Shaken Not Slurred: The Non-Alcoholic Movement in St. Louis

    With a growing population more health and wellness conscious, alcohol consumption is taking a dive. But, local bars and brewers aren’t taking a hit; rather they are changing with the times.

    Such as St. Louis’ oldest bar, Pop’s Blue Moon, which goes alcohol-free every Saturday night.

    “The movement is happening, and all I’m doing is tapping into it,” said Joshua Grigaitis, owner of Pop’s Blue Moon

    Grigaitis started this booze-free experiment last November.

    “We take out anything in the bar we feel is a trigger for people, like bar mats or signage. It’s really hard to find a bar without a beer or a neon or something that’s saying ‘Drink alcohol,’” he said. “The message is really heavily engrained into our social spaces.”

    “It’s new experience, but it’s really just like any other night in our bar,” Grigaitis said. “We serve drinks, we have music, we serve food, there’s conversation; visually when you look out into the room, you can’t tell any difference.”

    Pop’s Blue Moon isn’t the only bar in town making their cocktail menu more inclusive to the non-drinker.

    “I really wanted my menu to be inclusive, so everybody who came through those doors had something to enjoy at the bar,” said Laura Coppinger, general manager at The Monocle and The Emerald Room.

    “I’m seeing people of all ages and all demographics and backgrounds coming in and ordering these non-alcoholic beers and cocktails. I think that it is a trend that is turning into a social movement. People are looking for ways to be social and they’re not drinking as much.”

    According to beverage market analysis company IWSR, alcohol consumption among Americans has decreased for three years in a row. And, according to The Wallstreet Journal, non-alcoholic beer sales have grown by 3.9 percent on average for the past five years, while overall beer sales have remained mostly flat.

    Enter St. Louis’ Wellbeing Brewing Company, which has consistently been named top non-alcoholic brew by multiple publications, and brewed right here in St. Louis.

    Normally, when an NA beer is made, the process that takes place is called stop fermentation, which means the brewer uses a yeast strain that tapers off and disappears about three quarters of the way through, according to Wellbeing Brewing brand manager Tom Halaska. Then they boil the beer to remove the alcohol.

    “What [Wellbeing] does, is we fully make beer – ready to drink beer – then we run it through a vacuum distillation process, which allows for us to remove the alcohol at about room temperature, so we don’t really change the molecular structure of the beer, we don’t harm the beer, it doesn’t get boiled or burned. What comes out is a product that has aroma, taste, and health benefits,” Halaska said.

    Yes, health benefits.

    “Beer in inherently healthy,” Halaska said. “It’s the alcohol that negates the health benefits.”

    According to Halaska, all of Wellbeing’s brews are low sugar, low calorie, low carb, and even anti-inflammatory due to polyphenols, which are important molecules used in brewing.

    “There’s beer coming out of St. Louis that’s gaining national attention, and that beer doesn’t have alcohol in it,” Halaska said.

    Currently, Wellbeing can be purchased in 28 states, including Missouri, in Europe, and online.

    “It’s okay to be doing the same thing you would be doing, except without alcohol,” Grigaitis said.