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Do you hate hangovers? Feel like your liver has seen one too many beers lately? There’s a solution to this conundrum that doesn’t involve avoiding beer. We’re talking about non-alcoholic beer. It exists, and it has a purpose: to give those who dislike alcohol or who can’t have it a way to drink delicious and beneficial beer. Yes, non-alcoholic beer actually tastes good.
Still on the fence about giving non-alcoholic beer a try? Here is everything you need to know, including the benefits, brand recommendations, and how to make reduced-alcohol beer at home.
What is Non-Alcoholic Beer?
As the name describes, non-alcoholic beer (also known as NA beer) contains zero or trace amounts of alcohol. There are many kinds of non-alcoholic beers available for purchase. Those are broken into two categories: alcohol-free beer and non-alcoholic beer.
Yes, there’s a difference!
In the US, the FDA states that alcohol-free beer must contain absolutely no alcohol in order for the label to say 0.0% ABV.
Non-alcoholic beer, on the other hand, has an allowance of up to 0.5% ABV. A slight trace of alcohol will land the beer in this category.
How is Non-Alcoholic Beer Made?
There are two ways brewers can make beer without any alcohol: either remove the alcohol or some alcohol formation during fermentation. Either one sounds like a feat, but all it truly takes is a special yeast or a well-timed interruption during the fermentation process to stop alcohol from forming.
Another method involves heating the beer, though this will have a significant effect on the flavor. Major brewing companies will run the beer through a super powerful vacuum to reduce the boiling point and preserve the beer’s flavor.
With the alcohol gone, you have flat beer. Brewers then add carbon dioxide in the same way you’d carbonate soda. Sugar is also used to improve the flavor.
Can You Get Drunk Off Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Yes, NA beer does have alcohol in it—around 0.5% ABV or lower. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get a buzz from non-alcoholic beer, however. Why? Because 0.5% ABV is the same as a glass of orange juice, and no one has ever gotten drunk off orange juice…unless you’ve made a screwdriver.
Now for a word of caution. A study of 45 non-alcoholic beverages found that nearly 30% had more alcohol than what was stated on the label. In that study, there were 6 beers that were labeled as 0% alcohol but, coincidentally, had levels as high as 1.8% ABV.
Keep this in mind if you plan on driving or may be pregnant, as there could be more alcohol in your NA beer than you planned. Unless you know for sure that the beer has exactly the amount of alcohol in it that the label claims, don’t take any risks.
Benefits of Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer
Moderate alcohol consumption isn’t always going to lead to negative consequences. There are antioxidants in a glass of wine and beer, and it’s certainly fine to indulge during a romantic night out.
That said, there will be times when you don’t want alcohol and don’t want a sugary soda either. Non-alcoholic beer has plenty of benefits that make it an appealing substitute (or your next healthy go-to) the next time someone orders a round.
Wondering if there are any drawbacks? We won’t fail to mention those either.
1. Non-Alcoholic Beer Hydrates
One of the main drawbacks of alcoholic beer—or alcohol in general—is that it acts as a diuretic. This is why drinking leads to more trips to the toilet and leaves you feeling dehydrated and hungover in the morning. Since there is no alcohol in non-alcoholic beer, that diuretic effect is diminished.
Several scientific studies have found that the lower the alcohol content, the better beer can hydrate the body. Furthermore, beer with less than 2.0% ABV didn’t increase urine output or affect blood volume levels after physical activity. That’s good news for those who like cracking open a cold can of beer after working or playing in the yard.
2. You Get Great Post-Exercise Recovery
Consider yourself an athlete or gym rat? Good news. After you’ve finished up with a game of football or lifting at the gym, you can cool down, rehydrate, and enjoy optimized post-workout recovery with beer. Sounds too good to be true, right? It isn’t!
The vitamins, nutrients, carbohydrates, and sodium all work together to replenish the body thoroughly.
Did you know that during the 2017 Berlin Marathon and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, the German athletes enjoyed non-alcoholic beer during their breaks? Non-alcoholic beer was even promoted for the 2020/2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to assist with inflammation and muscle recovery.
A Chilean study from 2016 looked at pre-exercise beverages. The results found that consuming about 0.7 liters of non-alcoholic beer before your workout could help maintain electrolyte levels. Interestingly, a brand of non-alcoholic beer, Erdinger, advertises their alcohol-free wheat brew as isotonic, meaning that water can move freely across cell membranes, helping with hydration.
3. Nutrients and Vitamins Abound
Beer is nutritious. You can’t deny that. Even the alcoholic version can lower your risk of diseases, improve bone strength, reduce your chance of developing diabetes, and gives you a slew of vitamins and nutrients. Non-alcoholic beer has those same benefits, and it might serve you even better because there’s no alcohol in the mix to negate the “healthy” part.
Here are some of the minerals and vitamins present in NA beer:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Other Healthy Properties
Overall, beer is healthy, because the main ingredients—hops, yeast, water, malt—are healthy. Yeast has been found to assist with diabetic control by lowering blood sugar levels. Barely, which is often used for malt, is high in fiber and rich in minerals and vitamins. You also get beta-glucans, which are responsible for protecting against diabetes, lowering cholesterol levels, and also reducing your risk of heart disease.
Hordenine from malt is naturally occurring and has some magical properties; it lowers cholesterol, improves your mood, and has 50% more antioxidants than blueberries and 5 times for than broccoli. Furthermore, the presence of 20 various phenols in malt give it anti-inflammatory properties.
A Calorie Caveat
Most non-alcoholic beers are also low-calorie. On average, beers with 0.0% ABV have been 60-85 calories per serving, but there are some outliers. Take Coors Edge, for instance, which is 0.5% ABV and 45 calories per serving.
Now, there is one teeny-tiny drawback that must be mentioned. Non-alcoholic and regular beers do have a very similar nutrient profile, minus the carbohydrate content. Since non-alcoholic beer doesn’t get a chance to convert a lot of the sugars into alcohol, you’re left with that sugar. That’s how some non-alcoholic brews (looking at you, Budweiser Prohibition Brew) have the same amount of calories as their boozy counterparts.
So, yes, non-alcoholic beer tastes delicious—because of the sugar. This can be troubling for those who are trying to cut back on sugar or trim their waistline.
4. Anxiety and Stress Reduced
Hops, the major component in beer, are attributed with a great many positive things. From assisting with cardiovascular health and reducing hot flashes to being a potential treatment for depression, hops are an amazing little plant.
Many studies have looked at how hops and beer influence anxiety and stress. In one notable study, the participants would rate their stress over a two-week period. Those who consumed non-alcoholic beer in the evening had lower levels of anxiety and stress than those who didn’t drink beer. Physical testing confirmed this result.
Interestingly, the participants also showed a decrease in 5-HIAA levels (which those with anxiety disorder have higher levels of) in their urine after two weeks of NA beer.
5. Non-Alcoholic Beer Improves Sleep
Glorious hops are at it again with yet another undeniable benefit. Myrcenol and xanthohumol, two polyphenols, have sedative effects that can improve your sleep. Hops are often used to treat insomnia, so it’s no surprise that beer helps people get more restful nights.
But how does this happen, you ask? Hops excite gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter. As GABA levels rise, neural activity decreases, giving the brain time to wind down and relax. Non-alcoholic beer was used in a 2012 study to measure the sedative effect on healthy nurses. During a two-week period, the nurses consumed NA beer after their shift. Not only did they fall asleep faster, but they also were less restless throughout the night.
6. Cardiovascular Health
To hell with running. Could a healthier heart be as easy as a serving of non-alcoholic beer? Thanks to the presence of a polyphenol known as xanthohumol, which also comes from hops, blood pressure and inflammation is reduced. Homocysteine levels also drop. The same study found that the regular consumption of beer led to an increase in endothelial progenitor cells, a kind of stem cell that repairs and maintains blood vessel walls.
7. No Mo’ FOMO
Many recovering alcoholics and non-drinkers often feel left out when it comes to visiting a bar or tavern with their friends. Everyone else is drinking some form of alcohol, and yet they are left with water or juice. Having non-alcoholic beer available is one way of breaking down those barriers and getting everyone in the establishment to enjoy their time.
No longer will you be excluded from the beer scene simply because you don’t want to drink alcohol. Now, there are plenty of non-alcoholic or alcohol-free craft beers out there that taste just as good as their boozier variants.
The Drawbacks of Non-Alcoholic Beer
Okay, so we’ll admit there aren’t many negatives to beer without alcohol. Unless you want to get drunk. Then you’re out of luck.
The other big downside is the amount of sugar in non-alcoholic beer. Though the calorie count is usually lower than alcoholic versions of your favorite beer, that extra shot of sugar might not be good for those cutting carbs, sugar, or counting macros.
Just because non-alcoholic beer doesn’t have alcohol in it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a danger to recovering alcoholics, either. If you have just recently gotten in control of your habit, it’s better to stay away from anything even related to alcohol. The smell of beer alone could be enough to trigger a relapse, due to scent-related cues that release dopamine.
Different Kinds and Brands of Non-Alcoholic Beer
Let’s have a look at some of the best non-alcoholic and alcohol-free beers on the market right now:
- Athletic Brewing Co. Run Wild Session IPA – 70 calories, 0.5% ABV. This award-winning brew contains North Western hops and delicious malt.
- Brooklyn Special Effects Hoppy Amber – Less than 0.5% ABV. A citrus-forward brew that’s so good, you won’t realize it’s NA.
- Weihenstephaner Hefeweisen – 75 calories, 14 IBUs, several awards under its belt, and a flavor of banana, cloves, and lemon.
- Bitburger Drive Pilsner – 0.05% ABV, 5.1g carbs, and is compatible with German purity laws. It’s the real deal, minus the alcohol.
- Brewdog Nanny State Ale – 21 calories, 0.48% ABV, IBU of 45, and an incredible mix of Dark Crystal, Caramalt, Wheat, Chocolate, and other delicious malts.
- Coors Edge – 41 calories, 8g carbs, and 1g protein. The beer flavor stands out with this one.
- Heineken Zero – 69 calories, 0.0% ABV, and the classic Heineken taste with an ultra-light mouthfeel.
- Brewdog Hazy AF Hazy IPA – Available in the UK, AU, and US. You get 0.5% ABV and a whole lot of fruity notes.
This is just a sampler of the options that are out there. More and more breweries around the world are committing to developing delectable alcohol-free beer. Soon, you’re going to be able to purchase NA beer wherever you want and blend right into the crowd.
Until then, why not brew your own non-alcoholic beer?
Can I Make Non-Alcoholic Beer At Home?
Making non-alcoholic beer at home is totally possible, but you might have to make an investment on some equipment you wouldn’t ordinarily have. You have a choice of four methods, though, so don’t let the equipment list deter you from giving non-alcoholic brews a try.
The 4 homebrewing methods of alcohol-free beer include:
- Vacuum distillation
- Reverse osmosis
- Sugar reduction
- Boil-off method
Let’s take a walk through the four methods you can brew non-alcoholic beer at home before getting into the one route that’s recommended. Looking for a visual guide? Check out this fantastic video from Makebeereasy.com:
One of the challenges that homebrewers have that bigger breweries don’t is keeping the non-alcohol beer from tasting foul. Vacuum distillation provides a solution, because the boiling point is reduced. The flavor of the beer isn’t impacted too much. The downside is that vacuum distillation requires a lot of equipment and is rather expensive.
Otherwise known as filtration, this is another method that larger breweries use. Homebrewers often can’t afford the equipment needed for reverse osmosis.
Here is the first method a homebrewer can try if they wish. Any beer recipe is going to require sugars. By reducing the sugar, you can limit how much is fermented. Since alcohol is a byproduct of the fermentation process, reducing the sugar effectively cuts off the conversion.
This is the second option you have as a homebrewer, and it’s the best one in our honest opinion. Rather than tweaking your recipe and preventing fermentation, you brew your beer as you normally would. Then you remove the alcohol that forms by boiling it off. The alcohol evaporates, leaving you with a brew with about 0.5% ABV.
How to Homebrew Non-Alcoholic Beer
Step 1. Brew Your Beer Normally
Any non-alcoholic home-brewed beer is going to start the same way—with the recipe you follow. The first step involves brewing up the beer as you usually would. Don’t add or remove anything. You can convert any kind of beer into a non-alcoholic version, so you can use a brew kit, brew bag, mashing, or whatever else the recipe calls for.
If this is your first time ever brewing a beer, we recommend purchasing a home brewing kit with everything included. The instructions will be easy to follow. Do keep in mind that you shouldn’t use any recipe that calls for additional shoulders. Sugar is only going to increase the amount of alcohol created during fermentation.
Once you finish brewing the wort and fermenting the beer completely, you can then begin the dealcoholization process.
Step 2. Boiling Alcohol Off Your Beer
As mentioned earlier, we’re going to use the boil-off method. Do you remember the chemistry lesson that stated how alcohol has a lower boiling point than water? It’s time to use that science fact to your advantage.
To begin the boil-off method, pour the beer into the kettle or pot. Heat the beer to around 173 degrees F (78.3 degrees C). At this temperature, the alcohol will burn off and evaporate.
The problem is the flat taste of the non-alcoholic beer. You’re going to wonder where the complex flavors you worked so hard to cultivate have gone.
But there’s good news! You can circumvent the disappointment by turning on the oven instead of the burner.
Set the brew kettle or stockpot into the oven for 20-30 minutes. You can preheat the oven to 180 degrees F (82.2 degrees C). Make sure the oven is fully heated before putting your stockpot of beer inside.
Why does this work? The beer heats more evenly than on a stove top burner. Fluctuating temperatures will only hurt the beer, so by heating it evenly, you preserve the flavor better.
Step 3. Carbonate Your NA Brew
Great. Your non-alcoholic beer is also flat because the boiling off process also releases all the carbon dioxide. Now what?
It’s time to carbonate the brew, either naturally or with force carbonation.
If you go the natural route, you need to add yeast and priming sugars before you bottle the beer. The yeast must be activated before bottling or it will take too long to carbonate. Get a yeast starter going for convenience. Don’t know how to make a yeast starter? We’ve got a guide for that.
Another option is carbonation tablets.
Planning on doing forced carbonation? You can inject CO2 directly into the keg. You’re going to need a carbonation lid kit if you don’t already have one.
Non-alcoholic beer is precisely as it sounds: a beer that has had alcohol removed from it. Although these beers contain far less alcohol than the average beer, small amounts might still remain. That said, if you’re looking for a way to enjoy beer without consuming loads of alcohol, non-alcoholic beer might be exactly what you are looking for. Many brands are flavorful and healthy, so give them a try. You can also attempt brewing up a batch of non-alcoholic beer at home!
Frequently Asked Questions
The purpose of non-alcoholic beer is to provide a substitute for alcoholic beer that is safe for minors (in most states and countries) as well as non-drinkers to consume. Non-alcoholic beer offers all the benefits of regular beer but will not intoxicate the drinker.
Yes, alcohol-free beer is good for you. If you are worried about the impact of alcohol on your health, non-alcoholic beer is a wonderful way to make a compromise. You can still enjoy delicious beer without the negative impact of alcohol on your liver. You also don’t have to worry about hangovers. Additionally, NA beer can help with anxiety, stress, insomnia, and post-workout recovery.
It is rare for anyone to get drunk from non-alcoholic beer, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. There are still trace amounts of alcohol found in non-alcoholic beer, about 0.5% ABV or less. Some beers that are labeled as 0.0% ABV also may have a little bit of alcohol. However, for most people, these amounts are entirely negligible and shouldn’t impact your blood alcohol volume.
Non-alcoholic beer is becoming popular because there is a whole generation—Gen Z—who is drinking less alcohol than their peers. Not only that, but some people would like a beer despite not drinking alcohol. Having a beer is much more preferable to water, juice, or soda when spending an evening in the bar with friends. It’s a great way for people with health conditions to enjoy the health benefits of beer without needing to worry about the alcohol affecting their body.