How is Non-alcoholic Beer Made? Methods and Steps Explained

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With an estimated global revenue of $18.4 billion, non-alcoholic beer has become a mainstream drink for all occasions. It’s a robust market whose demand will only increase in the coming years as more people seek healthier life choices by cutting out alcohol.

Various manufacturers have devised methods for brewing low to zero-alcohol beer by removing or reducing alcohol content to a minimum level. Let’s check out the meticulous procedures involved in producing low-alcohol beer and how it differs from its alcoholic counterpart.

Non-alcoholic Beers Key Ingredients

While they’re sometimes used interchangeably, non-alcoholic beers (NA) aren’t the same as alcohol-free beers. Here’s the key difference:

  • Non-alcoholic Beer: Beers containing less than 0.5% ABV
  • Alcohol-free Beer: No alcohol content or 0.0% ABV

To understand NA beers’s brewing process, it helps to know the ingredients used to make it:

  • Water: The primary ingredient of all beer types and forms the base of the brew. It contributes to the drink’s overall flavor as it comprises 90 to 95% of the beer’s content.
  • Barley Malt: Sprouted and then roasted grains of barley provide the fermentable sugars for the yeast during the fermentation process.
  • Hops: Add the bitter flavor and beer aroma. They’re often added during the brewing process to balance the sweetness of malt.
  • Yeast: Responsible for fermentation. NA beers use special yeast strains or techniques to minimize or reduce alcohol production.
  • Adjuncts: Optional add-ons like corn and rice to lighten the beer flavor. They can also contribute to the sweetness of the final product.  
  • Flavorings: Various extracts to mimic or achieve a flavor profile. Popular ones include coffee, spices, and fruit extracts.  
  • Carbonation: Carbon dioxide is added to NA beers to give them that characteristic fizz that enhances their drinkability.

6 Mainstream Ways to Create Non-alcoholic Beers

There are two major ways to brew non-alcoholic drinks like beer. One is to create it without the alcohol, two is to remove the alcoholic component after it’s made.  

Here’s a closer look at each of their subtypes.  

No-Alcohol Brewing Methods

Arrested Fermentation

Alternatively called halted or controlled fermentation, the process works by stopping the production of alcohol during the fermentation process. In the regular brewing process, yeast is added to wort, a sugary extract from malt barley. This action triggers alcohol creation as a waste product of the yeast “digesting” the sugars in the wort.  

Here’s how arrested fermentation is done to stop this alcohol production:

  1. Temperature Control: Applied to the fermentation vessel to stop or slow down yeast activity. Yeast is known to become less active under lower temperatures, eventually making it dormant and unable to convert sugar to alcohol.  
  2. Filtration: Brewers physically remove yeast cells from the beer before they create a lot of alcohol.
  3. Chemical Treatment: Adding sulfites and sorbates to the beer to inhibit yeast activity.
  4. Pasteurization: A heat treatment to kill yeast cells. A major drawback of this option is its impact on the beer’s flavor.

Simulated Fermentation

This method highlights the use of specific yeast strains or other microorganisms known for producing minimal to no alcohol while retaining desirable flavors and aroma in the beer.

One example is the yeast strain Lachancea Thermotolerans, which is known to ferment sugar at lower temperatures, has high flavor compounds, and low-level alcohol output.  

Cold Fermentation

This focuses on lowering the temperature of the fermentation process. While regular fermentation is done between 15°C to 24°C, this step brings it down to 7°C to 13°C.

The result is reduced yeast activity, which lowers the alcohol content while maintaining a smooth and clean flavor. Cold fermentation is often followed by extended conditioning, where the beer is stored in even colder temperatures for weeks or months.

During this period, the beer matures further, allowing flavors to develop and mellow out without further fermentation.

Alcohol Removal or Dealcoholization Methods

Vacuum Distillation

This process involves lowering the boiling point of alcohol, allowing it to vaporize without the risk of losing the beer’s flavor. From the typical alcohol boiling point of 78°C, it’s reduced to around 34°C.

The vaporized alcohol is condensed and collected separately from the rest of the beer, while the remaining liquid proceeds with the distillation process. A huge challenge with this method is flavor retention, as volatile compounds tend to disintegrate under high temperatures or pressure points.

Brewers employing this process implement close quality control monitoring along with required adjustments to improve hop level, malt sweetness, and other desirable flavor components.

Reverse Osmosis

This method uses an RO (Reverse Osmosis) system, which is a water purification technology often used to separate contaminants and impurities from water.

Its application when making non-alcoholic beer looks like this:

  1. A finished beer is put into the RO system, equipped with a semi-permeable membrane that allows water (beer) and small molecules to pass through.
  2. The membrane blocks off larger molecules like flavor compounds, sugars, and alcohol.
  3. What remains is a beer with minimal alcohol concentration, which then undergoes flavor adjustment to restore lost flavor and aroma.

Brew Dilution

Brew dilution is a straightforward process that uses water to dilute the beer’s alcohol content. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. A finished beer is transferred into a tank or container, suitable for water mixing.
  2. Brewers use flow meters to add a calculated amount of water to the beer, achieving the desired alcohol content.
  3. Using equipment like pumps and agitators, brewers proceed with mixing the water and beer. It’s standard practice to use these tools over manual mixing to ensure equal distribution and consistency of the components.
  4. After dilution, adjustments are made to tweak the beer’s flavor profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Non-alcoholic Beer Taste Better than a Regular Beer?

It boils down to your taste preference. In general, non-alcoholic beers taste similar to the regular alcoholic beer minus the alcohol content. Brewing technology has improved a lot, making this possible. The only lacking aspect is the astringency of alcohol.

How Long Does NA Beer Last?

The average shelf life of NA beers is between six to twelve months from the brewed date, provided you store them in a cool, dry place. Refrigeration is highly recommended as this helps slow down chemical reactions that can result in a beer’s oxidation and staling.

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s reducing alcohol formation or removing alcohol after fermentation, breweries around the globe have developed methods to make any non-alcoholic beer as satisfying as its regular counterpart.

If you want to reduce alcohol intake but find it difficult to transition into a no-alcohol lifestyle, going for alcohol-free alternatives can be your first step forward.

Alternatively, book an appointment and talk to our experts for a wholesome, guided approach to alcoholism management.

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