alcoholic harm, while it does not contain alcohol, we would not like to see a 10 year old walking down the street drinking “beer”.
I appreciate their morals, and the law does seem pretty silly in this regard.
Now though the law may change: Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Display of Low-alcohol Beverages and Other Remedial Matters) Amendment Bill 114-1 (2015).
Clause 5 amends section 114 of the principal Act to allow for the display or promotion of, or the advertisement for, low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beer, wine, or mead within an alcohol area. Low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beer, wine, or mead is defined in new section 114(5) (d). It is a product that is specified in section 58(1) (a) to (d) but that is not alcohol as defined in section 5(1).
That’ll be good and will make zero % beer more visible to the general public. Perhaps some will switch away from alcoholic beer.
But I’m afraid I still have a big gripe: why no New Zealand zero % beers? How about all those craft beer shops turn some attention to this? I can’t be the only person in this country who would buy it.
Bonus photos: a few details of the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. Still a work in progress, it was designed by Gaudi and is certainly unique as cathedrals go.