Does non-alcoholic beer stand a chance in Ireland’s drinking culture?

Free pints of Ireland’s most beloved beverage, Guinness, during St Patrick’s Day weekend? That’s right: there were 50,000 of them, and the only thing missing was the alcohol. 

Guinness 0.0 is being promoted in supermarkets. Image via: Amy Murphy

The move to encourage non-alcoholic drinks, specifically Guinness 0.0, during Ireland’s most famous drinking binge was a bold move. The pints were available in over 300 pubs across Ireland.

But what, really, is the status of this non-alcohol beer?  

“We have Guinness 0.0 and I have noticed the main people who order the drink are male,” Hannah Whelan, 20, who has been working in a pub since she was 17.  

“When I first started working in pubs no one ordered a non-alcoholic drink, but now we sell a few each day,”

Hannah Whelan said.

Opinions on social media surrounding Guinness 0.0 include people who think it’s great and tastes like the ‘real stuff’, then people who roll their eyes at it.  

It is no shock to anyone that the Irish enjoy a drink, with the drinking culture in Ireland being both celebrated and lamented over many years. In recent years, many more non-alcoholic drinks are being promoted in pubs, showing there are concerns among consumers about alcohol consumption.  

Drink Aware Ireland found that Ireland is in the top ten countries in Europe with the highest drinking consumption. Males are more likely to develop alcohol problems than females and 52% of adults drink alcohol weekly.  

Orla Short, who works as a waitress in La Bucca, a popular restaurant with multiple locations around Dublin and Meath, said, “Non-alcoholic drinks are a popular choice people pair with their meals.”

Whether it’s for religious beliefs or you’re in work tomorrow and want to skip the hangover, a non-alcoholic drink is one way to go, but many don’t see the point in drinking an alcoholic drink without the alcohol part.  

“I don’t see why you don’t order a coke,” Paul Murphy, 55, a loyal Guinness drinker.

“I enjoy the taste of Guinness but the main reason I drink it is for the buzz,”

Paul Murphy continued.

The fear of missing out on a night out because you don’t want to drink is commonplace – the idea of dealing with the questions and nagging of ‘why aren’t you drinking?’ or ‘come on just have one’.   

Compared to other countries in Europe and outside of Europe, Ireland doesn’t have an array of activities that don’t surround drinking. Even if you manage to do an activity like bowling there will most likely be a section where you can order a drink.  

When we first try alcohol it’s a shock because the taste is something… unique. The common thing you’ll hear after trying your first drink is, ‘It’s an acquired taste,’ or ‘You haven’t found your drink yet.’ It seems absurd to keep drinking something you don’t like the taste of, just for the alcohol. It is like forcing children to eat broccoli – except that broccoli is beneficial for our health and won’t cause liver problems. 

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