The Adelaide hospitality group behind NOLA, Yiasou George and Anchovy Bandit has embarked upon an unlikely project with Victorian craft brewery Bridge Road, raising money and awareness for Dry July.
Big Easy Group teams up with Bridge Road Brewers for Dry July
With the alcohol industry being such an influential and thriving presence in South Australia, we often skip Dry July due to what we call ‘professional commitments’.
However, we are aware of the health impacts of alcohol, and, being in a profession often associated with unhealthy drinking habits, it’s easy to understand the appeal of the month-long booze-free sabbatical.
This year especially, as the Big Easy Group (NOLA, The Stag Public House, Yiasou George, Anchovy Bandit, Bottega Bandito and Bowden Brewery) is teaming up with stalwart Victorian craft brewery Bridge Road to present a high-quality alcohol-free offering to Dry Julyers.
Bridge Road’s SA rep, Dave Lawson, who orchestrated the collaboration, hopes to break down the stigma faced by both alcohol-free drinks and the people who consume them.
“People don’t drink non-alcoholic drinks because they want to save $3-$4 on a beer, they do it for a myriad of reasons – some personal, some practical, like if you’re the designated driver,” Dave says.
“But these people still want to go out and have fun, and they shouldn’t be prevented from doing this simply because there’s no alcohol in their drinks.”
According to Dave, the alcohol-free segment of the market suffers mostly from a lack of quality products.
“Up until recently, there was no market for non-drinkers because the options that existed were shit,” Dave says.
“You could get an eight-month-old Birell covered in dust at a supermarket, and not much else was available. Most people who [went out and] didn’t want to drink just had a soda lime and bitters or another soft drink.
“The ceremonial aspect and sensory experience of opening a can of beer or taking the first sip from a pint is real and it’s powerful. People who don’t drink shouldn’t miss out on a simple luxury like this, and with high-quality alcohol-free products, they don’t have to.”
Bridge Road’s addition to the booze-free class of brews is Free Time, a less than 0.5% ABV pale ale.
The beer has won fans throughout Adelaide’s hospitality scene, including the Big Easy Group, which sees the quality and the intention of the product as being in alignment with their ethos.
“We’ve done non-alcoholic stuff in our venues as long as they’ve been open, but over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a really big increase and we’ve been trying to put a lot more attention into our offerings in this area,” says Jack Booker, Operations Manager at Big Easy.
“So, when a producer like Bridge Road comes out with a delicious non-alcoholic beer, it’s unreal.”
All Big Easy venues stock cans of Free Time pale ale, with exception of NOLA, which has the beer available on tap.
In addition to stocking Free Time, the Big Easy haunts will each have a Dry July cocktail list, with proceeds from these drinks donated to the Dry July Foundation.
Prospect restaurant Anchovy Bandit will take its commitment to the cause a step further. All of the venue’s cocktails will be listed as non-alcoholic, and punters will instead be given the option to add their poison for an additional cost.
Anchovy Bandit and Bottega Bandito venue manager James Roden says the venue has taken this approach based on customer feedback.
“A strong non-alcoholic offering is a big industry trend, but also we’ve gotten direct feedback from customers that they wanted a bigger selection of non-alcoholic drinks,” James says.
“We considered doing a full mocktail list alongside our regular cocktail menu, but in line with this inclusivity idea, of allowing people who aren’t drinking to feel like they’re not missing out on what are normally a bar’s best drinks, we want people to be able to order the same drink, one with booze, the other maybe just without.
“But of course, we’re still a bar, so we’ve got martinis and negronis and all the other classics.”
Jack reckons Dry July is the ideal opportunity to generate awareness around booze-free drinks.
“Dry July is obviously a great time to highlight these non-alcoholic products, in the grander scale of increasing inclusivity,” he says.
“Whether it’s someone having a pint of Bridge Road Free Time at NOLA, or an alcohol-free ouzo shot at Yiasou George, it’s just about normalising and promoting the idea that you can still go out and still have a good time.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Dave, who believes the alcohol-free movement has a range of benefits.
“We’re not trying to change the world, but there’s a lot a stigma around Australia’s drinking culture that good alcohol-free products could help address,” Dave says.
“For example, I’ve also spoken to a few golf clubs who tell me they have prevalent drink-driving problems among their members. Often, these people just want a beer after playing a few rounds of golf with their mates. It doesn’t matter what it is, just something to wet their whistle.
“Alcohol free beers can more than satisfy these cravings and completely eliminate the potential for the danger that comes with drink driving.
“I’ve supplied these golf clubs with some of our Free Time pale ale, and the response has been great. The transition of a pint or two of generic, mass producer lager to our boozeless beers has been seamless.”
The Big Easy Group’s drinks delivery service, Love and Other Drinks, is also working on a non-alcoholic subscription pack, and it will sell cartons of Free Time pale ale throughout Dry July.