Friday, 15 May 2009

Let's have a beer

This phrase may soon be spoken by local Muslim men (or women, for that matter) without much apprehension, in the same league of that other popular sentence, `Jom kita pekena teh tarik.'

Alcohol-free beer from Iran is now available in Malaysia. The beer is called Istak and is brewed from the same grains (barley and malt) as normal beer except that there is no alcohol content because of no fermentation, or so it seems.

Yesterday's Harian Metro carried a report quoting En. Azizi Ahmad, the Executive Director of Malaysia Iran Corporation (the sole importer), that Muslims need not doubt the `halal-ness' of the drink. Apparently, some quarters of the general public have reservations on the legality of the drink from the Islamic standpoint because of the word `beer'. The controversy boils down to whether `no alcohol content' equates to `halal'. Read the full newspaper report -> here.

Looks like En. Azizi is facing his biggest challenge in marketing his product here in Malaysia... and that is the problem of perception. To many people, beer is an alcoholic product. It is part of a group of beverages that Muslims are prohibited from drinking. Even though it is alcohol-free, Istak is sold in bottles that look like any other normal beer bottle. Even the liquid looks like ordinary beer. So you cannot fault the average Muslim citizen to be a bit skeptical. The fact that it is manufactured in Iran, a very conservative Muslim country, does not help allay this doubt.

Alcohol-free beer has been around for a long time. I still remember a TV advertisement of such a drink when I was studying in the UK in the early eighties. Barbican - the alcohol-free lager, was the drink's name. But having doubts about Barbican is understandable. It is brewed in a normal brewery in England. And it is not targetted at the Muslim consumer anyway. Similarly, Guinness produces a malt drink with zero-alcohol content called Malta. It is not a popular drink among Muslims because it still carries the Guinness mark.

My next encounter with alcohol-free beer was in Cairo some years ago. Our Egyptian host took us out for dinner in one of those lovely floating restaurants that sail along the Nile River. For his drink, our host ordered something that came in a can that looked strikingly like beer. When he popped the can and poured the contents in a glass, it sure looked like beer, complete with froth. I was a bit surprised at first but later found out that it is a no-alcohol beer that is very popular in Egypt.

When I was posted in the United Arab Emirates, similar alcohol-free beer is sold widely in the supermarkets. It even occurred to me that if I could bring some of these drinks into Malaysia, I could probably make a fortune. That is, if I can surmount this perception problem. If you can recall, A & W had this same problem when they first introduced root beer.

The next question that comes to mind is probably, `How does it taste?'

Personally, I wouldn't know. I have not drank any beer, whether pseudo or the real thing. But according to some friends who have, the pseudo beer tastes nothing like the real one.

Who are the people who would want to buy and drink alcohol-free beer anyway? Muslims who have the hidden desire to drink beer but dare not cross the line by taking the real thing?

In the end, it all comes down to personal choice. We'll soon see if Istak becomes a popular drink in Malaysia.

Right... I'm knocking off from work now and would be meeting some friends for a drink. Perhaps I'll have a beer. Cheers!


Uncle Lee said...

Hello Old Stock, disini pun ada juga the kind of beer you mentioned...but not popular, for obvious reasons.

I am not a beer drinker, maybe the odd glass at a friend's bbq, but more a Jack Daniels or Bourbon man.
But only social drinking when have friends over or parties.

I have a well stocked bar at home, hardly opened Maxwell Rich Roast coffee is my favorite.
Tada kopi pagi atau malam sebelum tidur, I cannot sleep, ha ha.

You have a pleasant weekend, best regards, Lee.

Kama said...

Pak Abu selalu minum beer bila pi karaoke kat club. They have one yg takder alcohol content, called Non-Alcoholic Bavarian Beer. Entah aparasa I pun taktau sebab tak pernah cuba. even in my jahiliah days, I never had beer, couldn't stand the fermented smell.

Oldstock said...

Hi Lee,

I'm not an expert on drinks, of course, but JD is top of the line, I think.

You are a fan of coffee, eh? Di sini tak boleh jumpa Maxwell roast tu lagi. At one time, I was a fan of Moccona Instant coffee, but now also cannot find it on sale.

In the movie The Bucket List (starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) there is mention of Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world. Comes from Sumatra Indonesia. I'm thinking of trying it if I ever get to travel to Sumatra.

You have a good weekend too, my friend.

Oldstock said...

Salam Kak Aji Kama,

Tu la... tak tahu pulak apa rasa non-alcohol beer ni kan? Lebih kurang macam air tapai, agaknye. Maybe I should try it myself one day, heheheh.

Patricia said...

Hi Oldstock,

I'm no beer fan, so I'm sure I won't be interested in this one. I like white wine; or drinks like a margharita or daiquiri when I'm in the mood to indulge my alcoholic tendencies! Hahaha!

This sounds like the non-alcoholic stout we have in Malaysia: Guiness Malta. It's still on the shelves, so maybe this one ada harapan?

I had a beer the other day, though, here in Calgary. I enjoyed it to the last drop - mainly because it is soooooo cold here, so the beer stayed cold till the last drop! :)

D said...

Non-alcoholic beer? I just wonder, why bother?! Do Muslims feel that in certain scenarios or atmospheres, they too must have a 'look-alike' in hand to fit in? And just the other day I was telling my children how inappropriate it was for us Muslims to clink our glasses together and say 'cheers' while 'pretending' we were drinking alcohol beverages... Was I wrong? :/

mamasita said...

I think they should renamed the non-alchoholic beer..then kita taklah rasa macam ada hajat nak minum beer sampai cari the non-alchoholic kind?Well..orang lain may think that way..malu oi!

And maybe more sales for the importer!Well??

mamasita said...

O lupa..jangan bagi dia letak dalam similar looking beer bottle..malunya nak beli nanti!

Fauziah Ismail said...

Salam Oldstock
There are non-alcoholic beer here before the Iranians introduced theirs at Mihas.
Now, when the Malays want to go and drink the real beer, they'll probably say "Jom pi mabok" kot!

Snakebite said...

i,ve had istak at one of the arabic eating place in town. rasa dia ok, just don't put ice in it. bila kena ais, rasa pahit dia kuat sangat. it fizzles because its carbonated.

ada kawan saya dulu takmo pakai bedak. sbb dia takut dalam bedak ada alkohol. pada logik dia, minyak wangi ada alkohol, bedak itu wangi, therefore bedak ada alkohol.

i can only sigh and say under my breath, ahh orang melayu....

satu lagi drink i occasionally suka minum is non alcoholic wine.(wine is good for the heart).
ada gak sedara mara yang marah saya sbb minum arak. wine tu arak dia kata walaupun takde alkohol.

ye ke? habis tu nape dalam Kitab ada tersebut 'Dan dari buah tamar dan anggur kamu jadikan daripadanya minuman haram dan makanan serta minuman yang halal; sesungguhnya pada yang demikian itu terdapat satu tanda (yang membuktikan kekuasaan Allah) bagi orang-orang yang mahu menggunakan akalnya.' (An Nahl 16:67)

apa pun yang Maha Berkuasa lagi Maha Bijaksana kurnia pada kita boleh kita jadikan halal atau haram.

pilihan tu pada kita kan? so saya pilih yang halal, walaupan dari anggur atau barley.
tak boleh ke?

Nurie said...

hmmm, kat saudi ni banyak betul non - alcoholic beer yang di jual di kedai runcit and hypermarket. Its like having a bottle of pepsi or sprite. Popular brands are holsten and barbican. Botol exactly sama mcm normal beer and usually it is produced in the UAE.

My hubby luv em, but i cant stand them coz of the fermented smell.

Some msian teenagers from here siap bawak balik few bottles of barbicans masa balik msia coz nak eksyen kat kwn kwn! When my mom in law was here terkejut jugak dia bila tengok my hubby minum from that bottle, dia tanya, eh minum apa tu!he he....

Personally I dun really support it coz after all it does come from the same beer company. Wallahulam.

VersedAnggerik said...

I luv A&W's Root Beer and its Beary mascot too.

I sip ginger beer all the time masa mengandung dulu, they say its good to alleviate nausea.

Other than that... tak boleh lah crite kat sini kan? Ehemmmmm...

Oldstock said...

Hi Pat,

Is it still cold in Calgary? Come back la :-)

Oldstock said...


More often than not, it is the environment that influences us how to behave. Your kids are not clinking their glasses, are they?

Even if they do, it is important for them to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. The mere act of doing it may not be wrong but as you say, it does not look appropriate.

Perhaps the point that I want to make here is not to ape what others do just for the sake of conforming.

Oldstock said...


I think that's the main objective of selling non-alcoholic beer in cans or bottles that look like beer. Otherwise the people who drink them would lose one aspect of the whole package. I believe those who choose to drink non-alcholic beer are past the point of `malu' because of what others may think.

Oldstock said...

Salam Fauziah,

Yes, you're right about non-alcoholic beer being available here before Istak came into the market. But being sold at MIHAS is probably their marketing strategy to counter the perceptions. The message being : It is being sold in MIHAS, so it must be halal.

Err... `jom pi mabok' sounds real drastic, heheheh :-)

Oldstock said...


The hampers that our Chinese contractors give us during hari raya is always topped with a bottle of sparkling fruit drink in a wine-shaped bottle. When my mom saw it, she told me to throw it away. I said, no need lah... air anggur. I opened the bottle, poured some into a glass and drank it. She glared at me as if I had gone mad!

Took me some time to convince her but what I did was probably not wise at all. Pastu tak minum depan dia lagi dah.

hanitha said...

salam bro, jom kite pi minum...sprinkled grapes????

kang sendawa aje la gaya nyer.. ehehehe

Oldstock said...


Yes, the non-alcoholic beer is widely available in supermarkets in the middle east. It must mean that there is a reasonable demand. Cuma kat Malaysia ni belum take off lagi nampaknya.

Your hb suka minum jugak ye? Takpe, bila balik Mesia dia boleh beli Istak, heheheh.

Oldstock said...


Hahaha... root beer dan ginger beer. I teringat dulu masa mula-mula root beer dipasarkan di Mesia, ada orang kata haram, takleh minum.

Oldstock said...


Sparkling grapes, maksud you. I like the taste tapi some of my friends don't.

Anonymous said...

To be that typical Malay or True Muslim? You decide...

Nabi SAW dengan tegas telah melarang kita daripada meniru budaya Yahudi dan Nasrani dalam hadis yang bermaksud, "Nescaya kamu akan turut jejak langkah mereka (Yahudi dan Nasrani ) sejengkal demi sejengkal, sehasta demi sehasta sehingga kamu akan turuti mereka walaupun mereka masuk ke dalam lubang biawak. Lantaran sahabat bertanya: Adakah mereka itu Yahudi dan Nasrani? Baginda menjawab: Siapa lagi kalau bukan mereka."(Hadis riwayat Bukhari dan Muslim)

One more thing...

Rasulullah SAW pernah memberi amaran keras kepada umatnya berkenaan gejala mengikut, meniru atau melakukan budaya asing melalui sabda Baginda bermaksud: Sesiapa yang melakukan perbuatan yang menyerupai sesuatu kaum itu, maka dia TURUT termasuk bersama golongan itu. (Hadis riwayat Abu Daud dan Ahmad)

Oldstock said...

Mr or Ms Anonymous of 29.07.10,

You sure feel strongly about this subject to be looking at my posts of more than 1 year ago and then commenting. But a name to go with the comment is surely appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Let alone the need of to put a name but I don't have a blog neither do I have a Google account. It doesn't matter. It's what you understand that counts. If you choose not to, it's not my problem either. At the very least, I have given out what I think I am supposed to tell or share. Either way, it's your choice to choose your path. We can only advise each other. For I am also in the search of my own path and in the way of amending my own sins and mistakes. It is for at least to renungkan or to be contemplate for I won't say that I am absolutely correct. For human is to err and we opt to learn from that lesson. As long as we don't know, we are forgiven. But not by being indifference or negligence. But if you must, you can call me Ms A. Wallahualam.