If you’ve ever woken up feeling like a homeless person has slept in your mouth and somebody has snuck into your bedroom and sanded down your eyeballs, welcome to the club. The binge-drinking hangover is the one that leaves you pleading with your wife not to condemn you to the sofa while suspending you in a morbid state of deep contemplation about how you are screwing up your life.

3 days later all is forgiven, your liver has cracked a smile, and the homeless guy has moved out. That’s until the next time when 3 drinks quickly turn into 10. South African guys drink. Sure, it’s a broad statement, but it’s true.

The question is do you need to be drinking alcohol to have a good time?

Real men drink. At least that’s what we’ve been taught since we’ve been lighties hanging around our Dad’s at braais, golf, football matches and family get-togethers. The truth is responsible men know when to call it quits. That’s only something you learn a little later in your life. The only problem is that “when it’s lekker it’s lekker” and you don’t really want to pour a glass of coke when things are kicking off, right? Somebody is going to call you out and that is going to dent your ego.

Wouldn’t it be cool to reach for a beer at that stage? A non-alcoholic beer. It would if non-alcohol beer didn’t taste like ass! No point in mincing our words. Any non-alcoholic beer we’ve ever tasted has tasted crap and too be fair was kind marketed to the guy who had given up drinking.

So when Castle dropped “Free” on us we decided to knock back a few and give you our honest opinion.

Does it taste like beer?

Yes, it tastes like beer. It’s not great warm, but then again, no beer tastes great warm. If you keep these guys nice and cold, they are about as good as a regular Castle. We say “about” because removing alcohol from beer is like removing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. It’s still the same football team, but you know something is missing.

Taste test 7/10

Branding?

The problem with non-alcoholic beer branding is that it shouts 0%. Smart move by SAB to go with FREE. And they’ve wrapped the product around Castle Lager which is a South African institution, so you don’t feel like that strange hanging out at a function with a Free in your hand. You would feel a little more awkward if you pulled out a Becks 0%. It screams Castle and the black cans are sick!

Brand test: 9/10

Availability

The stuff is everywhere. Just pop into your local Tops or bottle store and you can look out for the black Castle cans. No surprises really. You can buy a Castle Lager in any bottle store in South Africa, so why not a FREE. A couple of bars, restaurants and clubs we’ve been to lately also seem to know about the product and few had a beer on hand.

Availability test: 10/10

Can SAB corner a section of the market with FREE?

No doubt. 10 years ago, it was still socially acceptable to get into a car and drive home after a few drinks (while being illegal). That’s changed. It’s just not cool to drive drunk. Perceptions have changed and now that you can Uber around fewer people get into their cars after having a few dops.

Couple that with the “health conscious” wave that’s sweeping around the globe and it’s fair to say that people are still looking to have a good time, but not at the expense of their health. SAB is the first local brewery to produce a non-alcoholic beer and the evidence must have suggested there is a gap in the market.

Would you consider having a few non-alcoholic Castle FREE’s?

We don’t see too many South African blokes who don’t drink at all taking up drinking non-alcohol beer. We figure there is a place for FREE and here are a few examples:

  • You are out at a function and you are driving. You slug back two regular beers and then switch to FREE for the balance of the evening.
  • You don’t need to drive, but you’ve pushed the boat out a little too far that evening. Rather than having your 10th alcoholic beverage of the night, you switch to FREE for the rest of the night and save yourself the killer hangover you are compounding with every additional pot.
  • You are taking a sabbatical from alcohol and when you are out you want to have a beer so it’s gotta be FREE

We are guys and we know how this is going to go down. If it catches on, more guys will join the FREE revolution. If it’s just a fad and Castle do a poor job of re-enforcing the message, everyone moves back to regular beer and the next 0% player doesn’t stand a chance. GAME OVER for 0% beer.

If you’ve had a castle FREE let us know what you thought? If you have any ideas when you might be squeezing a few FREE’s into your social life, please leave a comment below.

SLEB

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