On a breezy, perfect summer day, I had a nice business lunch at a brewery in historic downtown Long Beach. Two decades prior, I lived in the area, but most of the things I remembered from 15 years ago had been replaced by hip new gastropubs and breweries. I found the right wooden sign, located my colleague and ordered a hamburger with cheese and bacon; it was excellent, but something was missing. I asked if they had any of my 5 favorite beers, but they didn’t. And they had 300 kinds of beer.
I’m a late-thirties publicist who’s into comics and games– blonde, glasses, slightly overweight, expensive laptop, unfashionable but well-made purse. I’m unassuming, introverted and not much to look at. You’d never know I used to be a raging alcoholic. (Man! That word. I’ll never get used to it.) Strictly beer and wine, but I have a little more than my share of throwing-up-in-an-elevator-in-front-of-my-boss-and-falling-asleep-in-a-gutter stories. With the help of some clean breaks and good people, I managed to kick the habit, and I seldom think about it anymore, except for the Shame Theater that my brain sometimes forces me to visit late at night, when I remember everything I lost. When the camera stops rolling, my conviction is stronger than it was before. I’m in no danger of a relapse. I never evangelize, but sober life is better for me; it feels like discovering after relocating that all you needed to fix basically every problem you’ve ever had was a change of scenery. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve come a long way.
Anyway, one of the things that has made this strange new life awesome is non-alcoholic beer. I always hated soda, and coffee is not omnipresent, not to mention that it just doesn’t go with some things– I like the taste of beer, especially with beer food, and it’s so lovely and reassuring to be able to drink something nice and cold, with the same texture, that tastes like beer. And sure, it makes me feel less like a misfit when everyone else has a nice dewy brewski. I like being able to just say “Do you have O’Doul’s or similar?”– most of the time, the rest of my party doesn’t even pick up on it. It’s like a little secret between myself and the waiter. I can sink into that comfy chair, enjoy my tavern food and have a drink I actually like. Imagine that!
Maybe you think you don’t want recovering alcoholics in your fine establishment, but you do. We are people who thought for years that a $75 check for two people was perfectly normal. We have no problem paying $7 for a Kaliber. Heck, we might order three, if we’re going to hang out for a bit.
Maybe you think a non-alcoholic option would somehow diminish your unfinished-wood fake-moose-head artisan-burger-buns ambiance, or that your fancypants vittles won’t be as good with an inferior beer. My palate has shifted considerably since I gave up alcohol, and I assure you that a St. Pauli Girl N.A. now tastes much better to me than any chocolate stout ever did. Your wonderful food will be even more wonderful if I can drink what I want to drink. Nobody who orders NA beer expects it to taste like your hoppy wheatever-ale. They wouldn’t even want it to.
Everything about breweries and gastropubs makes me want a beer, but they’re the least likely places on Earth for someone like me to find one. You have so many kinds of beer, and I can’t have a single one of them. That’s silly! Please, please carry at least one non-alcoholic beer option. Do it for the pregnant ladies and the people in recovery and the people who have to drive to Claremont later. Do it for me.