“Near Beer” In The Near East

Nonalcoholic beer sales have risen 80 percent by volume over the last five years, thanks in large part to market growth in the Islamic world:

The Middle East now accounts for almost a third of the 4649691848_ee4eaf1eb9_bworldwide sales by volume of nonalcoholic beer. In 2012, Iranians drank nearly four times as much of it as they did in 2007. It is popular in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where alcohol is either wholly or partially banned. Partly this is for religious reasons. After Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement, won a landslide election victory in Gaza in 2005, a local brewer launched an alcohol-free “halal” version of its beer. But it also taps into growing consumer aspirations. As a statement of a globalized lifestyle beer, even if nonalcoholic, may be more potent than Coca-Cola. Nonalcoholic lager is slowly being drunk more in bars and restaurants, rather than just being consumed at home. Prominent Saudi and Egyptian clerics have issued fatwas declaring it permissible to drink zero-alcohol beer.

(Photo of “Iran’s beverage of choice” by Flickr user Catie and Linds)