We are lucky to be living in a time when ordering a mocktail no longer comes with a chaser of ridicule—and even luckier to have more options than ever before (so long, O’Douls). In fact, consumers are downing myriad no- and low-ABV drinks, and the sober-curious movement is strong—yes, even here in the Napa Valley of Beer. After all, Colorado’s outdoor-rec-rich lifestyle isn’t particularly conducive to raging hangovers, and alcohol and cannabis (our other favorite vice) don’t always mix well. That’s why Niki Sawni, a Canadian transplant, decided to start his nonalcoholic beverage company, Grüvi, in Denver about a year ago. “We wanted to create a line of drinks to pair with cannabis consumption,” Sawni says. “But nonalcoholic options for people who aren’t drinking alcohol, for any reason, have been really limited and lacking flavor.” So, Sawni created the state’s first no-proof IPA, sour Berliner Weisse, stout, and prosecco; a lager debuts this month, and a rosé will be out in time for patio season. Grüvi’s not the only Colorado company giving zero-proof a shot: Oliko’s crisp, spicy fermented ginger beers and Hoplark’s HopTea, a line of remarkably beerlike sparkling teas, are also tasty enough to lure you away from the hard stuff.

Try Dry

Denver hospitality pros aim to prove that no booze doesn’t mean no fun.

At an al fresco gathering at Altius Farms’ urban garden in Curtis Park last September, guests chatted, laughed, and clinked glasses—but instead of toasting with booze, they did so with a “sans-gría” mocktail of Concord grape juice, black tea and pomegranate syrup, baking spice tincture, and Fever-Tree ginger ale. It was the first meal of the Zero-Proof Dinner Series—ticketed parties featuring no-proof menus from Denver’s best chefs and bartenders—created by Vesta culinary director Nicholas Kayser and former Ace Eat Serve bar manager Connor Green to raise awareness about mental health and substance abuse issues in the hospitality industry. A colleague’s death by suicide in 2019 inspired them to take action. “We wanted to celebrate her life and put a smile on people’s faces like she did, while moving the conversation forward,” Kayser says.

Photo courtesy of Anna Regan

The inaugural dinner not only raised more than $3,000 for CHOW (Culinary Hospitality Outreach & Wellness), a local industry support organization, but it also led to an invitation to cook a sober meal at the James Beard House in New York City in January. Up next: a brunch at Potager on April 19. “We want to show that people who don’t drink can still have a good time,” Kayser says. Cheers to that. From $55, zeroproofdinner.org

This article was originally published in 5280 March 2020.
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.