Beer was Michael Smith’s drink of choice before he gave up alcohol a few years ago. He didn’t miss the alcohol, but he missed the hoppy taste of a well-brewed ale. “I enjoyed the flavor of it and I really couldn’t get that once I quit the alcohol,” he said.
He found several alcohol-free ales he enjoyed but didn’t like having to shop at multiple stores to find options. In January, he and his wife, Caitlyn, opened Herban Flow in St. Petersburg, a store of nonalcoholic beers, sparkling wines, alcohol-free versions of hard liquor and mixers.
Currently, they sell upwards of 10 varieties of nonalcoholic beers and offer make-your-own six-packs to customers who want to mix different brands. The beers range from $4 a can to up to $17 for a six-pack.
The wide selection is what first attracted customer Mike Dinapoli. “I was getting lunch at a place nearby and I saw the sign and I like to support local businesses,” he said. “I was very impressed with the diverse amount of products and how knowledgeable and extremely patient the owners were.”
He became a regular, visiting four times in the first couple of weeks the store was open. “The only nonalcoholic beverage I’d ever heard about was O’Doul’s, and I never liked the taste of Bud or Bud Light or the lackluster feeling I got from drinking them,” Dinapoli said. “These beers at Herban Flow are like craft beers with a little citrus and some of the stouts are very rich in flavor.”
The Smiths, originally from Connecticut, say their favorite nonalcoholic beers and bestsellers are from the Connecticut-based Athletic Brewing Company. It offers limited quantities of its products like the Forest Explorer, designed to be “reminiscent of a West Coast Wheat IPA.” The copper-colored brew is labeled as “bright and sunny with slightly sweet and mildly bitter notes.” There’s also Lodge Life, referred to by the maker as “a fireside beer crafted with cinnamon, vanilla and cocoa nibs” with a “smoked malt undertone and a light hint of s’mores.”
In addition to the beers, the store carries mocktail mixers and ready-to-drink mocktails as well as dealcoholized sparkling chardonnay. A popular bottle, Noughty by Thomson & Scott , is organic and vegan and sells for $24.99. Spirits, ranging from $25 to $40, are designed to mimic the flavor of things like whiskey, rum and tequila without the real “spirit.”
Add a splash of Spiritless Horse’s Kick Ginger Syrup ($12.99) to a nonalcoholic bourbon, Spiritless Kentucky 74, and “it tastes exactly like bourbon,” Michael said. “Plain, it just doesn’t have what they call the Kentucky hug, so you can add syrups or bitters to get that kick.” Since vodka doesn’t have much flavor, adding a little tonic water makes for a more robust drink.
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So-called “functional drinks” are marketed to boost energy, improve moods or wind down. The Three Spirit brand of Active Botanical Drinks ($38 to $99 a bottle) includes Livener, Social Elixir and Nightcap. The Nightcap is like a “sleepy time tea but it’s a sophisticated spirit,” said Michael. The brand’s wine, sold for $27 a bottle, is called Blurred Vines. It and other energy wines can be mixed with soda water or ginger ale. “They all have recipe books and websites with tons of recipes,” Caitlyn said.
Slightly caffeinated drinks like Kin Euphorics, popularized by supermodel Bella Hadid, are infused with herbs and citrus. Michael describes it as “an herbal elixir providing purpose rather than just a soda.”
The couple continue to own and operate an online cannabis business selling direct to stores. But the St. Petersburg location offers herb-infused beverages with medicinal mushrooms. They also sell drinks with kratom or kava. A medical marijuana card is not required to purchase any items in the store because of the low dose of hemp-derived THC (under .3%), but customers must be 18 to buy products, as dictated by Florida law.
“What we are championing is this low-micro dose option,” Michael said.
Customer Tara Nantais first met the Smiths while they were selling their products at farmers markets in the Riverview area. “I typically gravitate towards the nonalcoholic wine, psychedelic waters like (hemp-derived) Cycling Frogs and a few others,” she said. “I love the products and I’m so grateful to have a shop like this so close to home.”
And, she added: “It helps to have other options out there besides alcohol. I am so looking forward to this becoming even more normalized than it already is in our society.”
Light & Stormy Mocktail
2 ounces Three Spirit
Ginger ale or ginger beer
Pour botanical drink in large glass, top with ginger ale or ginger beer, add ice, garnish with lime wheel
Herban Flow is at 6848 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg. 727-346-5865. herbanflow.co.