#Day 3: 0.02% alcohol, 99.98% taste

So I’ve given up alcohol for Lent.

Actually I don’t see this being all that difficult and I’m looking forward to feeling fresh and healthy and waking up at 6am every day for a swim in the river.

Though I did go up to Formal Hall at Girton College last night and found myself thinking along the lines of “how on earth am I to enjoy this three course meal in the company of friends without a few glasses of wine???” I blame Cambridge University for implanting in me the attitude that it is impossible to have a good meal without a bottle of cheap red to accompany it.

Turns out it’s possible to have a very nice meal with just water. I was there with a friend who is a teacher, a friend who had to be up to do PhD work in the morning, and a friend who is also spending a self-imposed forty day period in abstinence, so we had a pleasant alcohol-free meal and said more or less as many outrageous things as we might have done were we getting drunk.

That bit was quite unexpected, actually. Turns out I’ve been using alcohol as an excuse all this time when really it’s my personality that’s at fault.

There was a moment of longing when the port and whisky came out after the meal, but I resisted temptation and stuck to the coffee (which was horrible). We then went to a pub and, feeling a slight craving for an evening beer we decided to try the alcohol-free lager.

At first I thought this was sort of cheating. But it was pointed out to me that it’s just the same as it would be for a vegetarian to eat a Linda McCartney sausage.

Except, surprisingly, rather less disgusting. In fact it was rather good stuff that you might almost mistake for real lager (Holsten alcohol-free, if you’re interested in trying it, which promises to contain 100% taste). Curious to see how they achieved this, we read the label to discover – and this amazed me – they brew the beer in the usual way and then remove the alcohol.

When this was discovered, and indeed the fact that it actually had an alcohol content of 0.02%, there was some backtracking on the morality of our drinking it. It was pointed out that this is not the same as vegetarian sausages – because few vegetarians would be pleased to discover that their sausages had been made in the same way as normal sausages and had then had the meat removed, especially if they still contained 0.02% pig.

But, I countered, there is considerably less slaughtering of animals involved in the brewing of beer, making that comparison irrelevant. I also pointed out that to have the equivalent of a single pint of average normal lager, say Stella or Heineken at 5.2%, it would be necessary to drink 260 bottles of alcohol-free Holsten.

I feel it should be possible to stay well within this level across the whole period of Lent.

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