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July 2012

In Flavour of: The End of Dry July

It’s finally arrived: the last day of Dry July. This, I promise, will be the last time I post about it – the usual agenda of beer, beer events and beer culture will resume. But before that, a quick word on non-alcoholic drinks.

They’re terrible. Not all of them, but the vast majority of non-alcoholics are overly sweet and rely on sugar for flavour. While there are some good ones out there (see the Top Five below), most bars don’t offer any of them, relying instead on whatever comes out of the soda gun. I was disappointed that my favourite pub, Galbraith’s, doesn’t even list their non-alcoholic drinks on the menu.

Now I know I’m asking a lot – I already want bars and pubs to offer amazing beers and delicious food – and now I’m requesting they could stock some decent non-alcoholic options for times when you don’t want to imbibe alcohol. But if cafes can do it, why not? The Phoenix range is quite good, as is Charlie’s (especially the old-fashioned lemonade) and I hear in Wellington they even have craft fizzy drink – Harvey Boys.

It’s probably not something I’ll campaign on – I’d rather put my time into beer. And speaking of beer, in one last effort to raise some dough for the Dry July cause, I’m auctioning off my first beer. I’ve set up a TradeMe auction where the winner can decide what my first beer in 32 days will be – will they use the power for good (promote a great beer) or evil (torture me with a mainstream lager)? If you’d like such power, place your bid here.

 Top Five Non-Alcoholic Drinks:

‘Hot Ginga’ – Skalinada Cafe, Mt Wellington
A gorgeous hot lemon and ginger drink that was the perfect temperature and a generous size.

Charlie’s Old Fashioned Lemonade
While many commercial drink makers have forgotten to put the ‘lemon’ in ‘lemonade’, this little beauty is deliciously sour.

t Leaf Earl Grey Blue Flower
I’m a big tea drinker, especially Earl Grey, and this is one of my favourites. And you know it’s good because the Yeastie Boys used it to make their Gunnamatta beer.

Phoenix Organics
I like nearly all the Phoenix drinks – they’re sweet, but not overwhelming so and rely more on the fruit for their flavour. If I had to pick two favourites, it’d be the Honey Cola and Apple & Guava juice.

Chai – Circus Circus, Eden Village
To be honest, I’d had an hour and a half sleep when I drank this and all I can remember was it was hot and comforting. But I’ve got it on good authority it tasted amazing too.

 

 

 

Dry July: Almost There

Here’s what I’ve learnt from Dry July so far:

  • My various random scratches and bruises are not the result of drinking; I’m just  accident-prone.
  • Similarly it’s not alcohol affecting my memory that makes me forget people’s names.
  • Non-alcoholic drinks are, for the vast majority, overly sweet. I’m beginning to think there’s a market for a tasty, dry ginger beer.
  • The people I know are generally lovely and understanding about my Dry July, but I have heard reports that not everyone is so – which I struggle to understand.
  • Not having to rely on public transport to get home is amazing and I can get home in about a fifth of the time.

I’ve faced some pretty tough challenges: a bottle of Hop Zombie arrived on my doorstep, Dad came to town and the Cock’n’Bulls announced they were closing and I may never taste Monk’s Habit again. However, I’m sure I’m going to make it to the end – but it probably wouldn’t hurt if you encouraged me by heading over to my Dry July page and making a donation.

You Can’t Legislate Cultural Change

With the Alcohol Reform Bill making its way through Parliament, there have been many ideas proposed by political parties and advocate groups to ‘change the way New Zealand’s drinking’ and much discussion by the mainsteam and social media. Proposals include: a ban on alcohol advertising, raising the drinking age, and establishing a minimum price. Each of these would have an effect – but just how much and whether it would be the desired one is very much up for debate.

Take the ban on alcohol advertising, which the Labour Party and National Addiction Centre are calling for. I would argue that most alcohol advertising is not aimed at children or even much at teens and therefore isn’t having a lot of impact. A better target would be the American teen movie industry. In films like 10 Things I Hate About YouSuperbad, and anything based on a college campus, excessive drinking is portrayed as leading to hilarious antics, adventures and sex – sure there’s trouble and some injuries, but it’s all in good fun.* These movies establish as young as thirteen that excessive drinking is the key to a good time – but there’s no way the New Zealand government could keep them out, so why bother with alcohol advertising?

The simple truth is, you can’t legislate cultural change. The New Zealand Parliament has tried before – six o’clock closing anyone? – and failed miserably. The only way to get cultural change is for the people in the culture to want to change – to view alcohol as a normal part of dining or a taste experience; not as a pathway to greatness, freedom or whatever it is people want to get munted for. I’ll readily admit I don’t know how to bring such a change about, but I know I’m doing my small part – I don’t binge drink and I don’t party with people who do. And the government had very little to do with my decision to do so.

* I would like to point out though that Superbad does do a fairly good job of balancing the fun of alcohol with consequences – and I love that Emma Stone’s character doesn’t drink at all and doesn’t need to explain her reasons. 

Dry July

As some readers may already know, I’m taking part in Dry July, an event that raises money to support adult cancer patients. For the month of July (all 31 days) Dry July participants give up alcohol and people sponsor them to do so. The money raised goes towards improving the facilities at the Auckland Cancer and Blood Services, namely purchasing purpose-built chemotherapy chairs, making some aesthetic improvements, and sprucing up the garden. These may all seem like little things, but the people at the hospital think they’ll make a real difference – and it’s not hard to imagine why. From what I understand (and anyone with more expertise is quite welcome to correct me), undergoing chemotherapy treatment involves a lot of sitting around letting chemicals drip into your arm with very little to do except look at the wall, talk to the other people receiving treatment and think about, well, probably not great thoughts. I can’t imagine that is good for one’s morale and I can’t imagine that in turn is good for one’s recovery.

All of this was impressed upon me by a story on Three News. Now, I know we can’t trust everything we see on the news, so I went to the Dry July website. I wasn’t overly impressed by what I saw. The tone of the website was a little ‘we all drink too much and it’s about time we did something about it’. I disagree; I don’t think I drink too much. I know this because I won’t be the least bit sad about giving up spirits or wine. But sometimes I feel like there’s always a reason for not supporting this charity or that. When really, you don’t want to sacrifice whatever it is they’re asking you to donate, whether it’s time, money or effort.

Which led me to the conclusion that I really don’t mind giving up beer to make 60 people* a day more comfortable during their difficult time. I will give up Pale Ales, IPAs, Barley Wines, Red Ales, Dopplebocks, Porters, Saisons, and even Stouts in the hope that just one or two more people can keep their spirits up and beat the bastard that is cancer.

If you’d like to support me, you can donate here, or if you think it’s a great cause, but I shouldn’t get any credit, you can give to the Team SOBA effort. Team SOBA is six SOBA members who are giving up one of their great loves to help – and special mention should be made of Greig McGill, who is a fundraising machine.

All that’s left to say is – are you willing to give up the price of two drinks and the time it takes to order them to donate a small amount?

* Edit: while the news article had the number at 300, I have it on good authority the number is closer to 40-60. Still a lot of people every year.

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