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The Placebo Effect, Cool A.F.


Twenty twenty-two is totally teetotal for this Tracy. It’s easier than the last time I had a year off in 2012. There is a much broader range of non-alcoholic beverages on the market, even new fangled premixed mocktails.

A decade ago I relied on Bavaria 0% lager as a Friday tipple. It was cheap (50 pence a can), but only available at the big Tesco at the foot of the Walk. None of the other shops around Leith Walk stocked alcohol-free (AF) beer back then. Well my friends, the landscape has changed. In the name of research, we ran a Balfour Street tasting panel and here’s what we found:

Jump Ship Lager: Let’s start with Scotland’s first dedicated AF brewery, Jump Ship, based in Leith. Yard Arm is the lager and the cans feature a funky nautical design – it’s easy to see why they picked up a Scottish Taste award last year. Full flavoured and slightly bitter, it’s thirst quenching on a sunny evening. Locally available at the Windsor Buffet, the Dreadnought and A very good place to embark on your adventure.

Big Drop Milk Stout: We love this! It’s the closest we can find to Pilot Mochaccino Stout. Smells like vegemite with an authentic deep, rich stout flavour. I’m not a big fan of their IPA’s but the stout is worth the procurement effort. As their website says ‘beer so good, you won’t miss the alcohol’.

Better Days: Harking from the Scottish Borders, Better Days (a dedicated AF brewery) makes ‘beer for doing’. I love the idea of a beer which leaves no hangover; a key point in their marketing. It ain’t cheap, at £2.50 for a 330mL bottle, but the lager has a clean fresh flavour and the pale ale ain’t bad either. Nice bottle design too.

Brew Dog: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Brew Dog do an accessible AF range, at around a quid a can, delivered. Choose from lager, IPA, hoppy ale or hazy IPA, with packaging similar to the full-ethanol range.

Erdinger Weissbier: It’s a Germanic tradition to enjoy AF wheat beer after exercise. Apparently it’s the perfect isotonic drink, and it tastes pretty good too. We were given a bottle at the finish line of the etape Caledonia cycle sportive, and it was the best thing in the world for me at that moment (after cycling over 100km quickly). Leith Depot has been known to sell out, and AF beers have around half of the calories of their counterparts (220 calories in the 5% alcohol version, 125 kcal in the 0.5% version).

Impossibrew: A discovery from Dragon’s Den, this is apparently the first adaptongenic AF beer in the UK. Brewed with nootopics, i.e. ‘smart drugs’ or cognition improvers. Their enhanced lager does seem to give a mellow effect. Or is that the placebo effect? Try for yourself at

Co-op’s low alcohol (0.5%) Cabernet-Tempranillo is hands down my favourite AF wine. It has body and depth, and yes, it even has legs. It’s also readily available at both Scotmid shops on Leith Walk for £3. The first time I bought it from the ‘ravers Scotmid’ (the shop that used be open 24 hours), the cashier gently asked me if I knew it had no alcohol in it. A disgruntled customer has once mistaken it for an alcoholic bargain. It’s hidden away on the shelf behind the ATM, so you really need to know what to look for.

Rawson’s Retreat low alcohol Cabernet Sauvignon is an Aussie tipple which used to be my fav until Tesco inexplicably stopped stocking it. Even though it’s less gutsy than a boozy cab sauv, and good enough to pour into a wine glass and enjoy with a meal. Apparently it’s now available for a fiver from Sainsbury’s but I’ve not found it locally.

Having been disappointed by Seedlip distilled non-alcoholic spirit, I was excited to try 0% Tanqueray gin on my birthday. The flavour is authentically botanical, especially when served with a good tonic. However, much of my enjoyment of the G & T, was centred around the ritual of preparing it. For overall flavour I prefer Ish’s premixed mocktails in a can - the Daiquiri is very convincing. They’re made in Copenhagen but you can get them from, which is a great place to discover new AF drinks. More are being introduced to the market every week.

N.B. The price of AF spirits is similar - and sometimes more than - their alcoholic cousins, and I confess I did feel a tad ripped off.

And so we come to Sentia: A brand new concept in drinking, this ‘active botanical’ spirit from GABA Labs with a blend of functional botanics (including the relaxing 5-HTP) is meant to induce a similarly sociable mood as booze. The brain behind GABA Labs is Professor David Nutt, the neuropsychopharmacologist who was sacked as the government’s drug tsar in 2009, a day after claiming that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol. Prof Nutt also co-owns a wine bar in London with his daughter – it’s a funny ol’ world.

Finally, a call out to Leith shops to start stocking a wider Alcohol Free range. Tweet your finds and favourites to me
@traceygriffen ■

Info: Tracy will be running her annual Leith Festival workshop How to Get Fit Without Really Trying on June 14 tickets directly


Tracy’s favourite: Ish’s non alcoholic Daiquiri

The price of AF spirits is similar, and sometimes more than, their alcoholic cousins and I confess I did feel a tad ripped off



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