Can Beer Be Wellness?
The beer industry’s attempt to get in on the trend illustrates how wellness means everything and nothing
Harpoon is a Boston institution. Founded in 1986, the craft brewery is known for its rotating taps and intense, high alcohol–by–volume beers, such as the piney Leviathan Imperial IPA (10% ABV) and Black Forest (9.8% ABV), a rich, cherry-chocolate porter. Flavor, strength, and mouthfeel are paramount — counting calories, not so much.
That’s changing. Harpoon recently released Rec. League, a beer made with Mediterranean sea salt, chia seeds, and buckwheat kasha (a four-pack is $7.99). With its golden, cloudy look, and tropical hoppiness, Rec. League tastes like a traditional craft beer, just with a lower alcohol content (3.8% ABV) and fewer calories (120 calories per 12 ounces). The brewery has dubbed the concoction a “wellness beer,” part of a growing category being marketed to beer lovers who want a more health-focused approach to drinking.
But can a beer — even one that has a lower ABV and fewer calories than your average pint — really be wellness?
Maybe. It all comes down to how you define the term. Not surprisingly, Harpoon founder and CEO Dan Kenary’s answer is: Absolutely. He describes wellness as “being purposeful about the choices you make.” In the case of Rec. League, with its buzzy, superfood ingredients and low(er) alcohol content, “you are making a purposeful decision about the beer you want to consume.”
It’s as valid a definition as any. That’s the beauty and the trouble with wellness, an amorphous and malleable concept that repels consensus, absorbing our desires and shape-shifting into whatever form we want or need. From a business perspective, this has proven both convenient and lucrative. Wellness can be whatever a person — or brand — wants it to be.
For a cosmetics company, it might mean using only ethically sourced ingredients. For an apparel line, it might mean a transparent production process. For a fitness app, wellness could simply mean personalized, on-demand workout options. When Alexandra Janelli opened Modrn Sanctuary, a wellness center in New York City that offers a range of alternative therapies such as IV sessions, crystal light therapy, and vibrational energy…