Non-alcoholic beer sales soar under the influence of hot weather
Hot weather, healthier lifestyles and a firmer stance against drink-driving have boosted non-alcoholic beer drinking this summer.
On a sweltering afternoon at a recent big game in Croke Park, the bars appeared to be selling almost as much non-alcoholic beer as regular beer.
As new non-alcoholic beers continue to enter the market, the old resistance that viewed them as "not a real drink" has dissolved like ice cubes in a sunny beer garden.
Improvements in the taste of non-alcoholic beers have been crucial in their growing acceptance. When it comes to an authentic bitter taste, new zero-alcohol beer flavours have kept the traditional bite minus the kick.
Publicans are happy with the increased demand and have acknowledged more recent entrants to the market are a big improvement on the "insipid" beverages of 20 years ago.
The hop taste was often compromised when heat was introduced to eliminate alcohol in the brewing process. But now brewers are using new methods to protect the essential hop taste.
US-born barman Daniel Lyons (25), who works in Ryan's Bar and Cafe in Store Street in central Dublin, said Erdinger Alcohol-Free was the most popular drink of its kind in the pub, but newcomer Heineken 0.0 was selling well and Guinness had produced Pure Brew.
"Young people in Ireland are very good for not drinking and driving when compared to parts of the US that I'm aware of. Young drinkers will stick to non-alcohol beers all night if they're driving," he said.
"The non-alcohol beers are a good alternative to soft drinks. Young people don't want to drink soft drinks all night.
"Also, young drinkers are more comfortable now drinking non-alcohol beers. It's seen as just as sociable to drink them as any other drink."
At Molloy's Liquor Store in the Liberties in Dublin, assistant manager Paddy Bowes said the good weather in recent weeks had been great for the sale of off-licence non- alcoholic beers.
"On the really nice days when people feel like having a drink, the non-alcohol beers let people feel that they are having a beer," he said.
"Young people who are up early the next morning for work don't want to cope with hangovers so the non-alcohol beers are great for them.
"Also, the stricter drink driving laws are an incentive."
Heineken 0.0, Erdinger, Becks and Bavaria are all popular among non-alcoholic beer buyers.
Non-alcoholic ciders were also selling very well this summer and Kopparberg has some very tasty pear-based non-alcoholic drinks, Mr Bowes said.
Vintners' Federation of Ireland chief executive Padraig Cribben said pubs all over the country were dealing with "an increasing demand for non-alcoholic drinks, primarily driven by young adults".
The "better tasting" non-alcoholic beers were selling in large numbers, he said.
Heineken Ireland's marketing director, Radina Shkutova, said the recent launch of Heineken 0.0 had been "a phenomenal success".
She said it was introduced in response to "the growing cultural trend of living a healthy and balanced lifestyle".
Heineken 0.0 "empowers those who can't or don't want to drink alcohol yet want to be involved in every beer or non-beer occasion", she said.
However, Euromonitor International warned that Irish pubs' policy of selling non-alcoholic beers at similar prices to regular beers could be a reason why other European countries had much stronger sales of non-alcoholic beers than Ireland.
It pointed out that many consumers who drink non-alcoholic beer expect to see a discount compared with the price of regular beer.
World Health Organisation research has shown that Irish people are drinking far less alcohol these days compared with the Celtic Tiger era. In 2005, we were consuming the equivalent of 14.4 litres of pure alcohol each in a year. Just over a decade later, that figure fell to 10.9 litres.