What is Alcohol Free Beer, & How is it Made?
Demand for alcohol free, or low ABV beer has never been higher, but you might find yourself asking; what actually is alcohol free beer? To some, taking the alcohol out of beer is like taking the chocolate chips out of cookies, or the rain out of English summertime (trust me, that one isn’t going to happen), however here at WBB we want to answer the question once and for all; what is No/ Low beer, and why should you care about it?
After all, public interest in Alcohol Free Beer has grown exponentially since Google began tracking search terms a couple of decades ago.
See our chart, which documents a steep increase in searches over the past 15 years, correlating with the huge growth in the popularity of the annual Dry January event (which saw a whopping 6.5 million people taking part in 2021).
With heightened awareness, and more and more excellent breweries creating alcohol free beers that you’d mistake for their fully-fledged brews, it’s time to discover what all the hype is about.
*Data source: Google Trends up to March 2021
Now, different countries define “alcohol free” in different ways, however it is generally accepted that 0.5% ABV or below should be considered Low/ No alcohol. If you take it literally, a beer with 0.5% alcohol volume does contain alcohol, however in the EU and the UK, the breakdown is as follows:
But why does it matter? There are many reasons you might be looking to cut down your alcohol intake. Some take part in international events, such as Dry January, and others generally want to cut down their weekly units intake.
The list goes on! Just remember, it’s OK to go alcohol free.
But… you may find yourself asking, how can a beer be classed as ‘alcohol free’ if it contains alcohol? Well, this is actually much simpler than it seems. Although 0.5% beer does contain alcohol, it is in such low quantities that consuming a pint of this beer is equivalent to drinking a soft-drink. Your body is able to process all the alcohol content before you ever feel the effects of being drunk.
To put this into perspective, the University of Kaiserslautern tested five different Orange Juice brands for their alcohol content, and the highest ABV came through as 0.73%. That’s right; if you’ve ever turned down a pint of 0.5% beer for having alcoholic volume, you also should consider swapping your favourite breakfast beverage too. Don’t even get us started on giving this to your children, you should be ashamed of yourself! We’re kidding, of course, but it’s perhaps worth avoiding some orange juice brands with very young kids.
In fact, one gent put this theory to the test, and attempted to drink as much 0.5% beer as possible in a one hour time-frame, to see whether his blood alcohol levels would rise. Even after 28 cans, the highest his blood alcohol reached for a fleeting moment was 0.02%, before returning to 0% shortly after. As of March 2021, the legal limit is 0.08% BAC in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 0.05% in Scotland, so even after an unrealistic volume of consumption in a short time, this did not come close to reaching the driving limit in the UK.
Note: we would never suggest drinking 28 beers of any format in a row, the above test was completed by a trained professional.
There are a few excellent reasons to switch your bevvy brew, for an alcohol free alternative, like the following:
Want a more scientific answer? We’ve posed this question to our Head Brewer, Will Twomey, who said:
Beer is a fantastic isotonic beverage and supplies the body with sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate and magnesium. These are all electrolytes that the body requires, especially after exercise when they will be depleted. Hops are also a natural anti-oxidant plus have other benefits such as being soporific (calming and sleep inducing). Reduced alcohol also means that a low ABV beer is a great alternative to high sugar soft drinks for post workout hydration.
Well, there you go – beer is good for you in many ways, and these benefits are balanced nicely when you remove the alcohol content from it.
Now you may be wondering, how do Brewers create beer that doesn’t have alcohol in it? Do they remove the alcohol, or is there a way of brewing without generating alcohol in the process?
Well, we’ve posed these questions to our Head Brewer, Will Twomey, who said:
There are various methods of producing alcohol free beer:
So there we have it; there are a number of ways that brewers are able to lower the ABV of their beers. You’re able to A. brew a beer as usual, then manually extract the alcohol content via a number of methods. And B. you’re also able to crunch the chemistry, and design beers that are brewed with a low-ABV in mind from the off, so no post-processing is required.
There are many brilliant options for alcohol-free beer, including the following:
* Please note, there are a few occasions in which we wouldn’t recommend you drink beers with some alcohol content in, for example whilst you’re pregnant. Please consider any medications, or other reasons to avoid alcohol before you try it, and make a decision based on your personal circumstances.