Colorado's newest, non-alcoholic drink doesn't taste that bad

Colorado's newest, non-alcoholic drink doesn't taste that bad

VicesSeptember 06, 2019 By Reilly Capps

I'm sober six years now — only weed, mushrooms and certain psychedelics and research chemicals. So social gatherings can be awkward. 

"Alcohol is the only drug where you're looked down upon for not consuming the drug," says Niki Sawni, a Denverite who is part of a growing group of Americans who are "sober curious" or "mindfully drinking." "If I was snorting coke every day, people'd be like, what's wrong with you? But if I'm not drinking on a weekday, people are like, what's wrong with you?" 

Sometimes when I'm out I'll vape chronic — a signal to friends: don't worry, I won't ruin the party — and pretend to drink. Swipe an empty Bud Light bottle, wipe the herpes off, swig bathroom sink water and pee a lot. Or I'll tell people my O'Douls is Coors, and then I'll talk loud and threaten to fight Patriots fans. 

The untenable part is not the moral rot of vice signaling; it's that O'Douls is swill. The spittle on the air tube hanging out of a coma victim's limp mouth is way tastier than O'Douls. 

Niki feels me. To accompany his weed, he wanted a beer-ish drink. "I realized as cannabis becomes more socially accepted, people are going to need a social beverage to have with their pot, and that social beverage is not alcohol," Sawni says, "but it needs to look and feel like beer." 

So he and his pot-loving family — mom, dad, sister — brewed up Gruvi n/a beers and prosecco, and launched this spring. Tagline: 0% alcohol. 100% beer. They have the first non-alcoholic weisse and IPA brews I've  seen, and possibly the best-tasting non-alcoholic beer I've had, fruity and crisp with a little bite. 

To this delicious, low-calorie, non-health-wrecking drink, a few people have reacted as though Sawni personally insulted them. "Why'd you take the fun out of beer?" they'll ask. 

But America might be due for a wave of non-alcoholics. In Europe, there's a huge non-alcoholic culture, Sawni says, with 6 to 8 percent of all beer sales being non-alcoholic. In America, it's .3 percent. 

America brews its n/a's wrong. They brew regular beer, then boil off the alcohol. Flavor lost. Piss water found. Gruvi brews with "arrested fermentation," meaning the alcohol doesn't quite form — and add linalool and limonene — terpenes found in cannabis — for health. 

Gruvi hopes to satisfy the growing subculture of Americans questing for less putrid non-alcoholic drinks. Folks will drive hours to find new kinds. They'll brew their own at home. Mocktails are getting shmancier ($12 for some fizzy juice.) Ceria, a THC-beer company, is coming out with a straight-up n/a beer. Heineken just launched 0.0. Coca-Cola is testing non-alcoholic cocktails. There's Hellraiser n/a and Upside Dawn. There's the Sober Curious podcast. Manhattan has a bunch of sober bars, and Denver's first non-alcohol bar, Bar Zero, opens soon, with an n/a "mixology competition" on Sept. 11

photo - Gruvi prosecco

We're not in Prohibition again — Carrie Nation won't smash your bar — but it is a little Prohib-ish. The hashtags #soberissexy and #partysober sometimes trend under Instagram models with ripped glutes un-sagged by liquid calories, or at dry raves like Daybreaker. Joe Rogan has Sober October. Trump never drinks (yet owns vineyards and started a Vodka line).

From that slice of the culture, Gruvi is getting rave reviews, Sawni says, and flying off the shelf, even at $9.99 for a four-pack. "We'll get someone who's Like, 'I haven't drank in a year and I haven't had anything hoppy,' and they're so happy with us it makes up for all the sarcasm from other people about fun-free beer." Gruvi is looking to expand from Denver.

Party hard. Party smart. Live to party another day.