Guide to non-alcoholic beer: what it is, how it's made, which are best
With new options providing a taste as good as the real deal, minus the hangover, the appetite for non-alcoholic beers is brewing.
Folks looking for an alcohol-free beverage have traditionally either been relegated to soda water, sugary soft drinks, or ghastly imitations. Nowadays, non-alcoholic beers consist of brews so flavourful that you’d believe it’s the real thing.
Health consciousness is on the rise along with more Australians ditching the drink, whether it is for an event like Dry July, or simply wanting to cut back on the COVID-kilos.
Sales of zero alcohol beverages increased by 100 per cent at local sellers over the 2020-2021 period. The uptake in movements such as Dry July, Feb Fast and Sober October has also given pause for people to test-run a booze-free lifestyle.
Rob Pierce, Bars Manager for the Bourke Street Green, Sojourn and Wine Bar, has witnessed the rise in popularity of non-alcoholic beverages amongst a range of patrons - from after-work office-folk looking for a Friday after-work beer, to younger crowds looking to try something different.
“It’s always nice to come across a customer that wants a new experience, or wants to try something new,” he says.
For those who are looking for their next beer without the burden, consider going alcohol-free.
How is non-alcoholic beer made?
So, what exactly is non-alcoholic beer, and how is it made?
To get technical, non-alcoholic beverages come down to the amount of alcohol in a drink - those with less than 0.5 per cent of alcohol by volume (abv). Some other food and drinks that you may not have know contain trace-amounts of alcohol include orange juice, some breads, and even bananas. There are, of course, varieties available that are 100 per cent alcohol-free.
Not surprisingly, the types of non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beers are categorised by the amount of alcohol in the beverage. While drinks with 0.5 per cent abv are classified as a ‘non-alcoholic’ beverage, a drink that has 0.5-1.2 per cent abv are considered ‘low alcohol.’ To put this in perspective, a standard beer can range from 2.7 per cent abv in a light beer, to 4.9 per cent abv (and higher) in a full-strength, or regular beer.
Whilst the brewing and fermentation process for both regular beer and non-alcoholic beer is similar, including the ingredients of grain, water hops and yeast, as well as the hop blending process and fermentation, there is one key difference – heat.
The alcoholic content of a beer evaporates when heated. However, to preserve the taste, some brewers use a process know as vacuum distilling to remove the – making the beer mixture warm, rather than boiling, to reduce the alcohol while maintaining its multidimensional flavour.
Another way to counter the alcoholic content is to use a specialised yeast strain that does not produce alcohol. The ingredients can sometimes prove costlier than alcoholic beer, due to the goal of keeping the taste smooth and balanced without the alcoholic content.