Pink Pony Club

Non-alcoholic options are getting better and better as tastes shift

Dry January and Dry February may be over, but for those who have chosen a sober or sober-curious lifestyle, the alcohol-free days don’t end with the turn of the calendar.

Choosing alcohol-free beverages used to mean you’d have to sacrifice taste when choosing one or two sub-par options or ordering pop or just making do with water — but that’s not the case anymore.

The demand for diverse alcohol-free options is higher than ever and the industry is finally finding ways to serve customers quality alternatives, as evidenced by Calgary’s growing list of options.  

Concorde Entertainment regional bar manager Makina Labrecque says creating an extensive and elevated alcohol-free menu has been a personal mission of hers since she started the job half a year ago.

“It’s been a trend that’s gaining in popularity with Dry January and Dry February popping off right now but also just having the option of alcohol-free drinks in general is becoming more common,” she says. As a non-drinker herself, her goal was to make the alcohol-free menu as big and diverse as the alcohol menu.

“When you’re lacking an alcohol-free option or menu, it can make alcohol-free drinkers feel a little bit uncomfortable,” Labrecque says. “Maybe they don’t want to have the conversation about why they’re not drinking.”

Labrecque believes patrons shouldn’t have to miss out on the shared experience of a social gathering just because they choose not to order alcohol, and that’s the motive behind the creation of the alcohol-free menus for Concorde Entertainment.

“We wanted to reinvent the menu to be really inclusive. It’s not taking away from any alcohol sales; it’s just building on the sales that were missing from people that might just order water,” she says.

“It gives people an option to order an alcohol-free cocktail by name, have it show up and look exactly like the rest of the cocktails that are being served in the restaurant,” Labrecque says. The price difference between the cocktails and the mocktails isn’t as much as some would expect, but that’s because of the high-quality ingredients such as alcohol-free spirits, which Labrecque says are more expensive than juices or purees.

“These are craft spirits like you see in the craft alcohol business, but without alcohol,” she says, adding the attention to detail elevates the drink quality as does the ingredients and flavours.

It’s not just the city’s hospitality scene elevating their game when it comes to sober options; the city’s breweries are also stepping it up.

Creating an alcohol-free option – two in fact – was a passion project of Tool Shed’s founder Graham Sherman, who spent years perfecting the process in brewing the Zero Red Rage amber ale and the lighter Zero People Skills beer.

“Making an alcohol-free beer takes a different approach and we finally pulled it off,” Sherman says, adding it was a risk that paid off as both are among their top-selling products.  “I’ve been excited about this movement in the craft beer industry for a long time.”

Zero Red Rage not only won a Gold Medal for the Alberta Beer Awards inaugural best non-alcoholic beer category last year but the year before it won silver against beers that had low alcohol when there wasn’t a strictly alcohol-free category.

Sherman says Tool Shed’s success stems from the fact they create the non-alcoholic version of the beer from the beer they brew instead of trying to create a drink that simply tastes like beer.

“It’s a big difference from the rest of the brewing industry,” Sherman says. The result is what Sherman believes was missing from the industry.

Even though Sherman believed in the product, he is still surprised by its popularity and instant success. “The beer that we produce shows off our amazing local farmers, shows off the greatest barley on the planet,” Sherman says. “In the non-alcoholic world, we’re more accessible than ever before to a wider group of people.

“I don’t think this is a fad; the direction that people are going is to drink more responsibly. There’s a social responsibility that the youth of today have towards drinking that maybe wasn’t there as much when I was growing up,” he says. And that certainly seems to be echoed in the growing number of places around the city that you’ll find quality non-alcoholic drinks that go beyond pop and Shirley Temples.


In addition to Tool Shed, a variety of local brewers and distillers are creating non-alcoholic options. Check some of these out in brewery taprooms, restaurants, bars, liquor stores and even some grocery stores. Or stop by the city’s first completely alcohol-free drink store, Sante Dry Bottle Shop at the Crossroads Market.

Big Rock

Local craft brewing godfather, Big Rock has introduced The Pacer line of non-alcoholic beers, which includes a golden ale and a hazy pale ale.

Cabin — Quench Hop Water

Quench is not a non-alcoholic beer. Instead, it’s a hopped sparkling water that promises a unique flavor twist on thirst-quenching quality.

Confluence Distillery

As part of its canned cocktail offerings, Confluence produces two non-alcoholic drinks — the Tangy Spritz 0% Cocktail and the Non-Alcoholic Gin & Tonic. The G&T in particular is so good you’ll be surprised there’s no gin in it.


Highline Brewery features a line of non-alcoholic sparkling teas on tap in its Inglewood tap room.

Partake Brewing

One of the OGs of the non-alcoholic beer category, Partake’s head office is based in Calgary but its line of exclusively non-alcoholic beers are brewed in Toronto and Cincinnati. You can get Partake beers shipped to your door and they also offer a subscription service.

Village Brewery

Village has four beers in its Cr*ft non-alcoholic line: hazy IPA, easy-going pale ale, blonde ale, and stout. So no matter your taste, they’ve got something for you.

Wild Folk

Made locally, Wild Folk produces a line of non-alcoholic (or as it says, “free spirited”) craft canned cocktails.