Why Alcohol-Free Beer Sales Are Rising in Germany
An increasing number of German restaurants and bars are showcasing extensive alkoholfreies bier sections on their menus.
The Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law), which states that beer can only be made with hops, malt, water and yeast, celebrated its 500th anniversary last year. While Germans are still proudly drinking the freshest, most legally-protected beer around, alcohol-free beer is having a moment. At 0.5% alcohol or less, alkoholfreies bier has just a tenth of the alcohol content as your standard brew, so you’d have to drink (at least) ten to get a buzz. Over the past few years, an increasing number of German restaurants and bars have begun showcasing extensive alcohol-free beer sections on their menus, while Munich’s popular Oktoberfest serves a wide range of non-alcoholic beers for designated drivers, pregnant women and people who’re avoiding alcohol but don’t want to miss out on the taste of a damn good German beer. (Rumor has it that if you get too sloshed at Oktoberfest, alcohol-free beer could very well turn up in your stein, and you may not even question the difference in taste, because, as we mentioned, you're too sloshed.)
“Beer is high culture in Germany; it’s in their DNA,” says Armin Buehler, Radeberger Gruppe USA's head of marketing. “While non-alcoholic has the obvious functional benefits, we’ve learned that consumers globally—especially in Germany and Europe—are starting to make conscious decisions to opt for a great tasting product without the alcohol.”
For the German consumer, the brand is more important than the price, so the taste is still a key factor—even when it comes to alcohol-free beer. Clausthaler, the pioneer non-alcoholic German beer founded in the 1970s, is paving the way. Due to Clausthaler’s success and acceptance, many famous German beer brands like Löwenbräu and Spaten have released their own lines. “Clausthaler is a crafted adult beverage that is refreshing, qualitative and authentic and has no alcohol or added sugar,” says Buehler. “Our mission is to break out of the dusty non-alcoholic mold, which includes market innovations such as our non-alcoholic Dry Hopped and non-alcoholic Radler.”
As for the U.S.? Low ABV is a trend that’s here to stay.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their alcohol intake and see low-alcohol and alcohol-free variants as a healthier alternative, while still allowing for participation in traditional cultural events,” says Andrew Curran, Beverage Analyst for Canadean.
There’s no denying the appeal of a Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Beer or Summer Shandy, two delicious less-boozy beverages, on a warm autumn day. Yet Clausthaler, which recently made their Premium Lager and Clausthaler Dry Hopped available stateside, says that the U.S. is “lagging” behind in terms of popularity. “That said, all large brewers are entering the non-alcoholic/low-alcohol category and are starting to invest heavily as beer sales continue to decline,” says Buehler.