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Alcohol and Health

What Is the Reality of Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Published:
January 10, 2024
·
18 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
January 10, 2024
·
18 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
January 10, 2024
·
18 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
January 10, 2024
·
18 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
January 10, 2024
·
18 min read

You're at a barbecue, surrounded by the smell of sizzling burgers and the sound of laughter. Your friend hands you a frosty beer, beads of condensation running down the side. You take a sip and ... surprise! It's non-alcoholic. But wait — it tastes just like the real deal. Welcome to the curious world of non-alcoholic beer, a beverage that's been quietly revolutionizing the beer industry and our social gatherings. Curious to know more about “zero alcohol beer,” wondering how much alcohol (if any) is in non-alcoholic beer, or looking for a non-alcoholic beer list? You’re in the right place!

Behind the Brew: How Beer Without Alcohol Is Made

Regular beer and its non-alcoholic cousin start the same way: with water, hops, yeast, and grains. Regular beer brewing hinges on fermentation, the process during which yeast turns sugars from the grains into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It's a delicate balance of chemistry and timing, resulting in the alcohol content that characterizes traditional beers.

Non-alcoholic beer undergoes a special process, either by limiting the fermentation or by removing the alcohol after fermentation. Here’s how these processes work:

  • Limited fermentation. Here, brewers tweak the process to either limit the activity of the yeast or use less fermentable sugars. This method prevents the formation of significant amounts of alcohol right from the start. 
  • Alcohol removal. In this approach, regular beer is brewed first, and then the alcohol is removed. This can be done through several methods like vacuum distillation, which involves heating the beer at low temperatures under vacuum conditions (so the alcohol evaporates without affecting the flavor), or through filtration methods, such as reverse osmosis.

Flavor Preservation

The biggest challenge in creating beer without alcohol? Keeping the flavor intact. Alcohol contributes to the body, mouthfeel, and aroma of the beer. Without it, the beer can taste flat or unbalanced. That's why brewers adjust ingredients and techniques to mimic regular beer’s full-bodied taste. They might add special malt varieties, non-fermentable sugars, or even innovative yeast strains to achieve this.

But Wait, What Does “No Alcohol” Actually Mean? 

For those trying to cut back on booze, there’s an important question: how much alcohol is in non-alcoholic beer? As it turns out, some non-alcoholic beers still contain a smidgen — usually less than 0.5%, which is about the same as a ripe banana. This tiny amount usually doesn't have an intoxicating effect, making these beers a safe choice for those avoiding alcohol.

As for specific beer brands of non-alcoholic beer, the exact alcohol content isn’t usually a true “zero,” although it may be labeled as such. Since the law requires beverages labeled as alcohol-free to contain less than 0.5% — and since getting the percentage to a true zero is basically impossible — it’s likely that most have some trace amounts.

For example, does Heineken Zero have alcohol? Although it was originally branded as “0.0,” a 2021 lawsuit by a woman from Louisiana proved otherwise: as it turned out, it had around 0.03%. As for Bud Zero alcohol content, the answer is probably similar. 

The Taste Test

There's a whole world of non-alcoholic beer flavors waiting to be explored. Gone are the days when non-alcoholic meant compromising on taste. Today, these beers come in a wide array of styles, each boasting its unique profile. Some brands have even won awards, standing toe-to-toe with their alcoholic counterparts! The key? Quality ingredients and brewing innovation. Let's explore what each type has to offer.

  • Classic lagers. Lagers are the quintessential beer type, known for their crisp, clean taste. Non-alcoholic lagers maintain these characteristics, offering a light, refreshing option. They typically have a balanced malt and hop flavor, making them an easy drink for any occasion — perfect for a sunny day barbecue or a casual get-together.
  • Ales. Ales are a broad category, encompassing a range of styles from pale ales to stouts. 
  • Pale ales. These often have a noticeable flavor and aroma of hops, with a balance of malt sweetness. They can range from light and floral to bold and citrusy.
  • Stouts and porters. For those who love a darker, richer beer, non-alcoholic stouts and porters are a treat. They often have robust flavors of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt, offering a hearty, satisfying experience.
  • Wheat beers. Wheat beers are known for their hazy appearance and smooth mouthfeel. Non-alcoholic wheat beers retain these characteristics, often with the addition of fruity and spicy notes. They’re typically light and refreshing, with flavors ranging from banana and clove to citrus and coriander.
  • Craft creations. The craft beer movement has not left non-alcoholic beers behind. Creativity meets brewing in craft non-alcoholic beers, which can include unique flavors of tropical fruits, exotic spices, or even coffee and chocolate. They're perfect for people looking to expand beyond traditional beer flavors.
  • Seasonal and specialty brews. Just like their alcoholic counterparts, non-alcoholic beers can come in seasonal and specialty varieties. Think pumpkin ales for autumn, spiced holiday brews, or summer citrus infusions. These are often produced in limited batches and offer unique flavor experiences.
  • International varieties. Non-alcoholic beers are not just a trend in one region or country. From German non-alcoholic Weissbiers to Belgian-style alcohol-free ales, there's a global palette to explore! Each region brings its traditional brewing techniques and local flavors to the table, making for an exciting international tasting journey.

Beer With Benefits

There are several key health benefits to choosing alcohol-free beer over its boozy counterpart.

  • Lower caloric content. One of the most immediate health benefits of non-alcoholic beer is its generally lower calorie count compared to alcoholic beer. This makes it an appealing option for those watching their weight or looking to shed some pounds. (However, because the caloric content varies significantly between brands and types, it's still important to check the labels!)
  • Liver-friendly. Since non-alcoholic beer is virtually free of alcohol, it's much gentler on the liver. For people looking to support their liver health, switching to non-alcoholic beer can be a smart move. It allows us to enjoy beer without the hepatotoxic effects of alcohol.
  • Hydration hero. Unlike its alcoholic sibling, non-alcoholic beer can actually contribute to hydration! Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose fluids. In contrast, non-alcoholic beer, which is predominantly water, can help maintain hydration levels, making it a potentially good post-exercise drink. Some athletes even use it as part of their recovery routine, thanks to its balance of electrolytes, carbohydrates, and plant-based nutrients.
  • Rich in nutrients. Non-alcoholic beer can be a source of essential nutrients. It often contains several B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. The brewing process also produces antioxidants, which can help reduce bodily inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Heart health benefits. Some studies have suggested that moderate consumption of non-alcoholic beer may offer cardiovascular benefits. The polyphenols and antioxidants found in beer, which are retained in non-alcoholic versions, can improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.
  • Better sleep and reduced anxiety. The hops used in brewing beer are known for their sedative properties; some studies suggest non-alcoholic beer can reduce anxiety and improve sleep, thanks to its hops content. This can be particularly beneficial for those who are sensitive to caffeine or looking for natural ways to relax.

The advantages extend beyond physical health:

  • Alcohol-free pregnancy option. For pregnant women who miss the social aspect of drinking beer, non-alcoholic beer offers a safe alternative. It allows expectant mothers to enjoy beer’s taste without the risks associated with alcohol during pregnancy. However, it's always advisable to talk to a healthcare provider before including non-alcoholic beer in a pregnancy diet.
  • Social game-changer. Booze-free beer allows us to join in the toast without the tipsy. It's perfect for designated drivers or anyone cutting back on alcohol for health reasons — a way to get the social experience of drinking beer, minus the alcohol.

Trouble Brewing

While non-alcoholic beer is a great alternative for many of us, it's important to talk about the risks and considerations associated with it to make informed decisions about including it in our lifestyle.

  • That trace alcohol factor. The tiny bit of alcohol we mentioned earlier? Although insignificant for most people, this trace amount can still be a concern for some of us. For those in recovery from alcohol addiction, even this small amount might trigger cravings or relapse. It's crucial for people with a history of alcohol dependence to consult with a healthcare professional before including non-alcoholic beer in their diet.
  • Caloric and nutritional content. While non-alcoholic beer is often lower in calories compared to alcoholic beer, it's not calorie-free. Some varieties may also contain sugars and carbohydrates. For those monitoring their calorie intake or managing conditions like diabetes, it's important to consider these factors and not overdo it. Always check the nutritional label to make informed choices.
  • Gluten and allergens. Most beers, including non-alcoholic varieties, are made from grains like barley and wheat, which contain gluten. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should opt for gluten-free non-alcoholic beers, which are increasingly available in the market.
  • The cost factor. Another downside? Non-alcoholic beer can be more expensive. The additional steps in brewing and removing alcohol add to production costs. But considering the health and social benefits, it might just be worth the extra pennies!
  • Social and psychological impacts. For some, drinking non-alcoholic beer in social settings might lead to questions or pressure to consume alcoholic beverages. It's important to be comfortable with your choice and have strategies to handle social situations where alcohol is present.
  • Potential for cross-contamination. In environments where alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers are both served, such as bars or parties, there's a slight risk of cross-contamination. This is particularly a concern for people recovering from AUD or those avoiding alcohol for health or religious reasons.
  • Interaction with medications. Even the small amount of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer can interact with certain medications. If you're on medication, especially those that advise against alcohol consumption, consult your healthcare provider before adding non-alcoholic beer to your routine.

Seven Steps to Non-Alcoholic Nirvana

  • The taste test challenge. Buy a variety of non-alcoholic beers and conduct a blind taste test with friends. Rate them for flavor, aroma, and overall experience.
  • Mindful Monday. Replace your usual Monday night beer with a non-alcoholic version. Observe how you feel the next day compared to a regular beer evening.
  • Cook with it. Experiment by cooking with non-alcoholic beer. It can add a unique flavor to stews, marinades, and even desserts.
  • Fitness first. Try having a non-alcoholic beer post-workout. Some athletes swear by it for rehydration and recovery — though, remember, water is still the best!
  • Host a sober soiree. Throw a party where non-alcoholic beers are the stars of the show. It's a fun way to introduce friends to the world of alcohol-free beverages.
  • Pair it up. Learn about pairing non-alcoholic beers with food. Just like wine, different non-alcoholic beer varieties can complement different dishes.
  • DIY beer tasting notes. Keep a journal of the non-alcoholic beers you try. Note their taste, aroma, mouthfeel, and your overall impression. It's a great way to become a non-alcoholic beer connoisseur.

The Future Froth

The non-alcoholic beer market is bubbling up. With increasing health awareness and a growing trend towards mindful drinking, non-alcoholic beers are not just a fad — they're here to stay. Intrigued? Try it out for yourself! You may just discover your new favorite booze alternative.

You're at a barbecue, surrounded by the smell of sizzling burgers and the sound of laughter. Your friend hands you a frosty beer, beads of condensation running down the side. You take a sip and ... surprise! It's non-alcoholic. But wait — it tastes just like the real deal. Welcome to the curious world of non-alcoholic beer, a beverage that's been quietly revolutionizing the beer industry and our social gatherings. Curious to know more about “zero alcohol beer,” wondering how much alcohol (if any) is in non-alcoholic beer, or looking for a non-alcoholic beer list? You’re in the right place!

Behind the Brew: How Beer Without Alcohol Is Made

Regular beer and its non-alcoholic cousin start the same way: with water, hops, yeast, and grains. Regular beer brewing hinges on fermentation, the process during which yeast turns sugars from the grains into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It's a delicate balance of chemistry and timing, resulting in the alcohol content that characterizes traditional beers.

Non-alcoholic beer undergoes a special process, either by limiting the fermentation or by removing the alcohol after fermentation. Here’s how these processes work:

  • Limited fermentation. Here, brewers tweak the process to either limit the activity of the yeast or use less fermentable sugars. This method prevents the formation of significant amounts of alcohol right from the start. 
  • Alcohol removal. In this approach, regular beer is brewed first, and then the alcohol is removed. This can be done through several methods like vacuum distillation, which involves heating the beer at low temperatures under vacuum conditions (so the alcohol evaporates without affecting the flavor), or through filtration methods, such as reverse osmosis.

Flavor Preservation

The biggest challenge in creating beer without alcohol? Keeping the flavor intact. Alcohol contributes to the body, mouthfeel, and aroma of the beer. Without it, the beer can taste flat or unbalanced. That's why brewers adjust ingredients and techniques to mimic regular beer’s full-bodied taste. They might add special malt varieties, non-fermentable sugars, or even innovative yeast strains to achieve this.

But Wait, What Does “No Alcohol” Actually Mean? 

For those trying to cut back on booze, there’s an important question: how much alcohol is in non-alcoholic beer? As it turns out, some non-alcoholic beers still contain a smidgen — usually less than 0.5%, which is about the same as a ripe banana. This tiny amount usually doesn't have an intoxicating effect, making these beers a safe choice for those avoiding alcohol.

As for specific beer brands of non-alcoholic beer, the exact alcohol content isn’t usually a true “zero,” although it may be labeled as such. Since the law requires beverages labeled as alcohol-free to contain less than 0.5% — and since getting the percentage to a true zero is basically impossible — it’s likely that most have some trace amounts.

For example, does Heineken Zero have alcohol? Although it was originally branded as “0.0,” a 2021 lawsuit by a woman from Louisiana proved otherwise: as it turned out, it had around 0.03%. As for Bud Zero alcohol content, the answer is probably similar. 

The Taste Test

There's a whole world of non-alcoholic beer flavors waiting to be explored. Gone are the days when non-alcoholic meant compromising on taste. Today, these beers come in a wide array of styles, each boasting its unique profile. Some brands have even won awards, standing toe-to-toe with their alcoholic counterparts! The key? Quality ingredients and brewing innovation. Let's explore what each type has to offer.

  • Classic lagers. Lagers are the quintessential beer type, known for their crisp, clean taste. Non-alcoholic lagers maintain these characteristics, offering a light, refreshing option. They typically have a balanced malt and hop flavor, making them an easy drink for any occasion — perfect for a sunny day barbecue or a casual get-together.
  • Ales. Ales are a broad category, encompassing a range of styles from pale ales to stouts. 
  • Pale ales. These often have a noticeable flavor and aroma of hops, with a balance of malt sweetness. They can range from light and floral to bold and citrusy.
  • Stouts and porters. For those who love a darker, richer beer, non-alcoholic stouts and porters are a treat. They often have robust flavors of chocolate, coffee, and roasted malt, offering a hearty, satisfying experience.
  • Wheat beers. Wheat beers are known for their hazy appearance and smooth mouthfeel. Non-alcoholic wheat beers retain these characteristics, often with the addition of fruity and spicy notes. They’re typically light and refreshing, with flavors ranging from banana and clove to citrus and coriander.
  • Craft creations. The craft beer movement has not left non-alcoholic beers behind. Creativity meets brewing in craft non-alcoholic beers, which can include unique flavors of tropical fruits, exotic spices, or even coffee and chocolate. They're perfect for people looking to expand beyond traditional beer flavors.
  • Seasonal and specialty brews. Just like their alcoholic counterparts, non-alcoholic beers can come in seasonal and specialty varieties. Think pumpkin ales for autumn, spiced holiday brews, or summer citrus infusions. These are often produced in limited batches and offer unique flavor experiences.
  • International varieties. Non-alcoholic beers are not just a trend in one region or country. From German non-alcoholic Weissbiers to Belgian-style alcohol-free ales, there's a global palette to explore! Each region brings its traditional brewing techniques and local flavors to the table, making for an exciting international tasting journey.

Beer With Benefits

There are several key health benefits to choosing alcohol-free beer over its boozy counterpart.

  • Lower caloric content. One of the most immediate health benefits of non-alcoholic beer is its generally lower calorie count compared to alcoholic beer. This makes it an appealing option for those watching their weight or looking to shed some pounds. (However, because the caloric content varies significantly between brands and types, it's still important to check the labels!)
  • Liver-friendly. Since non-alcoholic beer is virtually free of alcohol, it's much gentler on the liver. For people looking to support their liver health, switching to non-alcoholic beer can be a smart move. It allows us to enjoy beer without the hepatotoxic effects of alcohol.
  • Hydration hero. Unlike its alcoholic sibling, non-alcoholic beer can actually contribute to hydration! Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose fluids. In contrast, non-alcoholic beer, which is predominantly water, can help maintain hydration levels, making it a potentially good post-exercise drink. Some athletes even use it as part of their recovery routine, thanks to its balance of electrolytes, carbohydrates, and plant-based nutrients.
  • Rich in nutrients. Non-alcoholic beer can be a source of essential nutrients. It often contains several B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. The brewing process also produces antioxidants, which can help reduce bodily inflammation and oxidative stress.
  • Heart health benefits. Some studies have suggested that moderate consumption of non-alcoholic beer may offer cardiovascular benefits. The polyphenols and antioxidants found in beer, which are retained in non-alcoholic versions, can improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.
  • Better sleep and reduced anxiety. The hops used in brewing beer are known for their sedative properties; some studies suggest non-alcoholic beer can reduce anxiety and improve sleep, thanks to its hops content. This can be particularly beneficial for those who are sensitive to caffeine or looking for natural ways to relax.

The advantages extend beyond physical health:

  • Alcohol-free pregnancy option. For pregnant women who miss the social aspect of drinking beer, non-alcoholic beer offers a safe alternative. It allows expectant mothers to enjoy beer’s taste without the risks associated with alcohol during pregnancy. However, it's always advisable to talk to a healthcare provider before including non-alcoholic beer in a pregnancy diet.
  • Social game-changer. Booze-free beer allows us to join in the toast without the tipsy. It's perfect for designated drivers or anyone cutting back on alcohol for health reasons — a way to get the social experience of drinking beer, minus the alcohol.

Trouble Brewing

While non-alcoholic beer is a great alternative for many of us, it's important to talk about the risks and considerations associated with it to make informed decisions about including it in our lifestyle.

  • That trace alcohol factor. The tiny bit of alcohol we mentioned earlier? Although insignificant for most people, this trace amount can still be a concern for some of us. For those in recovery from alcohol addiction, even this small amount might trigger cravings or relapse. It's crucial for people with a history of alcohol dependence to consult with a healthcare professional before including non-alcoholic beer in their diet.
  • Caloric and nutritional content. While non-alcoholic beer is often lower in calories compared to alcoholic beer, it's not calorie-free. Some varieties may also contain sugars and carbohydrates. For those monitoring their calorie intake or managing conditions like diabetes, it's important to consider these factors and not overdo it. Always check the nutritional label to make informed choices.
  • Gluten and allergens. Most beers, including non-alcoholic varieties, are made from grains like barley and wheat, which contain gluten. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should opt for gluten-free non-alcoholic beers, which are increasingly available in the market.
  • The cost factor. Another downside? Non-alcoholic beer can be more expensive. The additional steps in brewing and removing alcohol add to production costs. But considering the health and social benefits, it might just be worth the extra pennies!
  • Social and psychological impacts. For some, drinking non-alcoholic beer in social settings might lead to questions or pressure to consume alcoholic beverages. It's important to be comfortable with your choice and have strategies to handle social situations where alcohol is present.
  • Potential for cross-contamination. In environments where alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers are both served, such as bars or parties, there's a slight risk of cross-contamination. This is particularly a concern for people recovering from AUD or those avoiding alcohol for health or religious reasons.
  • Interaction with medications. Even the small amount of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer can interact with certain medications. If you're on medication, especially those that advise against alcohol consumption, consult your healthcare provider before adding non-alcoholic beer to your routine.

Seven Steps to Non-Alcoholic Nirvana

  • The taste test challenge. Buy a variety of non-alcoholic beers and conduct a blind taste test with friends. Rate them for flavor, aroma, and overall experience.
  • Mindful Monday. Replace your usual Monday night beer with a non-alcoholic version. Observe how you feel the next day compared to a regular beer evening.
  • Cook with it. Experiment by cooking with non-alcoholic beer. It can add a unique flavor to stews, marinades, and even desserts.
  • Fitness first. Try having a non-alcoholic beer post-workout. Some athletes swear by it for rehydration and recovery — though, remember, water is still the best!
  • Host a sober soiree. Throw a party where non-alcoholic beers are the stars of the show. It's a fun way to introduce friends to the world of alcohol-free beverages.
  • Pair it up. Learn about pairing non-alcoholic beers with food. Just like wine, different non-alcoholic beer varieties can complement different dishes.
  • DIY beer tasting notes. Keep a journal of the non-alcoholic beers you try. Note their taste, aroma, mouthfeel, and your overall impression. It's a great way to become a non-alcoholic beer connoisseur.

The Future Froth

The non-alcoholic beer market is bubbling up. With increasing health awareness and a growing trend towards mindful drinking, non-alcoholic beers are not just a fad — they're here to stay. Intrigued? Try it out for yourself! You may just discover your new favorite booze alternative.

Summary FAQs

1. What exactly is non-alcoholic beer and how is it made?

Non-alcoholic beer starts like regular beer with water, hops, grains, and yeast. The difference lies in the brewing process, where either fermentation is limited or alcohol is removed afterward. This results in a beer with the flavor of regular beer but almost no alcohol — typically less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).

2. Does non-alcoholic beer taste like regular beer?

Yes, modern brewing techniques have significantly improved the taste of non-alcoholic beer, making it very similar to regular beer. There are various types available, including lagers, ales, and craft beers, each offering a unique flavor profile.

3. Are there health benefits to drinking non-alcoholic beer?

Non-alcoholic beer can be lower in calories, contribute to hydration, provide nutrients like B vitamins and antioxidants, and may offer cardiovascular benefits. It's also easier on the liver and can be a safer option during pregnancy, though consulting a healthcare provider is recommended.

4. Can non-alcoholic beer be a trigger for people with alcohol addiction?

Yes, it can be a trigger because it contains trace amounts of alcohol (usually less than 0.5% ABV) and has a similar taste to alcoholic beer. It’s important for individuals in recovery to consult with healthcare professionals before consuming non-alcoholic beer.

5. Is non-alcoholic beer completely alcohol-free?

Most non-alcoholic beers contain up to 0.5% ABV, which is similar to the alcohol content in naturally fermented foods like ripe bananas. This amount is generally too low to cause intoxication.

6. Can I drink non-alcoholic beer if I'm watching my calorie intake?

Non-alcoholic beer is often lower in calories compared to alcoholic beer, but it's not calorie-free. It's important to check the nutritional information on the label, as the calorie content can vary between brands.

7. Is non-alcoholic beer a good option for staying hydrated?

Unlike alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic beer can contribute to hydration due to its high water content and lack of diuretic properties. Some athletes even use it as a post-workout drink for rehydration.

Ready To Try Out an Alcohol-Free Lifestyle or Cut Back? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today! 

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