IT has long been the butt of uncomplimentary jokes but brewers of alcohol-free beer are enjoying the last laugh.
A new survey has revealed that non-alcoholic beer is increasingly socially acceptable.
It found that 48 per cent of adults in Scotland have tried alcohol-free beer compared to the national average of just 43 per cent.
More than 20 years on from Billy Connolly’s famous adverts for Kaliber alcohol-free lager, the market for non-alcoholic beers has risen sharply.
According to industry data published for the first time today, sales in supermarkets and off-licences have risen by almost 10 per cent in the past year as drinkers attempt to reduce their alcohol intake.
The new research indicates that almost half of people – 49 per cent of British adults – believe alcohol-free beer is more socially acceptable than it was five years ago. This research is backed up by industry data showing significant growth – 8.4 per cent – during 2013-14.
The findings are the result of a ComRes survey for AB InBev UK, which also indicated that 43 per cent of British adults have tried alcohol-free beer, with more than half of men (54 per cent) having consumed the beverage.
In addition, 59 per cent said they would feel comfortable ordering alcohol-free beer in front of friends in a pub or restaurant.
The most likely reasons for trying alcohol-free beer given by the British public were that they were driving (46 per cent) or they were curious (39 per cent).
The most popular alcohol-free beer is Beck’s Blue, brewed by AB InBev, whose sales outside of licensed premises have risen by 20 per cent in the past year.
Jennifer Anton, Marketing Manager for Beck’s at AB InBev UK, said: “It is encouraging to see so many Scottish customers choosing to try alcohol-free beer. Offering consumers choice is an important part of our commitment to responsible drinking and we are proud to brew Beck’s Blue.”
Low alcohol or alcohol-free beer has been around since the Middle Ages, when it was often drunk as a substitute for contaminated water. During the Prohibition era in America the law was changed to prohibit the sale of any beer stronger than 0.5 per cent alcohol.
Yesterday, Pete Brown, author of Man Walked Into a Pub, said: “Alcohol-free beer has improved over the years. I have nothing against it but if I’m not going to drink a proper beer I will have a lime and soda. The challenge with it is improve the taste as they do often taste fairly bland.”