We're so grateful for the opportunity to sit down with Lauren Richard and have the following chat!
Please introduce yourself, and briefly describe your experience as an advanced Cicerone and BJCP Beer Judge.
My name is Lauren Richard, and I’ve been working in the beer industry for a little over a decade in Toronto, Ontario. Many of those years have been spent studying for my Certified and Advanced Cicerone exams, and have taken me all over North America. The Cicerone exams challenge your knowledge of beer history, ingredients, brewing theory, food pairing, keeping and serving beer, and much more. It is a well-rounded exam for someone like me who prefers to be on the front-facing, service and food pairing side of things - rather than brewing commercially. As a BJCP judge, I’m regularly involved in judging competitions such as the World Brewing Awards, the Canadian Beer Cup, and my personal favourite, the Canadian Homebrew Competition presented by GTA Brews. I home brew from time to time, but I really love to teach and guide food pairings.
What trends are you seeing in the Non-Alcoholic category?
More flavourful styles being added to the Non Alc mix, like hop forward beers and sours. There are also a lot of canned non alc cocktails on the market that are becoming more and more similar to the real thing. I, for one, like the taste of alcohol. So when I’m taking a break, I find them quite interesting. Low to NO sugar is also a big trend, as there’s been a big shift in a healthier approach to consumption in general.
What makes a good Non-Alcoholic Beverage/Beer for you?
Similar principals to what I enjoy in a real beer or cocktail - a beginning, a middle, and an end. Kind of like a perfume profile. I don’t want it to be one note, or thin. I’d like it to have a great aroma, full flavour, and something surprising about it - maybe it’s the texture of the carbonation, or an added spice in the finish.
What are some of the known health benefits of Non-Alcoholic beverages/beers?
Well, reducing alcohol intake is always a good thing for your liver, kidneys, skin, mood, energy, etc. We are social creatures and it’s been normalized for so long that going out means you must drink alcohol. The stigma has greatly changed over the past 2-3 years and I don’t see that going away any time soon since the market is expanding exponentially right now. Cutting out sugar is also on the rise and we’re seeing it in drink and food trends across the market, which is good for many things, but particularly your heart.
How do you find balance in your life?
Goal setting. Prioritizing lists of things I need to get done before I go out or have that first drink. It’s nice to be able to crack a Non Alc beer if 5pm rolls around and I’m still working away at my desk. Oh - and a good, solid 8 hours of sleep at this point in my life is non-negotiable.
What’s your go-to mocktail?
I make my own sugar-free syrups - so I would say probably a spicy jalapeno margarita, or a dark and stormy. I use a mix of Seedlip, Lyre’s, and Matteo’s premix, otherwise I try and whip something up myself with a sugar substitute I love called Erythritol (my go-to brand is Swerve). Another good one is Lyre’s Non Alcaholic Sweet Vermouth (Rosso), and their Triple Sec alternative - and I’ll use my Gin or Whiskey of choice for a lower carb, lower sugar version of the classic Negroni/Boulevardier.
What tools, resources, or role models can you recommend for someone who is sober curious?
Tool wise - More options are showing up at bars everywhere - NA wine, beer, spirits, seltzer - so when asked if you’d like a drink, it’s really much easier to say “Yes, I’d like a Libra, or a fun flavoured spritz” instead of saying no and feeling social pressure to get into some kind of explanation about it. It’s also very helpful to set your intentions going into the evening. If you want to be sober all evening - that’s your choice and you don’t need to justify that to anyone. If you want to pace yourself by having a non-alcoholic option between your alcoholic drinks, that’s great too. Just have a plan before you begin your night - better yet, use a buddy system! We’re more likely to succeed in our goals if we’re held accountable and have support.
Do you have a favourite Libra flavour?
My favourite is probably the Cherry Sour! I think it was a great addition to the roster and I just found it refreshing on its own and with food. My favourite core is the Pale Ale.
What would you like to see next from Non-Alcoholic Beer brands?
Continuing to expand into other beer styles and ingredients. Just keep it fun, like craft beer should be! I’m a big fan of low and no carb options, so that also expands your reach into a different kind of health-conscious crowd.