People across Scotland are abstaining from booze, but still want to enjoy a social night in the pub. Suzy Pope looks at the small businesses concocting alcohol-free spirits and beer

Z ero Tolerance, One Year No Beer, Dry January, cries on Twitter to stop teetotal shaming at work nights out; there’s no denying there’s a shift towards lowering our alcohol intake. Whether it’s cutting back on the weekly units, or abstaining for a week, a month or a year, a lot of people are dropping the drink. Students (students!) are cutting back. In a survey conducted by SpareRoom, 45% of 18–34 years-olds said low alcohol and soft drinks were their go-to at the pub.

In the last few months, successful crowdfunding and Kickstarter campaigns have seen small-scale breweries and distilleries start to plug the alcohol-free gap in the market. Here’s a round-up of some of the best indie projects providing quality alternatives to the booze.

JUMP SHIP BREWING The end of 2019 saw the launch of Scotland’s first dedicated non-alcohol brewery. For founder Sonja Mitchell, cracking open a beer after a long day at work was ‘more about ritual than alcohol’. She wanted to emulate that feeling without the scratchy head the next day. The majority of alcohol-free beers on the market were still made using big, industrial processes, leaving a chemical taste on the tongue. Jump Ship created a small- batch beer where every stage of the brewing process was monitored and adjusted for flavour. Their first beer is a light lager called Yardarm. Canned on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Sonja pedals (literally, delivering by bike) her beer across the city to indie off- licences and bars. Yardarm is a crisp, dry lager best drunk straight from the fridge. Sipping it in the summer sun will mean enjoyment without the headache. Jump Ship Brewery is experimenting with a low-alcohol ale for future release, so watch this space.

FERAGAIA Scotland’s first alcohol-free spirit launched in January with positive reception. Distilled in the Lowlands, Feragaia is a mix of botanicals found across Scotland’s landscape. Co- founders Jamie and Bill both come from a background in the spirits business and noticed that most alcohol-free alternatives were distilled the same way as booze, the alcohol stripped away at the end of the process, as an afterthought. They wanted to distill a spirit designed to be non-alcoholic from the beginning, offering a cocktail-ready replacement for growing the non-alcohol crowd. Feragaia plays with a subtle balance of 14 botanicals, all but two from Scotland. The foundation is green tea and wrack (seaweed), with woody notes of bay, orris root and liquorice root. The attention to balance and flavour make it a heady basis for non-alcoholic Old Fashioneds, Negronis or simply with tonic.

EDEN NIL St Andrews’ gin distiller Eden Mill wins the best name for its non-alcoholic offering. Working closely with the people at The Secret Herb Garden, their faux G&T has the same attention to the balancing of botanicals as their gins. ‘Year on year, we’ve seen a 25% increase in sales of alcohol- free alternatives,’ Paul Miller, co-founder of Eden Mill


says. Eden Nil is simply a response to that demand. Water, juniper, cardamom, coriander and lemon balm are the main components. The ingredients are simple, but combine to create a refreshing, all-natural drink.

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their crowdfunding IMMACULATE G&T After smashing in December, the ladies behind Women’s Enterprise Scotland have launched Immaculate; a substitute to the G&T. One of the founders, Lynn Cadenhead, wanted to create a tasty alcohol- free equivalent to a G&T after an operation caused her week- long hangovers. ‘All I wanted was the taste of a classic and zingy G&T, but all that was really on offer was the standard artificial sugar-laden drinks,’ she says. So Immaculate was born, not only to avoid the hangover, but to keep sugar levels low. What’s more, 50% of Immaculate’s profits are invested into projects which help women entrepreneurs in Scotland.

Immaculate is a pre-mixed gin and tonic alternative, so you don’t have to worry about balancing the flavour. They also partner with The Secret Herb Garden, so each sprig of lemon balm and calendula is fresh. The juniper gives it that classic gin taste while coriander and cardamom add a bit of exotic warmth. Immaculate is due to be fully launched in May. We’re seeing the same story over and over small companies backed by crowdfunding to create a low or non- alcohol equivalent of our favourite drinks. The drinks trade is starting to catch up with the shift in demand. After all, it’s what the crowd wants.

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