Inspiration

How we do NoLowNow Reviews

NoLow Review Score Sheet

 

We do a lot of reviews of alcohol-free beer and low alcohol wine and drinks. We’ve recently decided to include CBD based drinks as well. This adds up to a lot of tasting and testing of different drinks.

Before NoLowNow launched we spent a lot of time thinking about what our readers really want from the site. We landed on a simple, straight-talking, place to check out whether a NoLow drink was going to be any good. We don’t think readers want the NoLow equivalent of the 100 point wine scale, rather just an indication, almost swipe left or swipe right for no and low alcohol drinks.

We didn’t quite go that far but we have trimmed it down to two things, the look and feel, and the taste. We score them out of five and at the moment we weight them equally, there’s some discussion that we should weight taste more heavily but right now, balanced it is. We score each attribute out of 5 and then divide by 2 to arrive at an overall score out of 5, simple stuff. As a rule, anything scoring over a 4 is going to be fine, over 4.5 and you might be hard pushed to tell the difference between a NoLow and a full alcohol version.

And that brings up another point. How should you score the taste of a NoLow drink? Should you compare it to its full alcohol cousin or should you consider it as its own thing as a stand-alone drink? Ultimately we’ve ended up somewhere in the middle of this. If a drink is calling itself a Pale Ale, it’s hard not to compare it to other Pale Ales. Conversely, if we’re tasting a CBD new entrant to the market it may not have an equivalent version and so it gets scored from fresh.

Look and Feel is important, how’s the packaging, the brand, how does it pour, what does it look like in the glass, how do I feel when drinking this, for many NoLow drinkers this is almost as important as the taste.

Most of our tastings and reviews will be done solo, one review, one score. But we’re going to be running a number of Happy Hour sessions when we get some friends together to try a bunch of different drinks as we did for the Gruvi tasting session. These should be fun and will produce some more light-hearted comments and thoughts, Finally, next year we hope to add video reviews to bring some of the sessions to live, stand by for more news on that.

Please get in touch if you’d like to see us doing reviews differently or if you have a drink you’d like us to try.

 

What is a NoLow Drink?

NoLow drinks make it easy to enjoy the bar when you’re not drinking alcohol. Some call it a new type of drink. Others call it a movement.  Either way, it’s hard to ignore the impact that NoLow drinks are leaving on the beverage industry.

These no- and low-alcoholic concoctions are giving traditional beer, wine, and liquor brands a run for their money, particularly at a time when global alcohol consumption has seen its first decrease since the turn of the century. With an alcohol content ranging from zero to less than 1.2% ABV, these up-and-coming beverages are seeing steady growth as more consumers are enjoying fewer calories and decreased alcohol consumption while still enjoying great tasting drinks.

Here’s why more people are making NoLow drinks a high priority.

What Exactly is a NoLow Beverage?

NoLow is a portmanteau in the drinks industry meaning no-alcohol and low-alcohol. 

For a drink to be considered NoLow in the UK, the alcohol content must be no greater than 1.2% ABV. Drinks that contain less than 0.05% alcohol are considered alcohol-free and fall within the NoLow category.

In the United States, however, the exact definition is a bit more complicated. Labeling regulations for no or low alcoholic beer, wine, and cocktails aren’t exactly standardized, which adds complexity to the process. For comparison, the average alcoholic beer contains about 4.5% ABV, so a common definition of low alcohol is anything less than 4% ABV, while no alcohol is anything less than 0.5% ABV.

Less Alcohol, More Enjoyment

Drinking remains a social activity – for lots of us, it’s a time to be with friends, relax and share news; now it’s becoming more common to see people leaving out the main ingredient: alcohol. In fact, alcohol consumption is on the decline, while the number of people who don’t drink alcohol at all is rising. 

These shifting preferences are creating a clear path for a new champion, providing a healthier, more desirable alternative to beer, wine, and cocktails

To be clear, NoLow drinks have actually existed for years (we’re looking at you, O’Doul’s), but the increasing consumer interest in health is creating a renaissance for this underrated category. People want to focus on their health, but they don’t want to stop going out. Replacing their typical beer, wine, or mixed drink with NoLow drinks means that they can choose a healthier option which also has great flavor. 

Where to Experience the NoLow Movement

At a time when consumers are increasingly preoccupied with living their best lives in every sense of the word, NoLow drinks are finding their niche, and it’s larger than anyone may have predicted. 

NoLow beer, wine, and cocktails are likely already hanging out at your neighborhood bar or grocer, and if they aren’t yet, they will be soon. Even mainstream brands are joining the NoLow movement, including famed beermaker Heineken, whose Heineken 0.0 beer delivered the strongest growth the brand has seen in more than a decade.

As NoLow continues to build momentum in the beverage industry, rest assured there will plenty of mixologists ready to rise to the challenge of creating new, exciting varieties that will please just about every palate.

How are NoLow Drinks made?

Beer brewing

They might be healthier, but can they taste just as good as the real thing?

No-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks are turning the beverage industry on its head, proving to be more than just a passing fad. Touted simply as NoLow drinks, this trendy collection of low alcohol and alcohol-free beer, wine, and spirits are desirable alternatives to their alcoholic-laden counterparts, and they’re forever changing what a night of drinking looks and feels like.

The question isn’t whether beverage artists can create a suite of drinks for the sober (and sober curious). The real musing is how they do it and whether the resulting drinks can stack up to traditional libations in terms of taste and quality.

Here’s a quick look at what goes into making NoLow drinks that ensure flavor and quality can be every bit as good as the labels you’re used to.

How Alcohol-Free and Low-Alcohol Spirits are Made

Distilling spirits for an alcohol-free or low alcohol variety looks strikingly similar to the traditional process. NoLow pioneer Ben Branson is the mastermind behind Seedlip, the world’s first manufacturer of alcohol-free spirits, and created the concoction in his kitchen using a copper pot distilling method. The recipe includes a variety of spices, herbs, barks, and peels, with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

The end result is most likened to a non-alcoholic gin, a name that Branson says does the drink a disservice.

Ish, another major NoLow brand and inventor of flagship drinks gin-ish and rum-ish, replicates the ingredients of the spirits, not the process. The company uses fresh botanicals, such as coriander seeds, vanilla, nutmeg, and juniper berry, among others, to recreate the traditional flavors without the alcohol’s signature bite.

How Alcohol-Free and Low-Alcohol Beer are Made

0% beers are making waves across the U.S. and Europe and now accounts for roughly 1 in 15 beers consumed in Germany alone. The stigma surrounding asking for a non-alcoholic beer is dropping, and brewers are capitalizing on the opportunity to take this art form to the next level.

Like traditional beer, alcohol-free beer begins with water, yeast, hops, and malt, and are brewed accordingly. In the fermentation process, beer makers are stopping the process with a cold shock before the alcohol content reaches 0.5%.

In a vacuum distillation, which is the case with German beers Frei and Atlantic, the fermented beer flows through a closed system and evaporates. The ethanol boils off at a lower temperature, and the flavor from the vapor is added back into the beer.

How Alcohol-Free and Low-Alcohol Wines are Made

Buonafide Foods is one of the first wine brands to start including a suite of zero-proof wines in their lineup.

According to the company, the wines are crafted using the same winemaking process as traditional varieties but undergo a natural reverse osmosis process to remove the alcohol before bottling. The result is a wine that contains less sugar and calories than both traditional wine AND non-alcoholic wine-like products.

For wines that retain some but not all of the alcohol, a number of special practices may contribute to the process, including fermenting grapes that are less ripe or adding fresh grape juice to dilute the wine.

Drinks makers are constantly finding new ways to make great tasting alcohol-free beer, wine and spirit options, we’ll update this article as we discover new ones.

Who Is Drinking NoLow?

NoLow drinkers

A Guide for the Sober Curious

The NoLow movement is picking up steam in the United States, and it’s bringing a whole new group of beverage enthusiasts with it.

The ‘sober curious’ niche is a new breed of consumers who are actively trying to drink less alcohol but don’t want to leave the social scene behind. Instead, they’re pivoting to low-alcohol and no-alcohol wine, beer, and spirits. They may still enjoy alcohol but want to mix that with alcohol-free drinks along the way.

Tracking the NoLow Movement

The sober curious movement is reshaping what a night out looks like, as well as how the next morning feels. Providing a positive alternative to a hangover without sacrificing the fun, no-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks are earning the attention of multiple generations and niche audiences, and enjoying much acclaim in the process:

Millennials

According to Nielsen, nearly half of all consumers over the age of 21 are making a real effort to reduce their alcohol intake, but this figure jumps to 66% when looking specifically at Millennials. This generation is leading the NoLow movement, with 43% saying they’re turning away from alcohol-heavy drinks as positive health choices.

Also known as the “experience” generation, Millennials are spending less on tangible things and shifting more of their budgets on to traveling and memory-making. Going out for a night of drinking sates their cravings for social experiences, but they’re also increasingly interested in health and fitness. NoLow drinks offer the best of both worlds, giving them an easy way to cut down on alcohol and calories without giving up the social scene.

Gen X

Those born between 1965-1979 (currently in the 40s to mid-50s) are quitting alcohol due to health concerns at a faster pace than Millennials, but many of them still aren’t ready to say no to all alcohol.  With a great choice of no- or low-alcohol drinks, customers can choose to slow down their overall alcohol consumption on a night out, alternating with traditional drinks or sticking to low-alcohol options. 

A recent poll found that adults in this age group are drinking too much and too often, and many of them are looking for a way to change this without giving up nights out with friends. Enter NoLow as a viable solution that provides all the flavor without the fallout.

Niche Markets

No-alcohol and low-alcohol spirits, wine, and beer are, providing welcome options for religious groups, drivers, travelers, people following strict paleo diets and other niche markets. Earlier this year, Virgin Airlines debuted two new no- and low-alcohol drinks in honor of Dry January, a movement dedicated to supporting abstinence from alcohol for an entire month. The goal was to offer something fresh and complex to its non-alcohol-drinking customers, and the company is now serving upward of 100 of their unique concoctions per flight.

Many religious groups do not allow alcohol consumption; many want to socialize with friends and colleagues while staying true to their faith. Likewise, pregnant women don’t want to feel excluded from social events with friends and family, NoLow is for them.

They are finding NoLow beers, wines, and spirits a suitable option. More complex and flavorful than water or sodas, they are low in calories, sugar, and alcohol, it’s a perfect balance designed to be inspirational and inclusive.

The Future of the NoLow Beverage Market

Is NoLow the new YOLO? Though it might not be a household term just yet, it’s hard to ignore the growing practice of trading your go-to bar drink for a NoLow variety. The market value of non-alcoholic beverages continues to climb while alcohol sales have remained largely stagnant (and even dipping for a short period), and experts believe the trend will only continue.