How Do They Make Non Alcoholic Beer? A Complete Guide

Maybe you’re looking to cut down on your alcoholic consumption a bit. Perhaps you want to brew a new option to your teetotaling fans or customers. Or you might simply be curious about the process in brewing. How do they make non alcoholic beer?

It’s a good question because alcohol is pretty essential to the entire brewing process. But many people who love beer have had to cut alcohol out of their lives for a variety of reasons, from anxiety to heart conditions and from religious reasons to spiritual beliefs.

So non alcoholic beer can be a great option that still allows you to enjoy the flavor and health benefits of beer.

What Is Beer, Anyway?

As mentioned before, alcohol is pretty essential to the entire process. Alcohol is really what makes beer… well… beer.

Beer is made from a simple fermentation that involves cracking or grinding malted barley, boiling and steeping that malted barley, at which point the sugars in the barley are released, and then adding yeast to the cooled down liquid (now referred to as wort). The yeast consumes the sugar and converts it to alcohol. You now have beer. Sure, you can add hops for flavor and bitterness. Other brewers experiment with fruits and other spices. But at the very foundation, that’s really all that’s required to call it “beer.”

Beer drinkers love beer for many reasons, so when they do have to or decide to give it up, it can be heart breaking.

Enter the invention of non alcoholic beer.

Keep in mind that “non-alcoholic” can mean many things. To some it means less than 2% ABV. To others it means .5% ABV. Legally, in most places in the western world, your beverage must contain less than .5% ABV to put “non-alcoholic” on the label. But higher ABVs that are still relatively low can call themselves “low alcohol” beer or “near beer.”

Who Invented Non Alcoholic Beer

Realize that non alcoholic beer (or rather “near beer”) has technically been around for centuries. Indeed, beer, or ale, was often served at dinner and throughout the day to all members of a family regardless of age. These near beers were prepared as alternatives to water because no sanitary water sources existed.

The process of brewing, boiling the barley water and fermenting with yeast to create alcohol, both eliminate harmful bacteria that could otherwise make people very sick and even kill them.

At that time, the fermentation process would have simply been arrested, or halted, before too much alcohol was produced, and the resulting ABV would have been below 2%, not enough to worry about harming your children. It was certainly safer than questionable drinking water.

Once safe drinking water was provided to communities by the government, non alcoholic beer became a non issue.

Until the rise of prohibition in the western world.

Women complained and rallied over husbands who would drink too much and abuse the women and children. Companies complained that workers jeopardized products and services by working under the influence of alcohol. Prohibition called for a ban on alcoholic beverages.

During the period of Prohibition in the US, brewers made beer with less than 2% alcohol and called it a “tonic.”  A handy little loophole to stay in business.

Once Prohibition ended, again, non alcoholic beer became a non issue. Some brewers continued to provide it, but it mostly sat on the shelves of markets and stores ignored by the larger population except in areas like the Muslim world where all alcohol is absolutely prohibited.

It has recently come back into fashion because of health conscious reasons.

Large breweries and craft breweries alike have been experimenting with low alcohol, low calorie, and non alcoholic beers to cater to their fans who love beer but are hyper conscious of the toxins and other detrimental effects of alcohol on the body and mind.

How Do They Make Non Alcoholic Beer?

So, how is it made?

There currently exist two generalized ways to create non alcoholic or low alcohol beer.

Leave Out the Yeast

The first way is efficient and effective for anyone who wants to ensure absolutely no alcohol is present in the beer.

You would harvest and grind your barley, boil and steep it, and then add any other spices or flavorings you want, including hops. Be sure to never add the yeast and keep the beer in airtight containers, and no fermentation will take place.

This option is the one used in the Muslim world.

The only disadvantage to this process is that it results in a super sweet beverage. Remember, all your sugars from that barley are still present in the drink with no yeast to convert them to alcohol, and there is really no effective way to remove that sweetness.

Remove the Alcohol

The other option is to brew your beer as you normally would and then remove most of the alcohol afterward. This can be done in a few different ways.

Arrest Fermentation

You can do what they did in the good old medieval days and stop the fermentation process before it converts too much alcohol into your beer. This arrest is typically performed by stopping the boiling process and then cooling the wort down quickly. You can also remove some yeast at this point and allow fermentation to continue for a bit longer, depending on the ABV you are seeking.

Boil It Again

You can also brew your beer to completion, with its resulting higher ABV, and then boil off the alcohol. The alcohol will evaporate first, so you should still be able to maintain your flavor profile as close to the original as possible.

Some brewers have taken to vacuuming out the alcohol, kind of a reverse distillation, where you capture the alcohol during that second boiling process and then release it. This may allow for a more controlled process.

In the end, you will find a vast array of non alcoholic and low alcohol beers on the market with variations on calorie counts, flavors, and even different ales and lagers. If you are on the hunt for a great non alcoholic beer, the brewing world has begun catering to you. And if you’re a brewer, you’re on to new adventures!


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Also, you can now get access to a fully functional demo account to test our Web App. Completely free of charge and with no commitment to purchase.


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