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An alcohol-free Oktoberfest?

Okay, while not as dramatic a trend as this headline might suggest, there is a growing demand for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers in Germany.

Germany is a country well known for its fondness for beer served in very large glasses at any time of the day, and last year we covered the trend of alcohol-alternative options increasing. However in recent times there’s been a shift in the drinking habits where it’s more about the beer, and less about the alcohol.

The German Brewers’ Association notes that in 2014, 5.03 million hectolitres (500 million litres) of alcohol-free beer was produced in Germany, and since 2010 the market in alcohol-free beer has grown by 50 per cent. In beer gardens and bars across the country, it’s the norm to see people drinking low-alcohol beer, alcohol-free beer or the flavoured ‘Radlers,’ which are mixes of beer and lemonade (or other types of soft drink). Alcohol-free beers are generally wheat beer style and there are many brands on offer.

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Low alcohol beer has always been available, but in Australia it’s often seen as a ‘weaker’ choice for those who are restricted by some other constraint, like driving or being pregnant, or those who’re not following their civic duty of consuming quantities of alcohol. But in Germany the decision to steer clear of full-strength beer appears to be a socially acceptable one to make – people prefer the flavour of the less potent beers, or they are conscious of minimising their alcoholic intake.

This trend is not limited to Germany moreover; there are reports that in other European countries such as France and Spain, drinking habits are shifting and alcohol consumption is becoming a more conscious act. In Spain, a study revealed that in 2013 60% of Spanish beer-buyers bought non-alcoholic beer, rising to 69% in the 45-64 age group.

So why the shift? It seems to be about health, where consumers want to reduce their alcohol intake but don’t want to miss out on the social experience of drinking with their friends.

Here in Australia we are seeing some indication of growing awareness of the health improvements to be gained by drinking less. In the most recent National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 49% of people said they had taken action to reduce their drinking in the last year for health reasons.

If the beer-loving Germans can challenge their stereotype, do you think we can too?

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Let us know by commenting below, have you tried alcohol-free beer? Can you imagine celebrating Oktoberfest or a footy game with one?