HOW EXACTLY IS ALCOHOL-FREE BEER MADE?
Since their inception, alcohol-free drinks have amazed and even confused a lot of people. Some don't understand the why behind an alcohol-free beer or spirit. Why would someone choose to drink an alcoholic drink without the alcohol?
However, in recent years, adult alcohol alternative drinks have been exploding in popularity. With more than 1 in 5 UK adults no longer drinking and 84% of global drinkers wanting to reduce their intake, many of us are looking for alternatives. With the likes of Heineken and other big breweries getting in on the action after seeing the meteoric success of several craft brands, it seems that alcohol-free beers are here to stay.
But how exactly are alcohol-free beers made?
Most alcohol-free beer actually starts out as its regular alcoholic counterpart. This means it goes through almost the entirely same process as regular beer, from making a mash, to boiling the wort, to adding hops and even fermenting. Then, the two veer off in separate directions.
While regular alcoholic beer might be bottled or canned at this point, non-alcoholic beer proceeds through the de-alcoholisation (alcohol-removal) process.
Years ago, alcohol-free beer was primarily made by boiling the ethanol out of the mixture. Today, some breweries still continue to use this process because it can be cost-effective.
Since alcohol has a much lower boiling point than water, brewers will heat the beer up to approximately 78.3 degrees C and keep it there, until the solution is below 0.5% ABV. However, this process can sometimes have the unfortunate consequence of inhibiting the natural flavours and aromas of the beer, which resulted in some pretty foul tasting beers. This is how most mass-produced alcohol-free beers are made.
Instead, as technology has advanced, so has the de-alcoholisation process. In the last few years, new brewing techniques have made it possible to remove the alcohol from the beer without affecting its taste.
Two main techniques include reverse osmosis and vacuum distillation. As Mixer Direct says, “Through the new techniques, breweries can create alcohol-free beers with different flavours and aromas.” These techniques allow AF beers to maintain the same delicious taste without any worry about alcohol.
One popular technique of removing the alcohol from beer involves reverse osmosis. This technique basically uses extreme pressure to push the already-fermented beer through an extremely tight filter.
The holes in the filter are so small only water, alcohol and volatile acids can fit through. Once through the filter, the alcohol can then be distilled from the mixture by using a standard distillation process.
This process is becoming more popular because it maintains the unique flavours of different beers, while still reducing the alcohol content.
The second technique brewers use for non-alcoholic beer is vacuum distillation. This process uses a vacuum chamber to lower alcohol’s boiling point as much as possible.
While alcohol’s original boiling point is approximately 78.3 degrees C, the vacuum helps to greatly reduce it. So, instead of heating the beer to the point where it might lose its flavour, the beer only reaches a fairly warm temperature. This allows it to keep its taste intact while still evaporating the alcohol out of the mixture.
Once the beer goes through the de-alcoholisation process, it must be carbonated in order to mimic the texture of alcoholic beer. Most alcoholic beer carbonates itself during the fermentation process inside of the bottle. As yeast metabolises sugar into alcohol, it produces the byproduct carbon dioxide, which gives beer its bubbles.
However, as alcohol-free beer no longer has yeast and is not fermenting, it has no CO2. Therefore, most brewers will inject the drink with CO2 during the canning or bottling process, similar to what companies do with soda.
This finalises the brewing process, and gives us full-flavour, alcohol-free beers, which mimics its alcoholic counterpart in almost every way except the sensations of drinking.
If you choose to live an alcohol-free lifestyle—whether for a short stage in time or for your entire life—alcohol-free beer is the perfect choice to try. With recent adaptations in technology, alcohol-free beer mimics its alcoholic counterpart closer than ever before, and provides the same delicious taste, without any concern for alcohol.
There's been more and more alcohol-free beers on the market, including ones from big beer like Heineken 0.0 and Peroni Libera.
However, it's a mixed bag sometimes - it's best to check out some review pages first if you're interested in buying in bulk.
If you're interested in a new kind of alcohol-free beers that is designed to mimic the relaxing sensation of alcohol without hangovers, drunkenness or health implications - you can check them out here.
Do you want to find out what type of drinker you are? Take a 2-minute Drinker Type Test Here!