Undrinking has been called ‘Mindful Abstinence’, and like abstinence itself, the movement has fervent followers.
Undrinkers choose to drink, but also choose to abstain from certain brewers and venues for personal reasons – combining the moral glow of abstinence with the joy of getting pissed.
The undrinking movement has gained momentum with craft beer drinkers in the United States, primarily driven by brewery takeovers, including suspected takeovers that have not been publically announced. Now Wellington-based app developer Dia da Mentira has developed a phone app – UnDrinkr – to help adherents track their boycotts and record the reasons why they’re undrinking a particular beer or venue.
“I first had the idea when the Radler case went to court. I wanted to boycott Monteith’s but I couldn’t, I wasn’t a customer. Obviously you can’t withhold your business if you have no business to withhold, it’s meaningless. I thought one thing that’s really missing in social media is ways to express disapproval.
“Way back in the day, three, four years ago, you could express yourself through choosing to drink craft beer and support the brewers. Now everyone’s drinking craft, supermarkets sell it. So, the craft beer elite are choosing to stand out through the beers they don’t drink”, says Dia.
“It’s one thing feeling angry at a brewer, but that’s just an emotional reaction. UnDrinkr lets you turn emotional reaction into economic action. You can tell brewers and bars you’re boycotting them and why, and you can use it to share those stands with your friends, so they'll do the same. And it helps you keep track of all your boycotts in one convenient place!
“You might be out at night and talk to a friend who’s undrinking a particular brewery. So you’ve had a few beers and next morning you remember you’re boycotting too, but can’t remember why? With UnDrinkr you can enter it right away, rather than wait until morning and calling it random gossip.
“These a huge range of options you can choose for boycotting – ‘Depiction of women in their marketing’, ‘Making too much beer’, ‘Making too good beer’, ‘Failing to depict women in their marketing’, those are all popular.
“Venues are interesting too. I thought the top reasons for boycotting a craft beer bar would be ‘Too many white office workers’ or ‘Cleaners don’t get a living wage’, but nobody really cares about them. ‘Using the metric system’ is much, much worse.
“Then you have the dilemma of a successful boycott. Say you’re undrinking a brewer for, I don’t know, appropriating indigenous imagery. So they take note, apologise and quickly change their labels. Are you going to say fair enough and start buying their beer? As if! But, UnDrinkr let’s you lift your boycott without lifting a finger or spending a cent – zero-effort activism.
“And, there’s a lot of elements making life difficult for craft brewers. Corporate brewing, supermarkets pushing down price, councils, anti-alcohol lobbyists, you name it. What undrinking proves is that, with a little imagination, craft beer fans can be conscripted to make brewers’ lives difficult too.”