According to Drinks Ireland, the trade body representing drinks manufacturers and suppliers, alcohol consumption in Ireland is decreasing. From 2017 to 2018, wine sales alone dropped 2 per cent, which it links to our high alcohol taxes. But the IWSR, which monitors drink trends globally, found a 1.6 per cent decrease in alcohol consumption worldwide for the same period.
The IWSR report suggests the movement away from alcohol is part of a wider health-and-wellness trend, and advises drinks manufacturers to seize the opportunity to enter the growing low- and no-alcohol categories. In the UK, 65 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds (the heaviest drinkers) surveyed said they are trying, or have tried, to cut back on their alcohol intake.
We found it a hard sell at first, because people have tried bad alcohol-free wines in the past, but once they try it they usually keep ordering it
“When we introduced the concept here we were laughed at,” says Cassidy. “But we’ve seen a huge shift led by consumer demand. A lot of our customers are over 40. They’ve had their fun with alcohol but are now trying to reduce their consumption for health reasons. Others have deadlines to meet, an early gym session or are driving but still want to socialise. Sugary mocktails don’t cut it any more.”
Wicklow Wolf, one of Ireland’s most successful craft breweries, recently launched an alcohol-free beer called Moonlight. It’s brewed like its other beers but with a fraction of the malted barley, meaning there’s much less sugar to be fermented. Like its IPAs and pale ales, Wicklow Wolf uses dry hopping, where hops are added later in the process, to give it extra flavour and compensate for the missing alcohol.
“We wanted it to be just as flavoursome as our other beers, and change people’s expectations of what alcohol-free beer tastes like,” says founder Simon Lynch. “For too long they were terrible, but now there are excellent versions for the growing number of people who want to enjoy these drinks, not endure them.”
The brewery recently sponsored a hill-running event in the Wicklow mountains, with Moonlight offered to runners as they completed the race, which they described as “a great partnership”.