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2023-12-22 2:05 pm
Heaps Normal beer on a bar counter. Two beer glasses and a bowl of peanuts sit behind the cans

How a booze-free beer is shaking up Australia’s drinking culture

March 5, 2024
April 19, 2022

When you’re cutting back (or cutting out) your alcohol intake, booze-free options that actually taste good are pretty hard to come by. Alcohol-free beer brewer (and Bank Australia customer) Heaps Normal is changing that. We chatted to co-founder Andy Miller to find out how.

Psshhht. Hear that? That’s the sound of a can being cracked open. A can of Heaps Normal. It’s an alcohol-free beer that actually tastes like beer.

Not so long ago, a trip to the pub when you’re not really drinking didn’t serve up a whole of options. A pint of water? Hydrating, but you’ll bloat if you have more than one. A few pots of lemon lime and bitters? Tasty, but packed full of sugar. A non-alcoholic beer? Fine, if you must…

“One of the reasons why non-alcoholic beer hasn’t tasted that great is because it’s mostly brewed by companies that also brew normal beer,” explains Andy Miller, one of the co-founders of Heaps Normal, who have been Bank Australia customers since 2021. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of innovation or love put into it. I think because a lot of brewers have traditionally thought, ‘What’s the point? It’s not real beer.’”

Heaps Normal cans placed symmetrically in front of a dark blue background

Andy, along with mates Ben Holdstock, Peter Brennan and Jordy Smith, had an idea. Given the lack of options for people wanting to cut back on their alcohol intake – particularly those who didn’t necessarily identify as sober – they decided to have a crack at brewing their own.

“We consider ourselves beer fans. We really enjoying drinking beer, and we like the taste,” says Andy. “So we set out to try and create something that we were proud to take to a barbecue or drink at a gig. We wanted to make something where you didn’t have to convince yourself you were drinking a real beer, because it tasted like one.”

Head brewer Ben, who’s worked with some of Australia’s leading craft beer brands, took on the challenge to create a booze-free beer with gusto.

“If we were going out to make an XPA or a Pale Ale, he would've been able to do that immediately – just write the recipe and we could've launched,” Andy says. “But he really did have to go back to square one and rewrite the entire brewing process.”

After months of trialling recipes (and a few failed brews), Benny hit upon a winner – Heaps Normal’s Quiet XPA – and the delicious brand was born.

When Heaps Normal frothed onto the scene in 2020, it came at a time when many Australians, living through COVID lockdowns, were reassessing their relationship with alcohol.

“COVID has definitely been a catalyst for that change,” Andy explains. “We noticed a generational decline in alcohol consumption and an increase in spending on health and wellness activities. In the last two years, people have definitely reassessed what’s important to them.”

Two hands hold Heaps Normal cans behind a crème backdrop

While the Heaps Normal team is on a mission to change drinking culture, they’re not about cutting out booze altogether. Rather, they’re providing options for people who want something different.

“It’s not about if you’re drinking or not drinking, or if you drink a Heaps Normal or a regular beer,” explains Andy. “It’s more about how it fits into your lifestyle and your drinking habits. It’s an option – not something that needs to replace your favourite normal beer.”

“We want to help people see that there’s more than one way to view a product like ours in changing drinking culture,” Andy says. “There needs to be an inclusive approach that takes into account different people’s ‘normals’. Something we’ve noticed over the last 12 months is just how many people are discovering different ways that this product can be incorporated into their lifestyles.”

Promoting the idea of different types of ‘normal’ fits in with Heaps Normal’s ethos of using business as a force for good.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can to be a net positive impact on our community,” Andy explains, “and Bank Australia is a really great partner in being able to achieve that.”

We’re proud to have so many excellent customers doing great things for the world. Read more about them here.

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