Near Beer

Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Considered a Relapse?

“Is non-alcoholic beer considered a relapse?” I asked myself.  Most people working a 12-step recovery program will avoid anything that  contains traceable amounts of alcohol and at .05%, drinking non-alcoholic beer is to be dodged.

Drinking non-alcoholic beer is like walking on a slippery slope according to The Journal’s November issue: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. In the publication a team of California scientists report, “smell may be enough to trigger cravings and a subsequent relapse among certain alcoholics.” Scientists trained rats to self-administer beer and a bitter liquid, flavored banana and orange respectively. Alcohol and the anticipation of alcohol increased the levels of the brain chemical dopamine in the rats. Dopamine levels, which play a role in feelings of euphoria and pleasure, increased in the rats’ brains before and after smelling the “alcohol-related cues.”

[su_frame align=”center”]Relapse with near beer?[/su_frame]Just the word, “beer,” can trigger the anticipation of a drink and cause salivation. The ritual of cracking open the bottle or popping the can, triggers some people. The smell can cause a craving, and the taste, though not exact, reminds many people of drinking the real thing.

Alcoholics and drug addicts are people who have lived in denial and attempted to bend the rules wherever and whenever possible. It is the nature of the beast and if there is a loophole, someone with an addiction problem will find it. Would a recovering heroin addict use a needle injected with non-opioid heroin? You might think it has nothing to do with a Near Beer, but doesn’t it? Grey areas to addicts and alcoholics are danger zones to be avoided at all costs. Non-alcoholic beer exists in that fuzzy, grey area that people trip over all the time.

Anything that could potentially damage sobriety isn’t worth it.  The “duck test” is a good idiom: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck…chances are…it’s a duck. It’s called “beer,” it’s made to look like “beer,” taste like “beer,” and it’s advertised to refresh like “beer.” The decision to drink a non-alcoholic beer is a personal one and no one can decide this but the individual. Exercising some self-examination is a good way to find out:

[su_box title=”“Why do I want to drink a non-alcoholic beer?”” style=”glass” box_color=”#22687b”]Do I feel out of place and hoping I’ll feel more apart of if I drink non-alcoholic beer?

Does non-alcoholic beer remind me of the real thing?

Am I romancing the drink? (getting pleasure from pretending I am a drinker)

Am I ambivalent about my recovery and romancing the old days?[/su_box]

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that as many as 90% of alcoholics will experience one relapse in the four years after they quit drinking. With this information, doesn’t it seem like a smart idea to stay away from anything that will weaken your resolve and give more power to a disease that is know for being, “cunning, baffling and powerful?”

  • Leslie Kelley
    Posted at 11:22h, 30 July Reply

    Thank you for posting this. It has been on my mind since I saw a young man buying near beer and it made me wonder about people in recovery. It makes total sense that it could be a trigger.

    • Martha
      Posted at 10:59h, 01 August Reply


      Thanks for your comment. It is definitely a trigger for some!

  • craig larue
    Posted at 12:51h, 31 July Reply

    If a recovering person is avoiding near beer because of the alcohol content, they should be reading the labels of all the foods they consume to make themselves aware of the fact that many processed foods contain more alcohol than near beer. However, I suspect that most people who take a stand against people in recovery having a nonalcoholic beer are more concerned with their holier than thou attitude than they are with their powerlessness over alcohol.

  • Robert
    Posted at 14:41h, 31 July Reply

    I just celebrated 20 years of sobriety Tuesday. I drink them occasionally when I’m out in a bar. Only because I don’t want to take a chair/stool at the bar and my bill is only 15-20$. When somebody else could be sitting there running up a much bigger tab

    • Jacob Klinger
      Posted at 16:19h, 31 July Reply

      Congrats on the 20 years of sobriety. I think it’s easy for some to overlook the minimal alcohol content since %.05 isn’t going to alter someones state of mind like a real beer will. Networking for my job constantly puts me in bars and lounges, I don’t order a near beer, I order a club soda or diet ginger ale (exciting right?). My tab is still low and I’m perfectly comfortable with a sparkling beverage while others drink alcohol.

      To me, there are black and white guidelines so as to not play in the grey area. I don’t drink beverages with alcohol in it nor do I suggest my sponsees do either. This isn’t about alcohol being used in cooking, alcoholic thinking is cunning, baffling and powerful, I play it safe by not playing at all.

      • Martha
        Posted at 19:08h, 31 July Reply


        Great comment. It is hard for many of us to live in the grey. Thanks so much.

    • Martha
      Posted at 19:06h, 31 July Reply

      Thank you for your post, Robert. Congratulations on 20 years. I love recovery because there are so many different stories and not one way works for every person.

  • Martha
    Posted at 17:21h, 31 July Reply

    Craig, You’re right, there are many foods with a higher alcohol content than non alcoholic beer…some people in recovery avoid things like Kombucha, eating Tiramisu or dark chocolate, etc., some do not. Some people are triggered and some are not. As the article states, “The decision to drink a non-alcoholic beer is a personal one and no one can decide this but the individual.” I can’t say what motivates people in recovery but I really appreciate your take on this topic!

  • Using Medical Marijuana for Pain In Sobriety
    Posted at 00:02h, 25 October Reply

    […] Related post – Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Considered a Relapse?  […]

  • niko
    Posted at 00:35h, 04 April Reply

    I just did this today witb 3 years of sobriety and I talked with 6 close peers. All agreed I didn’t relapse but they really pushed me to look at my program. It really triggered me and I won’t do it again. DEF a slippery slope!

  • Chris M
    Posted at 02:15h, 06 September Reply

    Thanks for the article. I am open with other AA members that I drink Bud Prohibition that has zero alcohol. Many look at me like I am shooting heroin. My response is that if I shouldn’t drink it because it creates an association with the real stuff, then I shouldn’t drink pop or juice either because alcohol goes into those too. I am in the category of someone who doesn’t get triggered by it. As others here have said, the program is individual to each alcoholic.

Post A Comment

Download Our Brochure To Get More Information About Who We Are And What We Do!



Thank You, please check your inbox for the brochure download.