So, you’ve made it through Dry January and … you’re feeling pretty good. You’re sleeping better, you feel lighter and cleaner. Maybe you’re open to considering a lifestyle that includes a little less alcohol in general going forward. Fortunately for you, the heart of the new “sober curious” movement may just be in North Brooklyn, an area that is home to two non-alcoholic liquor stores, non-alcoholic brewery offerings, several pop-up dry bars and a burgeoning array of mocktails on local restaurant menus.
“The makings of any good bar in Brooklyn has got to have a non-alcoholic option because a lot of people don’t drink any more and it’s just a more inclusive environment for millennials,” says Emily Mass, who is on a tour of a hydroponic farm facility called Farm.One. Mass, 31, is sipping on a simple syrup made from anise hyssop combined with raspberry tea and club soda at Farm.One’s a dry bar.
Farm.One, a vertical farm located in Prospect Heights (and, coincidentally, an advertiser of this magazine), hosts events and tours of their facility and which they offer samplings of their non-alcoholic beer or mocktails. Although future plans do include an alcoholic brewery, they are currently a dry community space.
If you’d prefer to enjoy your non-alcoholic beverage at home, though, you can shop at dedicated brick-and-mortar stores selling only non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits. In Cobble Hill and Williamsburg, there is Boisson and in Prospect Heights, Minus Moonshine, where Michael Baad is buying a six pack of non-alcoholic beer.
“I started drinking non-alcoholic beer because my wife’s pregnant and she’s not drinking, so I’m trying to drink less,” he says. “I don’t only drink non-alcoholic beer but I’ll have one in between regular beers so instead of drinking four beers, I’ll drink two beers a night.”
Alcohol, many sober people like to point out, is the only drug people feel pressured to justify not taking. “Sometimes there’s a negative connotation when you say in a social setting that you don’t drink,” says Minus Moonshine owner Juan Beltran. “Then you get those questions: ‘Why don’t you drink? Do you have a problem with drinking?’ Having these options readily available makes it easier for people in social situations, who are choosing not to drink for whatever the reason is.”
A generational shift
Not that you owe anyone a reason for not drinking: Recent research suggests that Gen Z is drinking 20 percent less than millennials did at their age, who in turn drink less than previous generations, too.
“As generations go on, people are a little bit more mindful of wellness, and people are paying a little bit more attention to what we’re putting into our bodies and let’s face it at the end of the day, alcohol is poison,” says Beltran.
And the marketplace has taken notice: It is estimated that sales in the non-alcoholic category are expected to grow by 25 percent between 2022 and 2026. Even the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, aims for its no and low-alcohol beers to account for one fifth of sales by 2025.
The assumption, of course, is that drinkers have to sacrifice on taste, but, says Beltran, that’s not necessarily the case. “Most of the beers and spirits are traditionally dealcoholized, meaning that alcohol is filtered out after they’ve been brewed,” he says. “So, they’re brewed normally and they come out as a regular alcoholic beer, and then the alcohol is filtered so what you’re left with is traditional beer that feels maybe a little bit lighter, other than that it’s all the same thing.”
Spirits go through this same process: Gin is still distilled from juniper berries and tequila from cactus, and afterwards the alcohol is taken out so that it retains the flavor of the spirit just not the alcohol content.
Along with a new variety of non-alcoholic spirits on the market — like Seedlip, Optimist Botanicals, Monday Zero Alcohol Spirits and more –— is a proliferation of places where one can drink them. Hidden Pearl on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg border, Izzy Rose in Clinton Hill and Maison Premiere in Williamsburg are among the nearly countless number of Brooklyn bars that have non-alcoholic options on the menu.
Even though there are few dedicated fully dry bars in Brooklyn, there are several companies running dry bar pop-ups, including Club Curious. Absence of Proof and Third Place Bar.
On a recent Thursday, Third Place Bar held one of its well-attended pop-ups at Talea in Williamsburg. About 50 people filled up all the seats in the back of Talea’s tap room to sample a flight of four non-alcoholic beers and nosh on tasty house staples like pretzels and hearty mustard.
“The goal is really to create a space for people to socialize and experience a connection with other people without alcohol,” said Sam Bail, 38, who stopped drinking 14 months ago and launched Third Place Bar just a couple months after that.
That night, Talea’s tap room looked like any other bar in Brooklyn, with tables full of people chatting and sipping an array of drinks. The Third Place Bar event served a flight of four non-alcoholic beers, the first three from Talea and the last from Woodland Farms, arranged from light to dark included a passionfruit Riwaka hop water, a lager, a spritzy sour brewed with strawberry and lemon and finally, a dark stout.
Most of the people in attendance seemed of the sober-curious mindset, not necessarily wanting to give up drinking forever, but craving alternatives to alcohol.
“I just saw it advertised on Instagram and I’m trying to drink less this year so I thought it would be cool to check it out.” said Haley West, 31. “I’m getting old and I get too many hangovers.”
Victor Sokolowski, also 31, had a similar reason for being there, “Sometimes I want to go out and not have something too heavy, so it’s nice to have a different beer, a different choice if you’re not in the mood to get drunk. The beers that are coming up are much better than, like, O’Douls.”