Babes Without Beers on socialising in the scene with alcohol-free events

When Steph noticed Ireland was lacking "fun, high-energy sober spaces", she started a sober community for women, non-binary people and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Photo of Babes Without Beer host holding an alcohol-free guinness 0.
Image: Instagram @babeswithoutbeers

While many holiday traditions and celebrations involve alcohol, Babes Without Beers founder, Steph, knows it’s also a time when people tend to drink to excess. While some people can enjoy alcohol safely in moderation, regularly waking up with a hangover and overwhelming anxiety is an experience that is normalised and all too familiar for many of us. Last Christmas, with this in mind, Steph decided to make a change.

She started looking for more sober-oriented communities, and noticed that Ireland was lacking in “fun, high-energy sober spaces”. Inspired by two Irish women who started a sober group in Vancouver, Canada, she decided to start a community in Ireland called Babes without Beers for women, non-binary people, and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

The group includes a mix of people who are sober, in recovery, sober curious, or just looking to socialise in spaces outside of pubs and nightclubs. Steph said, “I was honestly so surprised at how many people were interested in the community when it launched. I thought maybe it would be a few hundred but it was thousands – that was definitely a massive shock.”

In the span of one year, the group has grown to nearly 6,000 members, and GCN was lucky enough to talk with Steph about what it’s like to host alcohol-free events in an alcohol-obsessed culture.


Babes Without Beers organises meet-ups that include everything from hikes and cinema trips to quiz nights and sober drag shows.

One of the main goals of the group is to shift the narrative around sobriety to a more positive frequency. Steph said, “Positive messages around alcohol-free living and sober socialising can have a positive impact on people who are sober-curious or looking to cut back to make better choices around alcohol consumption.”

All of the meet-ups are strictly alcohol-free, and everyone must attend sober. Steph said, “It’s the core idea behind the community as it makes it easier for those who are in recovery for alcohol abuse or alcohol misuse disorders and those who are just trying to cut back.” 

Some events serve mocktails and alcohol-free drinks, but soft drinks are always available for anyone in recovery who can’t drink alcohol alternatives. Steph said, “It’s all still a learning process for me but I’m always trying to do what I can to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable at our meet-ups. Since I haven’t been through recovery myself, I’m open to learning new things and getting feedback from those who have been.”


Steph said that as a queer woman, it’s a priority to do everything she can to ensure that the meet-ups are not only a safe space for sober people but also all members of the LGBTQ+ community. She said, “I try to include that message as much as possible on our social channels as well as on the event information. Even our WhatsApp group descriptions address this. I always ask that new members read it to see what we’re about.”

People regularly send Steph angry messages about the Babes Without Beer’s queer content, complaining: “I thought this was just about sober meet-ups. I’m unfollowing!” and “Why do you have to get political?”

I asked Steph if these messages were upsetting, and she said, “I usually just roll my eyes and wonder if they read a single thing on our profile before following.” Despite these responses, she continues to share queer content and offer LGBTQ+ support because it’s one way to make sure everyone in the community is aware that this is a community value. 

She added, “As someone who never really managed to become part of a queer community, it’s really special to feel like I belong, especially since I’m now in my 30s. When I’m at a meet-up I feel proud of these two overlapping areas of my life that have in the past left me feeling alienated. I feel happy and comfortable being fully myself at our meet-ups and I hope that others can experience that too.”


While alcohol continues to be at the centre of many social events, especially within the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland, many people are beginning to recognise that alcohol has damaging short-term and long-term effects on our brains and bodies.

Drinking alcohol is normalised and encouraged in pub settings, but privately, many people struggle with alcohol abuse and addiction. Even people who don’t exhibit symptoms of alcohol dependency may experience increased anxiety, depression and impaired immune systems because of their drinking habits.

Steph remembers how she was feeling one year ago after she got drunk for the first time in a very long time. She said, “I had an awful night and an even worse hangover. It was the final push I needed to launch the community a month later. I needed the support and I needed to channel my energy and free time into something positive.”

Reflecting on last Christmas, Steph says in the past year, she’s been taking better care of her mental health, learning new coping mechanisms, and practising mindful drinking. “Mindful drinking is all about being present and learning to enjoy life without relying on alcohol. It’s a way to change your relationship with alcohol and your drinking habits.”

Steph stressed that since she hasn’t personally struggled with alcohol addiction or dependency, mindful drinking is right for her, but it isn’t an option for everyone. There are loads of sober people in the community who are in active recovery and abstain from alcohol completely. 


Looking ahead to 2024, Steph hopes to see more alcohol-free events around the country, including sober raves and festivals.

She’d also love to see more sober social groups for other communities. She said, “Ours caters to women, non-binary people and LGBTQ+ people, but there’s a general lack of sober safe spaces that cater to others who might not feel like they belong in our community.”

Finally, she hopes that the group’s regional Babes Without Beers WhatsApp chats will help people make connections with others in their local areas. 


The group is incredibly kind and welcoming to newcomers. For anyone who is practising Dry January or curious about joining the group or attending an event, keep in mind that most people attend the events alone and make friends easily.

Here’s what some of the group members had to say:

  • “BWB has given me hope and proven that a community of supportive people, new friends, and having fun exists beyond alcohol” – Anonymous
  • “For the majority of my friends, their hobby is drinking. They don’t want to go for a coffee or the cinema without a drink. This group has been amazing for me because its helped me view socialising without drinking as normal and honestly better. It’s given me the confidence to hang out in social situations without the need or pressure to drink. It’s such a relief to not feel embarrassed or shamed, and I no longer have to depend on drinking as a crutch to socialise.” – Helen
  • “At times sobriety can become isolating and lonely, this group has helped me to regain my confidence and power. I will be forever grateful to Steph.” – Rebecca
  • “The BWB community helped me find sober friends when I needed them most and made me feel less alone in the sober journey. Steph has such a big heart and is amazing for all the organisation she puts into BWB. I’m so beyond grateful.” – Catriona

Steph added, “It’s really brave to put yourself out there in a social setting and meet new people without relying on alcohol for courage. I think people who attend are aware of that, so they always make a big effort to chat and get to know one another. It’s a really cool vibe and people are generally always smiling and laughing which is so great to see.”

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