Given the rise of craft producers making alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits, the creation of a bar dedicated to them has an air of the inevitable about it. And yet there’s an air of the inexplicable too: don’t most of us go to bars to drink alcohol?
Sure, the options for non-alcoholic variations of classic drinks seem to be expanding exponentially, but that's coming off a low base. So, is there enough of a market for alcohol-free drinks in Australia?
The team at a Melbourne distillery look set to answer such questions when they open Australia’s first dedicated non-alcoholic bar, the Brunswick Aces Bar, in late April. But, as Brunswick Aces brand director Stuart Henshall says, the question of whether or not people want to enjoy an alcohol-free bar has already largely been answered for them.
“We didn’t really plan on doing something like this so soon in our journey but we get constant questions from costumers asking us where they can try our products and where to go,” he told The Crafty Pint.
“We felt we could do this ourselves and wanted to create a space where people can try a full range of drinks, from cocktails to beer and wine, with the only thing that’s missing being the hangover.”
The Brunswick Aces Distillery was founded in 2017 and launched with a range of sapiirs – an alcohol-free distilled beverage featuring botanicals with origins dating back to the Middle Ages – with the aim being to create a zero percent gin alternative. The distillery has since expanded its range to include 40 percent ABV gins too, placing it in a unique position of moving from focusing on people looking to avoid alcohol to those looking to moderate their intake too; Brunswick Aces' ultimate goal is to normalise alcohol moderation.
Stuart says it will look and feel like a typical bar. And, as well as being alcohol-free, the other point of difference at the Brunswick Aces Bar will be the onsite distillery.
“You’ll actually be able to sit a few feet away from where the sapiir is being made and watch the distillation process and learn everything about how we produce it,” Stuart says.
The Crafty Pint explored the rise of alcohol-free beer on multiple occasions last year, with stories including that of the launch of a dedicated online alcohol-free retailer, while our sole Getting Blind With Crafty session of 2020 was dedicated to such beers too.
Beer drinkers who walk into Brunswick Aces will be able to pick from local non-alcoholic options from producers such as Sobah and Heaps Normal; the bar will also offer beer and wine from other parts of the world. The alcohol-free cocktail menu will feature a range of classic spirits made sans alcohol from a simple G&T to Negronis, espresso martinis and Tom Collins.
As for whether or their own alcoholic gin will ever pour at the bar, Stuart says it's a discussion they’ve had within the team.
“We thought we might be a bit cheeky,” he says. “Non-drinkers have spent decades going into places and only having something like a lemon, lime and bitters, or just one option to drink, so we might limit the alcohol offering to just a very simple gin and tonic.”
Even then, of course, they’ll likely be keeping a close eye on anyone ordering a gin; it’s not a bar for getting boozed, after all.