Back in 2017, I found myself pouring through Google search results with this very same question. There was a lot less information out there back then, and fortunately, as the space grows, so does the number of ways non-alcoholic beer is made.
I’m not a brewer by trade and knew I would need help. I hired a chemist to help me dissect the various methods to choose the one that would do the best job of preserving the taste of the beer since that seemed to be the biggest problem with what was in the market. I reference three common ways of making non-alcoholic beer below along with some of the pros and cons of each method.
- Limited Fermentation/Stopping Fermentation – This method doesn’t remove alcohol but stops it or limits it to under 0.5% ABV, so no equipment is necessary. According to Steady Drinker, “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. Fermentation only occurs when the conditions such as temperature are right. Therefore, brewers can slow or stop fermentation by tweaking the environment the yeast is working in. For instance, heating or cooling the fermenting wort can slow fermentation or stop it completely. Fermentation in a pressurized environment and adjusting the acidity of the wort can also restrict or halt fermentation. Non-alcoholic beer produced with limited fermentation can result in a sweet beer, depending on the ingredients used. It may also taste “worty” or unfinished.”
- Vacuum Distillation – This method uses a level of heat to remove the alcohol. This is the path I originally went down when we were homebrewing in our kitchen. This was a disaster for many reasons but ultimately didn’t want to go down that road because of the effect heat has on the finished product. According to Mixer Direct, “When beer is heated, the alcohol in the beer starts to evaporate. Unfortunately for beer drinkers, this heat can change the taste of the fermented beer. To prevent the taste from changing, some breweries use vacuum distilling. This process uses a vacuum to lower alcohol’s boiling point as much as possible. Instead of heating the beer to a hot temperature, the beer only reaches a fairly warm temperature. This technique helps to keep the flavors intact while reducing the alcohol content.”
- Filtration – In this process, a fully fermented beer gets run through a semipermeable membrane filtration system that filters out water and alcohol leaving the larger molecules responsible for beer’s characteristics. The dealcoholized beer is diluted with water to reach the desired alcohol level. With this method, you do need specialized equipment but this method does a great job of preserving the original taste of the beer.
No matter the method, what is exciting to see is the methods are getting more creative and producing better results. Hope everyone is having a great week!
Take care and be well,