What is a non-alcoholic beer ? Answers that may surprise you
There are many reasons to drink non-alcoholic beer. It’s not true that people just drink it because they have a problem with alcohol. People drink it for lots of reasons and at the end of the day its a growth industry with over 23 per cent annual growth in sales. However, the question still comes up :
What is non-alcoholic beer?
Personally I was given 48 hours to live after being diagnosed with extreme liver failure. However, I was not your typical drinker, I loved wine and long weekend lunches and that was deemed normal in my social circle.
There are people who drank more than me and are fine. However, a word of caution I learned that it can have a massive effect on your liver. Like big time!
Let’s try and list which people may ask this question.
The fact is the market is huge so from people with a lifestyle purpose to those who just can’t. Although many of these three areas can mix and match.
You can’t – this category of people who drink non -alcoholic beer may have had a issue so health as in my case. If they touch any alcohol it is not good news for their health or maybe their mind.
Remember there are lots of health issues that would stop you drinking alcohol, they are not all linked to so called problem drinking!
This can include people who have let drink get out of control and it can have a devastating effect. Although for some people the smell or sight of an alcoholic beer is not good news.
This might also be because of beliefs or religious issues.
You choose not to – This is a very lifestyle issue.
You choose to because of health or you are fed up with the hangover. Non alcoholic beer gives you the chance take a different path. It can also be because your drinking while not a problem per se means that once you start it is hard to stop and your behaviour can change radically. This is why it is a popular path in terms of work parties.
You don’t want to : This is probably the easiest and straight forward. You just don’t drink alcohol full stop. It does nothing for you but you like the social aspect and especially now the product has vastly improved!
Now I say this having had plenty of discrimination since giving up alcohol. You are a consumer and it’s up to you what you want to drink. Alcohol free beer is often hard to come by without us getting questioned on why you are drinking it!
To check out my preferred affiliate partner for alcohol free options click the pic below
The Myths about what’s in non-alcoholic beer?
So let’s bust some myths about non-alcoholic beer more than the “why don’t you drink the real stuff !” I get that all the time
Overall non alcohol beer contains the same ingredients as any other beer so:
The water does make a difference which is why certain pure German or Irish beers taste different. It is very often about the purity of the water. Some German Bavarian Beers insist on it.
So yes water can make a difference even in non-alcoholic beer. Certain brands like Bavaria 0.0 use this to their advantage.
This is what creates the sugar in the process and then of course the sugar is turned to alcohol. The brewers who use this process then of course have to decide how to take out the alcohol.
Taste is the key here as it part of the brewing process that produces sugars during the early stages of the brewing cycle.
The sugar of course is often still in the beer when we drink it so not all of it turns into alcohol.
Grains such as malt can change a beer’s smell, taste and look. On the label for non-alcoholic beers you might find other grains commonly used wheat, oats, rye, maize and rice.
If you have intolerance, always check the label and the market is responding to the demand for gluten free beers.
Yeast is the engine room of the beer so it is what creates fermentation in many things including fruit so the grains are able to become alcohol and come with their own aromas including carbon dioxide. I don’t live far from a brewery so the smell of the process is intense sometimes as it wafts across especially in the wind.
Hops can give beer its bitterness and flavor and they also add to the life of the product.
What about the other ingredients?
Well the industry is trying hard with these so for example, Lactose.
As anyone who is going vegan will know from my blog (I have received lots of questions on this). Lactose is everywhere and beer is no exception even in low- alcoholic beers.
This helps make your beer a bit more sweet because the yeast won’t consume these sugars during fermentation.
That is why it’s often in low and no alcoholic beer and why I have reviewed vegan friendly beers as there is increasing demand! Again it will be on the label but never be afraid to ask.
The others are probably what you would expect, so CO2 which makes it gassy and gives it the fizz. It’s a natural part of the process but as my brewer friends point out it can be added which is why some beers can be more gassy than others.
Beers also have bacteria “Lactobacillus” and is generally good for your stomach and gut as it’s considered healthy. There are other supplements in health food shops that advocate this which is why some people say it is very healthy!
Most labels say “contains flavorings” that are “natural”. Although believe it or not even food products don’t have to say what that means. Its OK though as its “very natural”. What does that mean?
A few producers add coloring to their beer to enhance its appearance. Most often, this is caramel coloring, which is the same coloring used in cola and many other foods including some sauces, pet foods and vinegar.
Caramel coloring will be included in the ingredients list where used. Its “E” number is usually E150.
Occasionally, brewers add extra sugar to their beers as a sweetener or to aid fermentation.
Yes there is Vitamin C
Beer including non-alcoholic beers are good for vitamins. The downside is people push it in the headlines.
Beer will improve your health!
They conveniently forget about the alcohol content and the calories. Yes there is folic acid which is in some of the better cereals, some fiber and potassium.
However, beer is not an advocate of a totally healthy lifestyle and I am talking alcohol free and normal beer here. Having said that cutting down your alcohol content cannot just change your life as with me it could save it!
Alcohol Free Beer – Good for you?
Now that we’ve looked at the common ingredients in non-alcoholic beer, let’s see how those ingredients affect its nutritional content.
There are calories in alcohol free beer, sorry! Its not the answer you were looking for!
It’s full of carbs and I often get asked if I can lose the weight on alcohol free beer. What is true is that there are alcohol free beers which have a much lower calorie level because there is no alcohol. Makes sense right?
There is not much protein though and I guess if you wanted to flag a positive they generally have zero fat!
If you check the ingredients of many local alcohol beers it’s like reading a vitamin bottle so I checked it out and they often even have the same order so
- vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- vitamin B3
- vitamin B6
- vitamin B7 (biotin)
- vitamin B9
- vitamin B12
- sodium (salt)
If you have a liver issue always keep an eye on the salt level but vitamin B is generally a good thing with liver health and a damaged liver can really need it.
So if beer is really the same where does the alcohol go?
So the University of Tehran listed the methods for creating a non-alcoholic beer. It is now recognized that these are the main methods of creating it.
This will of course depend on the brewery and the good news for us 0.0 alcohol free beer fans is that some have no alcohol created in the process at all, and that is a good thing! So I don’t bore you stupid, I have given you a few headlines for each as my experience shows that people want to know two things:
- Is it alcohol free
- Does it taste good?
After that interest tends to disappear!
- De – alcoholisation
The alcohol is then removed using a method such as steam distillation, water vapor or gas stripping, or reverse osmosis.
- Limited fermentation
The alcohol in beer is produced during fermentation, when yeast breaks down the sugar in the wort. If you limit the amount of alcohol produced during fermentation to under 0.5% ABV, you’ll have a low-alcohol “non-alcoholic” beer.
Using this method to make alcohol-free beer, brewers produce a concentrated beer in the traditional way using a significant amount of hops and grains to create a concentrated beer high in flavor and body.
After fermentation, they dilute the concentrated beer with water until the alcohol level is under 0.5% ABV, and then re-carbonate it.
- Fermentation free
This is where no fermentation takes place so no alcohol is created and then you get a totally 0.0 alcohol free beer rather than a less than 0.05% which happens in a natural process in all sorts of fermentation including some breads and orange juice.
As an advocate of alcohol free the last one is my go to option!
There is a lot of science behind how they do all of these and I have not included them here but let’s just say it is science and some brewers use a mix of all three. My preference of course is for the fourth option as I avoid alcohol altogether for health reasons!
Regardless its complicated which is why I often get asked :
What is the difference between low alcohol and alcohol-free beers?
It’s simple: how much alcohol does it contain? It varies per country so if you are traveling take note but in the UK the law stimulates the following and is branded as such even if it has no alcohol in whatsoever.
So according to the law if you buy a ‘alcohol-free’ beer it’s going to contain nothing but a trace which occurs as part of the fermentation process. Although if they have no fermentation as such then it is often totally zero. Heineken is a good example where they have a statement on the bottle that says no more than 0.05% in terms of alcohol. Many foods contain more!
This is why I am passionate about finding the ABV on the labels. So ABV is the label on all alcoholic drinks that will show the Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Beer that says 5% ABV on its label contains 5% pure alcohol. What is a non-alcoholic beer? The answer is always on the labels!
There are four types of categorization used on labels:
Alcohol-free beer is no more than 0.05% ABV
De-alcoholised beer is no more than 0.5% ABV
Low-alcohol beer is no more than 1.2% ABV
Alcoholic beer – contains more than 1.2% ABV
Why does alcohol-free beer contain some alcohol?
Alcohol-free beer can contain a small amount of alcohol (up to 0.05% ABV). This is because some alcohol naturally forms as part of the brewing process. You can read my article on alcohol in orange juice here.
However, always use caution as I stick to 0.0 completely as a rule.
Does it reduce your calories?
Yes and no, it depends on how much you are drinking. Because low-alcohol and alcohol-free does overall have fewer calories than a straight alcoholic beer, if you are taking alcohol out of your diet you will end up overall consuming fewer calories.
The best book I ever bought on a diet was one page, it said calories in calories out and that was it! They have a point!
What if I have had a big drink problem in the past?
This is a massive debating point and to be honest I can only talk from experience. I did come with a background of too much wine and I was over the suggested amount. Was I an alcoholic ?
Depending on who you ask, there are people who go over the recommended amount and are never labeled that way.
There are some people only labeled that way if they get through a bottle of vodka before breakfast. People in glass houses often come to mind
It is true however that if you’re alcohol dependent or recovering from alcoholism experts say don’t touch it as it can trigger old habits. That is true but I have also met many people who go for alcohol free and it has really changed their lives.
Only you will know but I generally I know 2 things. Too much wine combined with stress and genetic make up plus other factors got me in the hospital with only 48 hours to live.
I now drink 0.0 alcohol with no problem at all.
I also know that there are many people who say never to touch alcohol free. Only you will be the judge of yourself and if works for you. I was Joe average as far as drink was concerned.
The last thing you need is discrimination and patronizing advice, as I had plenty including being told to sit in the corner and drink fizzy water.
I am still adamant that for the majority alcohol free can be a worthwhile option that needs to be championed not chastised! Especially for those just over the weekly alcohol limit.
I would love to know what you think ?
Alcohol free beer by and large is just that, the same ingredients with a trace caused by fermentation or no alcohol whatsoever. For the majority this is a good thing as they can enjoy the benefits of a social drink.
What has been your experience with alcohol free beer and just as important what does it taste like to you? Have you been reassured about the ingredients? I hope I have answered the question. What is non-alcoholic beer?
I always respond to everyone’s view as it creates a great community.