For some silly reason I decided to start 2021 with the Dry January challenge. My commitment was quickly tested by the attempted coup but I managed to persevere. I figured I should share a few of my thoughts from the experience and see if it did what I wanted it to do.
TRIGGER WARNING: I want to be very upfront that in this post I am going to talk about my experience with alcohol. If you are someone who struggles with addiction (or has in the past) or thinks they may have a problem, do NOT read my experiences below as advice or guidance. This is me looking at myself and my unique situation and should not be construed as any type of prescription or model to follow. However, many people may find the thoughts on NA beer useful as well. Thanks, and now onward to the blog…
Before I start I should clarify that I didn’t do Dry January because I felt that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Despite the persona that many people perceive of me, I actually don’t drink large quantities of alcohol and can count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve actually been fully drunk. I’m cursed with a stomach that doesn’t handle large quantities of booze and if I attempt more than 2 beers in a night I am more likely to feel very sick to my stomach if I continue on. It’s a weird quirk of my digestive system, but it keeps me out of trouble. I do drink regularly though, and because of my collector personality, I’m very likely to get flights of beer so that I can sample small tastes of lots of things, as opposed to slamming pint after pint.
Having said all of that, what was I hoping to get out of Dry January?
- Try and lose 1-2 lbs I had regained after my last weight loss
- Determine if alcohol was affecting my sleep
- Determine how my anxiety related to alcohol consumption
Before I dive into my thoughts I want to share a brief word about NA drinks. Even before Dry January I had been incorporating NA beer into my beverage fridge. It’s 30%-50% lower calorie than beer of the equivalent style and still gives a taste that is reminiscent of beer. In the past year I’ve started bringing a couple cans with me to outdoor gatherings as a way to continue to drink something without cracking another beer once I’ve had all that I want. I’m a social eater and drinker (buffets are murder on my waistline) and when I’m around other people who are eating and drinking I naturally join in even if I don’t need to.
To stock up for Dry January I ordered up a bunch of different NA beers. I’m not going to give reviews of everything I drank, but I wanted to call out a few brands that are doing good things.
Hairless Dog: This is a local NA brewery with a few different varieties. Some are good, like the Citra Lager and the IPA, whereas the Black Ale and Coffee Stout are very underwhelming. Unlike many other breweries they also claim true 0.0% beer using a patented process that they don’t talk about. I like supporting local and will gladly pick up a couple of these every now and then, but they need to work on the darker brews.
Wellbeing: Wellbeing is a small craft brewery just north of St. Louis, MO. They are a really solid NA brewery and their Golden Wheat was amazingly good for NA. It had that crisp wheat-y taste and texture with a light and refreshing citrus backbone. The rest of their line up is solid, and their amber is a good effort though still not quite perfect.
Grüvi: I came across Grüvi by accident when shopping for NA wine and boy was I glad I did. Their stout was solid and really impressed me. I also tried their Dry Secco which was a pretty good take on a light carbonated wine. Like Hairless Dog they are a 0% brewery. I haven’t had a chance to sample any of their other brews, but intend to at some point.
Athletic: If you’ve been anywhere near a social media advertisement in 2021 you’ve seen ads for Athletic Brewing. They are everywhere on social media, and honestly that’s for good reason. They are the premier NA brewery in America right now and they earned that title with solid NA beers that have good flavor profiles, familiar mouthfeel, and solid variety of specialty brews. I’m currently a monthly subscriber and get a couple of packs per month delivered to my door. I’ve yet to have one of their beers that I thought was bad. Despite some of them not quite hitting the beer-resemblance mark perfectly, they were very tasty beverages. I luckily got in on their Chocolate Cherry Stout run and that’s been a great winter brew. This is definitely one brewery to check out if you’re interested in NA.
Bauhaus: This is a local taproom that also makes a couple of NA brews. Their ‘Nah’ series has a standard ale and an amber. Both are really solid and it’s great to have an option on tap when out and about as well as in cans to bring home.
Fairstate Co-op: Another local taproom that does a lager style NA that is very crisp and refreshing and a great summer drinker.
Others: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my attempt at NA red wine. Simply put… don’t. It had a weird vinegar taste to it and did not scratch that wine itch. White sparkling wines were decent, but the reds? Not a chance.
I did also get a sampler pack of Ritual Proof spirit replacements. However, they were backordered throughout most of the month so I haven’t gotten to do much with them yet. I did sample each one and they’re interesting, but definitely meant for mixing. Drinking them straight you can tell how they’re using peppercorn spices to mimic alcohol burn and it can be very harsh on its own.
So what did I learn?
If we go down the list of things I wanted to test the first aspect of losing weight didn’t pan out. I wasn’t drinking more NA beer than regular beer, so my calorie intake of beverages was about the same. But, it didn’t have any effect on my weight. Oh well, I guess I just need to run and bike more.
Regarding sleep, this is one area that surprised me. I was expecting that a month without alcohol would help my sleeping, as that’s a common report by many other people. However, in my case I didn’t notice any changes. I was still sleeping about the same number of hours and had a similar number of good night and bad nights of sleep. This might have more to do with the third point which is my anxiety issues.
One thing I did learn throughout all of this is that my anxiety is helped a lot by just a little bit of alcohol. Since I’m not a particularly heavy drinker I’m able to avoid the rebound effect that many people with anxiety get when they drink too much (sobering up can make anxiety worse). In my case a small bit of alcohol really helps to level out the issues going on in my brain, similar to some of the prescription medications that I’ve used. Often times the medications I have act like big hammers, whereas a glass of beer is softer and just takes a little bit of the edge off. I’ve even had multiple doctors suggest a small bit of alcohol in place of some of the harsher drugs that they can prescribe.
I want to be very clear that what is right for me is not a prescription for others. My use and experience with alcohol is unique to me and no one should use my experiences as a guide for if they should, or shouldn’t, drink. I have some very unique situations going on inside my body and that makes my level of consumption work for me.
I think the entire Dry January experience was interesting, and I don’t regret giving it a try. It introduced me to a large variety of different NA options that will stay in rotation throughout the year. It also gave me a chance to assess how my body was handling things, and gave me good insights around maintaining a healthy level of consumption. For now though I’m looking forward to getting back to some of my favorite brews, and trying new and interesting tastes as we travel to different breweries. Cheers!