Big Drop was launched in 2016 as the world’s first brewer dedicated to alcohol-free beer by City lawyer, Rob Fink (right) and long-time friend James Kindred (left). Both had recently become fathers and were looking to cut back on the booze but could not find any decent alternatives to their favourite craft beers.
They launched their first beer - an alcohol-free Stout - in November 2016 and then a Pale Ale the following year. Both beers scooped top prizes in beer awards - including ‘World’s Best’ at the World Beer Awards (‘Pine Trail’ Pale Ale has won it twice) and even going on to beat their full-strength rivals in blind-tastings.
The AF-only brewer has since produced acclaimed brews spanning every type of beer - from coconut stouts to pastry sours and everything in between. Known for having bolder, hoppier flavours, they have a reputation for thinking outside the box to brew what beer drinkers love. Its unique brew-to-strength method means that each beer goes through a full and natural fermentation cycle, yet never exceeds 0.5% abv. This means all its beers are packed with flavour and, because nothing has to be removed in the process, they don’t have to comprise on taste just because they’re alcohol-free.
Big Drop is for everyone who, for whatever reason, wants to enjoy a beer but without the alcohol. They could be driving, looking after kids, pregnant, on a diet, going back to work after lunch, getting up early the next day, training for a triathlon. And to be as inclusive as possible, Big Drop has also made a big effort to be low calorie, gluten-free and Vegan-friendly whenever possible.
Rob says: “We sit in the craft beer scene – we’re unashamedly craft and about 80% of our consumers drink alcohol on a regular basis. So, really we seem to scratch an itch that drinkers of craft beer have – that sometimes you just want a great beer, but you don’t want the alcohol.”
“We brew our beer naturally to 0.5% ABV, without the need to artificially extract alcohol like most alcohol-free offerings, but that means we’ve had to turn the rules of brewing upside down.”
“We’ll be making 4.5 million pints of AF beer this year for consumption around the world, up from just 1,500 when we started in 2016.”
“We use a lazy yeast, which isn’t very good at converting sugar to alcohol, as well as brewing at slightly higher temperatures at various points to further inhibit alcohol production. We also use less grain which means there are less sugars available to convert to alcohol, but we use far more types of grain than normal beer which helps amplify the flavour and brings complexity to our beers. We don't just use barley, we use barley, rye, wheat and oats and a number of different varieties of each.”
Big Drop can now be found in over 20 countries worldwide – including throughout Europe, Australia, Canada and the US.
Whilst overall alcohol sales fell in 2020-21, the Pandemic appears to have led to an increase in consumption of low and no alcohol, with retail sales growing 50% year-on-year (Kantar: 52 weeks ending 21 Feb 2021). On this basis and with sales growth of 150%, Big Drop has been outperforming an already fast-growing sector by a factor of three.
As you would expect in Lockdown, its retail and direct-to-consumer sales channels went mad whilst the on-trade fell into a state of slumber. Interestingly though that demand has not been dented at all by pubs and restaurants opening-up again, suggesting that the thirst for alcohol-free beer is growing – and particularly for home consumption.
As unlikely as it sounds, Big Drop has landed ALL of the major international objectives it made at the start of 2020 - ie before anyone had heard of Coronavirus. It’s now brewing in the US, Canada and Australia – selling nationwide in each of those territories via colossal listings such as LCBO (660 stores) and Dan Murphy’s / BWS (1,100 stores). And it’s not just listings that it’s winning abroad… it’s already been named Brewery of the Year at the Melbourne International Beer Competition and awarded Gold medals at the US Open Beer Championship. With ‘boots on the ground’ in the form of Territory Managers, Big Drop is also having doors opened overseas by board advisors that include Mark Hunter, the former Global CEO of Molson Coors, and Stefan Orlowski, former President Europe of Heineken.