Shropshire Star

Challenge Dan: Finding the best alcohol-free drinks for Dry January

If you're taking on Dry January this year, you may be looking to treat your taste buds to a decent alcohol-free substitute for your favourite tipple. But, which booze-free bevvies are the best?


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We sent Dan The Man to find out, and he knew just where to look...

Ah Dry January, you most noble and sturdy of ways to start the year! I doff my cap to anyone taking on the challenge this month, but you don't have to deny yourself the fun of a tasty beverage at the same time.

These days, the non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks market is happily massive, meaning there is a great range of choice for those who want to enjoy the taste of their favourite tipple without the subsequent headache. Whether you are a lager lad, a cider lass, keen-o for vino, or in the spirit for a spirit, there's a plethora of alcohol-free options out there for you.

But, how do you navigate what has now become such a big market place? I've tried a variety of alcohol-free beverages in my time, but when set the challenge of finding the best to recommend to you, I decided to enlist an expert...

Mike Dalton and his wife Nicola opened their business, 'Dry', in 2022. Based in Shrewsbury, this alcohol-free beverage emporium is a treasure trove for those who love a drink, but hate a hangover, and are looking for the best tipples in the low-alcohol market.

An aficionado with a passion and a keen eye for alcohol-free products, I knew Mike would be the chap to steer me straight in my search for the tastiest beverages out there for this Dry January. He did not disappoint, and pulled out multiple magnificent options he thought would tick the box for me. It was time to start a' tasting – let's do this...

SHREWS COPYRIGHT NATIONAL WORLD PLC TIM THURSFIELD 03/01/24.Dan Morris tries some of the non alcoholic beverages at Dry Shrewsbury...PICS FOR CHALLENGE DAN FEATURE..

Sober Brummie – low-alcohol beer, 0.5% ABV, Birmingham Brewing Company

The first drink that 'Magic Mike' produced from his well-stocked larder was a light, low-alcohol pale ale. I was keen to find a refreshing alternative to a cold pint at the end of a good day's work, and hoped this might be it. With the first sip, I knew Mike had picked us a winner.

"This is a pale ale from the Birmingham Brewing Company," Mike said. "It's a great beer – really refreshing, a real light taste. Birmingham Brewing Company are an old-style traditional brewer. They do alcoholic drinks as well, but they also do this which is one of their best sellers. They also donate part of their profits to the Midlands Air Ambulance."

The Sober Brummie was refreshing and light, and perfect for those just looking to wet their whistle and relax. I enjoy a decent pale ale, and this is one of the best low-alcohol options I have ever tasted. My mission was going well...

Hobsons Free IPA – low-alcohol beer, 0.5% ABV, Hobsons Brewery Co.

A favourite from Shropshire, Mike recommended Hobsons Brewery's alcohol-free option for those who may prefer a bit of a fruitier beer. It had a full-bodied, hoppier flavour, and the fruity kick was definitely there. I smiled with the first taste; this was another winner for me and a nice alternative to the Birmingham Brewing Company pale.

"This is proving a very popular drink and certainly tourists like buying it because it's a momento of their visit to Shrewsbury," said Mike "This is an IPA, so slightly more hoppy than the pale ale. A bit fruity – it's a really nice beer."

Zeno Alcohol Liberated Red – alcohol-free wine, 0.3% ABV, Zeno

While I'd previously explored supermarket shelves searching for the finest alcohol-free beers, I'd never given a thought to non-alcoholic wine. To be brutally honest, I found it hard to imagine a nice full-bodied red tasting right without an alcoholic kick. Yet, I couldn't have been more wrong. With a flourish, Mike handed me a glass of Zeno's flagship tipple, and I was truly taken aback by its pleasant flavour. Fruity notes were present in the after-taste, and the balance in its aroma was wonderful. Somewhat flabbergasted, I was delighted that Mike had found me an alcohol-free wine I'd be happy to liberally imbibe with dinner.

"Zeno wines are probably our best selling non-alcoholic wines," he said. "They've also won several awards. They're Spanish wines, and they are what they call 'de-alcoholised' wine. These are wines that have been made in exactly the same way as ordinary wines, the only difference being the alcohol is extracted at the end of the process.

"Non-alcoholic wines in particular have had a bit of a bad press over the last few years, and I think what's happening now in the market place and by the producers is they're upping their game. There's a lot more effort and a lot more money going in to producing these kinds of wines."

Ginger Switchel – 'alcohol-free aperitif for the flavour curious', Mother Root

For his final recommendation, Mike was pleased to offer up a 'spirit alternative' that could be enjoyed in a short glass, and – despite its lack of alcohol – packed a mighty kick of its own. The signature product of Mother Root, this one was an absolute blast to finish my tasting session on.

"This is a ginger switchel," said Mike. "A switchel is a type of drink that dates back to the 1700s. It's got an apple cider vinegar base to it, so really good for your gut health. This one's packed full of ginger. It's got a really fiery kick to it; you'll feel it going down."

He wasn't kidding, but the effect was fantastic. When I drink a 'full-fat' spirit, I like to feel the warmth and accompanying kick the alcohol brings. But the geniuses at Mother Root had created this effect without the booze simply through an intelligent and exciting choice of ingredients. According to Mike, they're not alone in having done so.

"What tends to happen, particularly with the herbal aperitifs, is they'll often introduce flavours to replace that kick or burning feeling you get from the alcohol. Ginger is one. We do a Danish non-alcoholic gin where they use a little bit of chilli and also coriander to give it that peppery flavour at the back of your throat. It's just about being more creative really."

Mother Root's Ginger Switchel was my favourite drink of the day, and anyone looking for something to literally spice up their Dry January would do well to grab a bottle.

Mission Accomplished

SHREWS COPYRIGHT NATIONAL WORLD PLC TIM THURSFIELD 03/01/24.Dan Morris tries some of the non alcoholic beverages at Dry Shrewsbury...PICS FOR CHALLENGE DAN FEATURE..

With Mike's help I'd found four fabulous beverages I 'd be happy to recommend to any Dry January buccaneer, and a couple that I intend to keep in stock all year round. Dry January doesn't have to mean you can't have fun with a drink, and there are so many alcohol-free options out there, there is bound to be the perfect one for you. But if you are looking for suggestions, all of the above finds get my seal of approval every day of the week. Cheers!

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