While we write a lot of reviews of non-alcoholic craft beers, some readers want to delve deeper into this art form. We have taken a look at some of the most common ways to make non-alcoholic beer. If you previously have researched this you might have found only a couple of options. However, this is not the case anymore as brewers are constantly figuring out new ways to remove alcohol from their beers.
We expect to see many more ways in the future but currently here are the ways non alcoholic beer is made today.
With dealcoholization, we generally mean a process that is quite similar to distillation. You basically heat up the beer to a certain temperature to get rid of the alcohol.
However, with beer, it is done in a bit different manner. Here you keep the beer in a vacuum while heating it. After this gas or nitrogen is pressed through the beer to remove the alcohol. This is also called gas stripping.
Dealcoholization can also be done with reverse osmosis. In this method, the beer is forced through a membrane with high pressure. The flavor particles of the beer are too large to pass through the membrane which is not the case for alcohol and water. This means the flavor compounds will be separated from the alcohol and water which leave a concentrated version of the beer.
As you probably could have guessed, we can´t do much with just concentrated beer flavors. That´s why one more step is needed which is separating the water and alcohol by boiling. The water that is left is then added back to the beer so it has most of the flavors but with no alcohol.
Arrested Fermentation Process
Some people also make non-alcoholic beer with a process called arrested fermentation, sometimes also called limited fermentation.
Normally when you brew beer you first make wort by steeping malted barley in hot water. This releases the sugars from the malt. After this, you throw in the yeast that will consume the sugars and leave alcohol as a byproduct.
In some non alcoholic beer the fermentation process is stopped midway. This means that the sugars will not be fully fermented and if you do it early enough the beer will contain less than 0.5 alcohol. As you probably know already, a beer with an alcohol content under 0.5 percent is considered a non alcoholic beer.
There are a few common ways to do this:
- Limiting fermentable sugars
- Interrupting fermentation by either cooling or heating the wort.
Yeast For Fermentation of Low and Non Alcoholic Beers
Yeast for low and non alcoholic beer could technically be put under the arrested fermentation header, but we still feel it is a separate topic. We have previously reviewed Free Time from Bridge Road Brewers which is a non-alcoholic craft beer brewed with the yeast Safbrew LA-01. This yeast does not ferment all the sugars in the wort during the brewing process. We had this beer at Seabrew 2022 which we also have covered together with the Asia Beer Championships.
This method basically works so that the yeast only consumes certain sugars. Some of the sugars will be left in the beer which means less alcohol is created. Not every yeast stops at 0.5% and there are also a few of these that brew low alcohol craft beers.
Surreal Brewing´s Patent
Don´t forget to read our article about the American non-alcoholic craft beer brewer Surreal Brewing. In the article, we have explained that they have a patent pending on a proprietary method of brewing non-alcoholic beer. They are telling us very little about it unfortunately but we are looking forward to reading more about it after they have gotten their patent approved.
Dilution to make non alcoholic beer
We have heard that some brewers also use dilution to create NA beers. Basically, they brew their beer according to their recipe and then they dilute the end product with water. This doesn´t seem like a great way to do it and it feels that if you add 90% of water the beer will just taste like – water. We haven´t heard of anyone using this method in a professional setting but technically it would be an easy way to make any beer fall under the limit of 0.5%.
How to they make non-alcoholic beer?
With “they” we mean the real brewers. While this blog focuses on non-alcoholic craft beer, we are also curious how the big brands make their NA beers. For example, how do they make Heineken 0.0% or Asahi Dry Zero?
How is Heineken 0.0% made?
Heineken says that they use the same ingredients for their zero beer as they do for their normal beers. It is double-brewed with all-natural ingredients, including hop extract and malted barley. After that, they are using vacuum distillation to remove the alcohol.
How is Asahi Dry Zero made?
The Asahi Dry Zero is a bit of a mystery to me. It is said that no malted barley or wheat is used in brewing the beer.
Maybe they have used rice or something instead? To make beer from rice you need to go through an extra process to convert the starches into sugars. There might be a chance that they have not gone through the extra process and in that way made something of a rice beer without alcohol. We will talk to some brewers about this process because for now we cannot say exactly how the Asahi Dry Zero it is brewed.
How is Brewdog Nanny State made?
As we will mention later in this article, the Nanny State from Brewdog is basically brewed with ingredients that don´t ferment well. They have carefully chosen the malts that give the beer a body and malt flavor without converting starches into sugar. This means that only a limited amount of sugar can be converted to alcohol which results in a low ABV beer.
How is Guiness 0.0 made?
Many breweries are using a method called cold filtering to remove protein from their beers. This method is used instead of pasteurization in the brewing process by some breweries.
While brewing Guinness 0.0, the brewery is using cold filtering also to remove the alcohol. After the filtering process, they are carefully blending different ingredients to ensure it tastes like Guinness, but without alcohol.
How is Athletic Brewing beers made?
Athletic Brewing is one of the most popular brewers of non alcoholic beers in the US. We had to turn to Reddit to find the answer of how they make their non-alcoholic beers. Someone had listened to an interview with the people from Athletic Brewing Company and they said no alcohol had been removed from their beers.
That kind of leaves dealcoholization and reverse osmosis out of the picture. Our best bet is then that they are using arrested fermentation.
There is a debate about this and some people say they are just using a lot of hops to cover up the taste of wort. Some Reddit users also suggest that a cold mash is done which is technically a mash that converts less of the malted barley to sugar. It could also be a combination of several of the aforementioned brewing methods.
Can you make non alcoholic beer at home?
We have looked into making non alcoholic beer at home. It would be great if we could just brew whichever styles we´d want as the selection of non-alcoholic craft beers is still quite limited. But the question is if it is feasible for a homebrewer to do this?
Brewing low alcohol beer at home
We found plenty of information on home brewing forums about brewing low alcohol craft beer. To do this you just need to limit the available sugars in the wort. This can easily be done by choosing malts that has less fermentable sugars. For example, roasted malts often have less sugars which means it is very easy to make a low alcohol stout. They also taste really good because you are not skimping on the ingredients.
Brewing non-alcoholic beer at home
When it comes to brewing non alcoholic beer at home, there also seem to be a few options although it seems like a harder process.
One of the examples we heard from a home brewer was to brew the beer like you normally would and also go through the whole fermentation process. After the brewing process is ready you just need to heat the beer to 79 degrees Celsius (142 degrees Fahrenheit). This is 21 degrees Celsius under the boiling point and you should keep it at that temperature for 30 minutes.
This will make the alcohol evaporate leaving you with a beer that contains less than 0.5 abv. Supposedly this method works better for lagers and stouts than it does for hoppy IPAs.
If you are boiling the beer you will need to add priming sugar if you plan to bottle the beer. If you are going to keg the non alcoholic beer then just use forced carbonation as usual.
We also found some home brewers sharing their attempt at brewing the popular Nanny State non-alcoholic beer from Brewdog. You can supposedly brew this beer at home and it uses 8 different specialty malts. These malts give the beer a complex flavor but without the fermentable sugars. If you do it correctly the beer should have an ABV of 0.5%.
Are non-alcoholic beers gluten-free and vegan?
If NA beers are gluten-free or vegan totally depends on the beer you are drinking. Some non-alcoholic craft beer brewers are trying to be as inclusive as possible. This means that they are producing alcohol free beer without gluten that is also vegan. Some alcohol free beers are either vegan or gluten-free, while others are neither of them.
That means that you need to carefully read the packaging if you want gluten-free or vegan non alcoholic beer. Alternatively you can read our NA craft beer reviews where we do our best to find out this information for you.