Sláinte! Ireland’s pubs embrace sobriety

The BBC report that across Ireland, while the pub is still a key part of the social fabric, drinking culture in the country has changed a lot in the past two decades.

Specifically, the stereotype of the booze-lovin’ Irish drinker is no longer true.

Alcohol consumption has fallen, and zero-alcohol drinks are on the rise. By some estimates, sales of non-alcoholic beer more than tripled between 2017 and 2021. And research by Drinks Ireland shows alcohol consumption in the country has decreased by around 30% in the past 20 years. While the behavior change is cross-generational, it’s more pronounced among younger age groups.  

A range of cultural changes, from increased alcohol prices to working from home, have challenged the central role of Irish pubs in the social fabric.

These cultural changes have ushered in a new era of experimentation, including the introduction of alcohol-free pubs and venues that offer more than just a drinking experience. Some are poised to take advantage of the trend.

In January, Board Dublin, a non-alcoholic board games bar on Dublin’s Clanbrassil Street, opened its doors. Chris Raymond, head of marketing at Bodytonic, which owns the pub, says that they started it because the owners and management team found their socializing was no longer being centered around alcohol. “That’s where our desire to open an alcohol-free bar came from,” he says. “We’ve been wanting to do a games bar for a while, the two just went hand-in-hand.”

Raymond adds they had noticed the growth in the non-alcoholic drinks category in their other pubs (which include Pot Duggans, in Ennistymon, County Clare; The Lighthouse in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin; and The Bernard Shaw in Dublin 9) and the variety they can serve, with non-alcoholic wines and spirits, draft Guinness 0.0 and Heineken 0.0, plus kombucha on tap

Irish hospitality consultant Barry Cassidy sees this as an evolution in the culture.

The way consumers are behaving with alcohol now is evolving, it’s about more food, experience and entertainment occasions. There will be a merging with wellness and hospitality. I think pubs will be central to that, because they are social environments, they just might be lighter on the ‘social lubricant’.

All of this is a massive opportunity for Irish kombucha companies to gain a foothold in pubs around the Emerald Isle.

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