5 Jul 2022

State of Play: New Zealand's zero-alcohol brewery

From Afternoons, 1:35 pm on 5 July 2022

After his lifestyle took a dive during Amsterdam's lockdown, craft beer expert Grant Caunter gave up alcohol. 

Now sober for two years, Grant is back in New Zealand producing our first alcohol-free IPA.

Grant Caunter with a dog and a beer can

Photo: Kea New Zealand

State of Play was launched as a local zero-alcohol option for craft beer fans who want to either give up or have breaks from alcohol while still enjoying beer, Grant says.

"Now that there's some tasty, naturally brewed [zero-alcohol beers available in New Zealand], it's actually okay to have a few [of those] in between. You can have your cake and eat it, too," he tells Jesse Mulligan.

Launching a small brand in a product category as niche as zero-alcohol beer was a nerve-wracking prospect, Grant says, but the enthusiastic feedback he's getting gives him faith that State of Play is on the right track.

After Grant posted before-and-after weight loss photos on State of Play's social media accounts last week, he says people have sent him lots of encouragement and positivity.

"It really fills me with the hope that society-wise we're ready for the idea that maybe you're even more of a man to not want alcohol when you go out."

In 2020, Grant and his family were living in the Netherlands, where he'd worked as Heineken's Global Director of Craft & Specialty Beer for four years.

Amsterdam had "a pretty hard lockdown", Grant says, and his days went from "a lot of beer and a lot of chats" to being housebound apart from walks with the 13-year-old family dog.

As "happy hour got a little earlier", Grant's weight went up to 145kg. Then one day in July, he and his wife Nicky decided it was time to give up drinking.

Photo: State of Play

Men are motivated by progress, Grant learned from Aussie sportsman and writer Peter FitzSimons, and the progress that kept him off alcohol was weight loss.

In his 2016 book The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down, FitzSimons claims that men can lose 10kg by giving up booze and 10kg by walking 10,000 steps a day.

Grant took up this advice and says he loved watching himself lose around a kilo every week.

"I had been in just this foggy kind of… procrastinating, worried, middle of the pandemic [mode] and then it all started to kick into gear. Things got easy, I got a bit more in control of my own life.

Because of Europe's excellent range of zero-alcohol beers, Grant says he felt like he was actually getting more out of life without having to give up anything.

"I've never woke up in the morning and [been like] 'Here I am, six o'clock - ping! Time to get on with it!' It was crazy, it was so good."