For Heaps Normal co-founder and CEO Andy Miller, the company is a fun beer brand first. "The fact that we make non-alc beer is just a detail", he explains. For many of us, it's this point that's won us over – that and we could sink Heaps Normal's Quiet XPA and recently launched Another Lager often and with ease.
Heaps Normal proudly inhabits the grey space between two ends of a spectrum: the drinkers and the non-drinkers. What makes it so enticing is its refusal to play into either side, to preach or to come with some virtuous caveat. In fact, Heaps Normal is for everyone, because the company recognises that when it comes to drinking, what's considered normal varies from person to person. That's why it's here to offer an alternative, and a ripping one at that.
As we coast through July, a month where many of us are rethinking our relationship to booze, or cutting it out completely, Heaps Normal wants to shift the conversation away from alcohol altogether. Instead, its focus is on doing the best we can in all aspects of our lives, encouraging us to move away from perfection and embrace the small wins – whatever that might look like.
Below, we spoke to Heaps Normal CEO and co-founder Andy Miller on the company's latest 'Do Your Best' campaign. Here's what he had to say.
What do you think people get wrong about Heaps Normal?
Heaps Normal is a dedicated non-alcoholic beer company, but we're not anti-alcohol. If, collectively, we're going to change drinking culture, we know it's gotta be fun and we need to be inclusive of all lifestyles. Your normal isn't my normal, and that's fine. Being a dedicated non-alc producer makes it possible for us to authentically stand alongside our sober mates, while also teaming up with some of our favourite brands in the alcohol space to normalise healthier drinking habits, without preaching.
When you began Heaps Normal, what did drinking culture look like?
It’s only been a couple of years, but I think there’s been a pretty big shift in Australian drinking culture since we launched. I think we’re moving away from a peer-pressure culture where your mates ask you why you’re not drinking that one last beer, or questioning why you might be taking the night off drinking. We're stoked to be part of a community of artists, musicians and athletes who have in their own way, made those changes "normal" and culturally acceptable.
Why did you decide to create the ‘Do Your Best’ campaign during Dry July? What point do you think it makes that the latter misses?
We have great respect for the Dry July Foundation and what they've done to kickstart the conversation around healthier drinking habits. But we think culture and the conversation around booze has shifted and a growing group of people, like us, are looking for alternatives that better fit with their lifestyle. We know anecdotally from our mates and people in our community that sober challenges can be hard for some people – hard enough, even, to stop them giving one a crack. So we’re out here to say that it’s ok to just do your best. Whether it’s cutting back on drinking or trying to learn a new skill… it really doesn’t matter if you’re not 100% perfect every time, it’s just about letting those small wins add up to big changes.
How does Heaps Normal navigate the alcohol-free space without being preachy?
The four of us came to Heaps Normal with our own reasons for cutting back on drinking. Some of us are sober and some of us aren’t. We aren’t here to tell anyone what measure of alcohol is right for them – that’s not something we’re interested in wading into. We’re just trying to make really delicious alternatives to full-strength beers that we’re proud to put in our favourite stubby holders. For us, Heaps Normal is a fun beer brand first. The fact that we make non-alc beer is just a detail.
What role do you think Heaps Normal has had in shifting the way we drink?
I think a big part of it is that we’ve—hopefully—managed to create genuinely tasty beers, with the fullness and flavour of regular full-strength beer but without the alcohol. It has to taste good as a starting point. But we prefer to focus our energy on talking about all the stuff in our lives that’s too good to be wasted. You know…the stuff that we wouldn’t trade-off for those last couple of drinks or being glued to the couch the next day. A few of our mates were pretty skeptical about our idea at first but it turns out, there were way more people out there like us than we thought; people who don’t necessarily identify as sober but who want to cut back.
The best stories we get are from our mates and industry connections who tell us people break up a session with a couple Heaps Normals, or just opt for non-alc alternatives all night, and nobody blinks an eyelid. That’s a huge win in our books.
Is there anything you think is missed in the mainstream conversation around drinking?
We’re more interested in the awesome things you’re doing instead of whether or not you’re drinking. Who wants to stand around all night talking about drinking (or not drinking)!?
Where do you think the conversation will go next?
Great question. We think there's still loads of room for the conversation to evolve into something bigger — about the moments in life that are too good to be wasted. We can’t speak for anyone else, but for us, we’re thinking a lot about the role we can play in the music industry and music culture more broadly. We’ve got some really exciting things coming up, like our first ever rave, Polytech that’s being supported Sydney’s FBi Radio. We’re really excited about that.
Take this roundup of all our favourite alcohol-free drinks to try this Dry July.