In Berlin you can now find a specialist store and online shop selling non-alcoholic beer, rum, gin, vodka and wine. Those behind the business do not see themselves as Spaßbremsen (killjoys) but as followers of the ‘mindful drinking’ trend.
The Späti (short for ‘Spätkauf’, or late-night buy) is Berlin’s answer to a Kiosk (off-licence or convenience store).
In February this year, Null Prozent Späti opened its doors in the hip district of Kreuzberg. Both the store and online shop offer a constant selection of beer, rum, aperitifs, gin, vodka and tequila, as well as wines such as merlot and chardonnay. It should be noted that the store itself only stays open until 8pm.
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The trend towards alcohol-free products has been clear across the beer market for years, and demand is now growing.
The brand Martini is heavily peddling its non-alcoholic aperitifs and an alcohol-free bar named Zeroliq has also opened up in the neighbouring Friedrichshain district in east Berlin.
The owners of the Späti, who hail from southern Germany, say ‘’we have more than 200 non-alcoholic alternatives on offer, which helps to answer the question of what to drink when you’re not drinking”.
Katja Kauf, 29, and Isabella Steiner, 32, trace their concept back to ingrained drinking habits that often go unquestioned, such as having a mimosa in the morning, an Aperol in the sun, or a Feierarbendbier (after-work beer).
Kauf and Steiner enjoying alcohol-free drinks. Photo: DPA
The founders say that a social culture still prevails whereby it can seem difficult to turn down a drink “without being coaxed into it, not taken seriously, judged or branded a killjoy”.
Aside from this, there are many reasons to forgo alcohol. The Kreuzberg innovators are primarily interested in new, tasty botanicals. Steiner, who comes from the Lörrach area, stresses that they are “saying yes to non-alcoholic alternatives rather than no to alcohol”.
The cliché target audience of pregnant women is just a small section of their market: over the last six months, online orders have come in from across the country, from Hamburg to Munich, Freiburg to Stuttgart.
Steiner and Kauf are planning to write a book on ‘mindful drinking’, an approach that promotes exercising caution with regards to our drinking habits.
Isabella Steiner also recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that “we believe that 2021 will be the year of the non-alcoholic drink. Berlin is often where new trends are pre-cooked, or in our case pre-bottled, and diversity is always a talking point here – why does this not also apply to our drinking habits?”
According to the Federal Office of Statistics, German beer sales in 2020 were down 5.5 percent as compared with the previous year. The impact of bar closures and lockdowns can be seen in the sharp decrease in consumption, but sales in Germany have been falling for some time, with a 22.3 percent decrease since 1993.
The average consumption of sparkling wine and spirits also fell in 2020, by 2.1 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.