In my last blog, Alcoholiday, I wrote about recalibrating my 40 year relationship with booze. I was helped by following Annie Grace’s challenge in The Alcohol Experiment: 30 Days to Take Control, Cut Down or Give Up For Good.

A conversation with staff member Laura in one of my fave pubs, The Delaval Arms in Seaton Sluice, sent me on a mooch around the internet. Laura raved about the alcohol free (AF) beers created by The Big Drop Brewing Company and this led me to Andy Mee’s award-winning mail order business The Alcohol Free Drinks Company.

Andy Mee: AF Champion

I ordered a mixed case of AF beers from this Wetherby-based company. I love stouts and porters and was keen to sample Big Drop’s Milk Stout and Hazelnut Porter. Sadly they weren’t in stock so Andy sent me some alternatives plus some extra drinks to sample. My order arrived quickly and I was impressed at the sturdy packaging!

I had fun sampling lagers, beers, ciders and even a can of Mojito sent by Andy. I’d ordered various IPAs for my Gentleman Friend to try. He liked them but after some reflection told me the IPAs tasted of “chemicals.” He added that all the AF lagers he’d tried during our tasting sessions hit the spot for him.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I’ve never been a spirits person. I’d go as far as saying that down the decades I’ve defined myself by my love of red wine. I went alcohol free for most of 2013 and was aided by Sainsbury’s own brand of De-alcoholised German red wine. This time round I went for Torres Natureo De-alcoholised red from Spain, suggested by Laura from The Delaval Arms. I found it worked with food but ultimately, it is no substitute for alcoholic vino.

Over the past few months I have sampled AF wine, beer, lager, cider and mocktails. Here are my top five AF and Low Alcohol recommendations based on taste and satisfaction.

Sam’s Brown Ale

In first place is Sam’s Brown Ale. This dark brown beer from Sam Smiths has everything I look for in a beer. It smells of Newcastle Brown Ale and is deeply satisfying. It’s 0.4% alcohol and has a wonderful vintage label. This is my Numero Uno AF Beer. Yummy Yumkins.

Smashed Berry

A close second is Smashed Berry Fruit Cider made by Drynks Unlimited. The can instructed me to “Drink Ice Cold” and wow did it hit the spot after a busy day at work. Dee-lish-us! I loathe sweet ciders.This is dry, fruity and only 96 calories. It’s 0.0% too. Old Mout’s AF cider has got nothing on this can of perfection.

Guinness Zero

In third place is Guinness Zero. There’s nothing I like more than chatting to friends over a pint or two of Guinness. I find Guinness Zero deeply satisfying. The taste and texture is spot on and sitting in Whitley Bay Comrades Club with a poetic comrade, I felt the Guinness warmth. This 0.0% drink is a worthy substitute for the original. I’ll drink to that.

Peroni Libera

Fourth place goes to Peroni Libera. I happened upon a pack of this in my local Co-op. First we had Kaliber and then we had Becks Blue but nowadays most big name brewers are producing AF beer. You can have Moretti Zero in bottles and Heineken 0.0. on draft. I enjoy all of these AF versions. The only exception for me is Cobra Zero. I just don’t like the taste. The opposite of true of Peroni Libera. I love it. It’s 0.0.% and mighty satisfying. Perfect to have with food or on its own. Erdinger Wheat Beer used to be the after-work-on-a-sunny-day AF refresher I stocked my fridge with but now it’s Peroni.

Waitrose Low Alcohol

My fifth choice is Waitrose’s own brand Low Alcohol Cider. At 1% this is the most alcoholic drink in this blog. Delightfully dry, this is great to drink on its own or with food. It’s also good to cook with. I love it. Very satisfying.

I also want to mention other tasty AF beers including Drop Bear New World Lager , FUNGTN Chaga Lager and Polish beer Karmi Zurawina which tastes of cranberry, cherry and chocolate. Yum! Thanks Andy from The Alcohol Free Drinks Company for that bottle. He also sent me samples of Myth Dark Rum and Myth White Coconut Rum alternatives. I really liked them. Thanks! I’d also like to mention Nozeco which you can find in most shops. It’s a perfectly acceptable alternative to alcofizz.

So what happened after my booze-free month of March/April? Well, as I mentioned in my last blog, I wanted to recalibrate my relationship with booze. I reckon I’ve done that and I feel a good deal happier about booze and with myself.

I’ve cut out home alone drinking and ended my ludricously expensive and calorific habit of buying wine by the glass in pubs. My fridge and cupboards are well-stocked with AF goodies and when I’m out with friends I know I can stick with AF drinks or have a beer. It’s my choice. I’m in control.

Last weekend I went out for a Mexican meal at Chuchos on Newcastle’s Shields Road and drank San Miquel 0.0%. with my burrito. I followed this with a modest pub crawl in Ouseburn which led to The Cluny for a gig by LA punk band The Flat Worms. The next morning I woke up clear-headed and energetic. Cutting down on drinking has improved my mental and physical well-being. I’m going to stick with my Low Alcohol Life.

Karmi Zurawina from Poland

Thank you very much to Andy Mee for opening my mind to AF possibilities. You are an inspiration, sir and I will be buying from you again. Cheers, my dear to Laura at The Delaval Arms for sound advice on craft ale and lifestyle choices.

Laura runs a monthly book club at the pub. If you fancy joining the group or perhaps trying the weekly Tuesday night quiz hosted by the divine Ashleigh, then follow the pub on Facebook.