8 Low (or No) Alcohol Beverages That Got Me Through My Stomach Ulcer
There's more to wine than alcohol.
In the fall of 2022, I developed a stomach ulcer. It started out as an innocent stomachache that turned into debilitating pain after eating seemingly anything. I don’t have a particularly overindulgent diet, but at the time I was drinking alcohol every day—something many of us in the alcohol industry can relate to. It wasn’t too much, never more than a glass or a cocktail a night, but it was every night. I didn’t think anything of it. In my twenties, I could really hold my weight. Working in a bar five nights a week, I was drinking much more than the daily glass.
I went to the emergency room, and after the diagnosis, they put me on a special diet. No fat, heavy salt, spicy heat, acids, coffee, or alcohol for at least thirty days. At first, I felt stuck. Eating rice and oatmeal every day was one thing, but a day without wine was a day disconnected from something that gives me so much joy, so much life. I had to think about why I drank wine.
In part, drinking is my job. Finding new producers and cuvées that folks who read my articles will enjoy is a big part of how I pay my bills. Wine is also part of my daily wind down. A glass of something special pairs perfectly with the sunset after a long day. How would I replace an evening ritual I’ve had for so many years?
It was the right time to think through my relationship with alcohol. Non- and low-alcohol beverages have been rising in popularity recently, and I dove headfirst into finding the ones that were most exciting, and that were centered in a connection to the ingredients, instead of marketing sugary substitutes to a sober (or sober-curious) consumer.
Six months later, my ulcer has healed, and I’m back to drinking wine and the occasional cocktail, but my relationship with alcohol has changed, thanks to the discovery of some of my new favorite beverages found in local Maine shops and breweries. Layering in these drinks allows for a more diverse experience in my drinking habits and gives my body a bit of a break. I hope you’ll try them out for yourself.
Part of alcohol’s appeal is the calming effect that ramps up after your first drink. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your nervous system and brings on an initial feeling of relaxation, exactly what I look for after a long workday. The Shimmerwood CBD infused seltzers help recreate that feeling, with none of the THC that gets you high.
5mg full spectrum CBD is enough to help me reduce anxiety and unwind, and it tastes great over ice with none of that cannabutter flavor you might remember from the weed brownies of yesteryear.
A seasonal offering from my local brewery here in Portland, the cranberry kombucha from Urban Farm Fermentory is tart, crisp, and overflowing with flavor. This became a fall staple I couldn’t get enough of, perfect for drinking outside in the cool air.
As it turns out, I’m a big fan of most of their flavors, including Ginger Root and Elderberry. If you’re adventurous and not worried about spice, try the Ghost Pepper.
Before my ulcer, cocktails were a major source of delight. Drinking a good cocktail means discovering how different flavors layered together could become more than the sum of their parts. I started looking into low- and no-alcohol cocktail ingredients that would be simple to mix with two or three ingredients at the most.
This drinking vinegar from Herbal Revolution delivers major blueberry flavor, and, mixed over ice with lime seltzer and a rosemary sprig, makes a beautiful end-of-day beverage. I use five parts seltzer to one part vinegar for a lively and refreshing drink.
Root Wild, Grapefruit Shine Kombucha, 0.5% ABV
Not only is Root Wild kombucha delicious, but their physical Portland location is a safe-haven bar where kombuchas on tap make it easy to be out and about but not surrounded by alcohol. Meeting with friends at Root Wild has become a staple for me when I’m not interested in drinking but still want to be social after work.
The grapefruit flavor is citrusy and bright with powerful hibiscus notes, and the addition of hops makes it feel more like a sour beer than a kombucha.
Non-Alc From Away
Unified Ferments, Jasmine Green, New York, 0.5% ABV
I used to not like kombucha. I was one of those people who thought it was too vinegary and too aggressive. It had been years since I tried anything new. The Jasmine Green kombucha from Unified Ferments re-opened the door and blew me away.
Soft and gentle, with a full jasmine bouquet, the drink is fizzy and alive with a ton of flavor, yet elegant enough to stand up to a glass of floral white wine. This bottle is special, tea-forward, and begs to be shared.
Heirloom New York, Genmaicha Tea, New York, 0% ABV
Green tea and puffed rice give this Heirloom New York brew a nutty and herbal flavor that I absolutely love. If I’m craving something a bit more winter-friendly and rich, this is the bottle I reach for. It’s also a gorgeous gift to bring to a holiday dinner, as it has an umami vibe that pairs beautifully with many different foods. The company uses organic fair-trade teas and local fruits and herbs.
Muri, Yamilé, Denmark, 0% ABV
If you like complex and fruity semi-sweet rosé, you’re going to like this. It tastes like smoky raspberry sherbet. The fizz is creamy and soft. The Copenhagen-based brand makes this blend from carbonically fermented raspberry and gooseberry mead, smoked lacto-fermented rhubarb, goldenrod, and pink peppercorn kefir.
The transparent flavors of the beverage shine—you can really taste every element. It’s delicious, interesting, and delightful. The flavors keep developing even after a few days stoppered in the fridge.
Yesfolk, Sencha, New York, 1% ABV
Single origin Sencha tea is the star of this bright and light canned kombucha. When fall barbecues and campfire hangs were filling up my schedule, but I couldn’t bring wine to share with friends, a couple of four packs of the Yesfolk kombuchas were a perfect accompaniment.
Bringing this around also opened my eyes to how many other people in my life were cutting down on drinking or were interested in alternative beverages. This brew is refreshingly simple, with lively grassy notes.
Fully Rooted Juice, Citrus Hibiscus, Rhode Island, 0% ABV
Like the Muri Yamilé, this Fully Rooted Juice citrus hibiscus kombucha feels a lot like a glass of rosé. The honeybush tea, grown in South Africa, has a naturally sweet flavor that perfectly meshes with the hibiscus and orange peel. The sweetness is wonderfully balanced by the sharp lemongrass.
I love the size of the 16oz bottle, which feels heftier than a can of ’booch, and more like a mini growler of beer you’d bring to a dinner with friends. They also offer a 32oz full size growler—you’re going to need it when everyone wants to a glass for themselves.
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