What Is Non Alcoholic Beer?
First, it was craft beer, then craft gin was all the rage. Now, the biggest trend in the beverage industry is non alcoholic beer and it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.
If you started noticing non alcoholic beer at your local supermarket, gas station, or liquor store, congratulations. You picked up on the latest trend. Non alcoholic and low alcohol (nolo) beverages are becoming increasingly popular, which is why more brewers are expanding their catalog of non alcoholic beer.
If you’re new to the non alcoholic industry, you may have some misconceptions about nolo beers. After all, the market was completely different five years ago. In this post, we’re going to look at what non alcoholic beer is and whether it’s a suitable alternative to regular beer.
What Is Non Alcoholic Beer Made Of?
A common misconception people have about non alcoholic beer is that it’s made differently than regular beer. The truth is that they’re both made virtually the same way, using the same type of ingredients:
Despite having the nickname “near beer,” non alcoholic beer is actual beer. With that said, nolo beers aren’t made exactly the same as regular beer–but it’s similar. Their brewing process typically involves an extra step for removing the alcohol, or to inhibit the formation of alcohol during fermentation.
If you tried the handful of non alcoholic beers on the market a decade ago, you might be skeptical to compare non alcoholic beer to the real deal. But keep in mind that the non alcoholic beer industry has grown exponentially within the past five years, and is expected to become a $6.4 billion industry in North America by 2026.
For beer enthusiasts, a robust non alcoholic market means having access to a greater variety of nolo beers. It also means there will be a greater emphasis on advancing the technology and techniques used to create non alcoholic beer. This is precisely why the non alcoholic beer you drink today tastes better than the old non alcoholic brands of yesteryear.
Naturally, one would assume that there isn’t any alcohol in a non alcoholic beer. But that isn’t entirely true.
The Technical Side of Non Alcoholic Beer
Another misconception people have about non alcoholic beer is its alcohol content.
The name non alcoholic says it all, right? Naturally, one would assume that there isn’t any alcohol in a non alcoholic beer. But that isn’t entirely true.Non alcoholic beer has traces of alcohol leftover from the brewing process, but it’s hardly enough to have aneffect on you.
In the United States, a beer must have an alcohol content below 0.5% before it’s legally considered non alcoholic. But non alcoholic isn’t the same as alcohol-free or zero-alcohol. For a beer to be considered zero-alcohol, it must not have any alcohol whatsoever. The United Kingdom follows similar guidelines for non alcoholic beverages, but they allow beers under 0.05% to be classified a zero-alcohol.
For comparison, the average beer has between 4-5% alcohol. While non alcoholic beer does contain traces of alcohol, the average person can’t become intoxicated from drinking nolo beer.
In one study, participants drank 1.5 liters of 0.4% non alcoholic beer and had their blood alcohol content (BAC) measured an hour later. None of the participants’ BAC levels were beyond 0.0056%, which is seven times lower than a 0.04% BAC level––where people start to feel a buzz from alcohol.
Basically, it’s impossible to get drunk from non alcoholic beer. The reason for this is related to your metabolism. Your body immediately starts to process alcohol as soon as you drink beer. Because non alcoholic beer has lower alcohol content than regular beer, your body metabolizes it faster than you can drink enough to get buzzed.
What Is Non Alcoholic Beer and Its Benefits?
Many people have this misconception that reducing alcohol intake means walking away from beer (and other popular adult beverages). In actuality, beer lovers still enjoy the taste of an ice-cold beer without drinking alcohol. Even better, there are several benefits that come from drinking non alcoholic beer, such as:
- Lower caloric intake: Many non alcoholic beers have fewer calories than their alcoholic counterparts, meaninghealth-conscious beer lovers can enjoy their beer without any of the guilt
- Helping curb alcohol consumption: Non alcoholic beer offers the taste of delicious beer without the intoxicating side effects, making it ideal for anyone trying to cut down on alcohol consumption
- Health benefits: Drinking non alcoholic beer can lower your chances of heart disease, boost your immune system, and give you a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals
- Keeping you hydrated: The alcohol in beer is a diuretic, which is why people tend to urinate when drinking beer. Non alcoholic beer doesn’t do this, and can even help maintain electrolyte homeostasis
- No hangovers: Since you can’t get drunk from non alcoholic beer, you never have to worry about hangovers the next day. You can wake up feeling refreshed and headache-free
Why Drink Non Alcoholic Beer?
Have you ever looked at a pack of non alcoholic beer and thought, “why would anyone buy that?”
The truth is that people drink non alcoholic beer for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they want a beer, but can’t drink alcohol because they’re driving. They could be cutting back on alcohol for health reasons, or they don’t drink because of personal or religious beliefs.
Whatever the case, one thing’s for certain–people drink non alcoholic beer because they love the taste of beer.
Thanks to advancements in brewing technology, non alcoholic beer offers the same rich taste and aroma as traditional beer
Is non alcoholic beer any good?
If you are one of those people who thinks that non alcoholic beer must be flavorless swill just a step above water, then you are far from alone. NA beer carries with it a bit of a poor reputation, because for the longest time the only non alcoholic beer that you could find were versions of existing domestic light lagers with the booze removed. Those are a great option for people who enjoy those domestic lagers and are looking to make an easy transition to NA brews, but now that we are at a point where craft breweries are creating unique offerings around every corner, those non alcoholic light beers are not enough.
Luckily for those of us who enjoy the flavor profile of a hazy IPA or oatmeal stout, there has been a drastic upswing in the amount of available NA beers on the market. It is basically a numbers game at this point, with dozens upon dozens of breweries dedicated solely to crafting beer without alcohol, as well as plenty of big name traditional breweries churning out their own lines of non alcoholic beer. With this many competitors in the industry, of course there are still underwhelming versions of NA beer out there as those who are unequipped try to capitalize on the opportunity. But, for the most part, the people who know how to make a really good traditional craft beer can do the exact same with non alcoholic varieties.
Maybe you are someone who was turned off years ago by the underwhelming non alcoholic beer options on the shelves. Or perhaps you have simply never understood the appeal of beer that doesn’t give you a buzz. Let me just tell you that there are plenty of tasty styles out there these days, and they are the perfect thing to turn to in situations where you want that malty goodness but none of the negative effects that come with it.
Who makes the best non alcoholic beer?
Those NA domestic lagers that we talked about earlier still have their place in this world. Some people like an easy-drinking domestic beer, and when they need to reduce their alcohol intake, those are the perfect options. But for everyone else who’s looking to cut down on alcohol, it might be tough to know where exactly to start.
It is definitely worthwhile to simply look up some of your favorite traditional craft breweries and see if they have caught on to the NA trend. That’s likely the best way that you can be sure you’ll get something you like. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of big name breweries who haven’t taken that step. One that has however, is Brooklyn Brewery. Alongside their delicious IPAs and seasonal options, they have an entire line of non alcoholic varieties called Special Effects, and their quality stands up perfectly well next to their alcoholic brethren. Deschutes Brewery is another established company that has recently gotten into the game with an NA version of their Black Butte Porter.
As far as breweries that are dedicated entirely to crafting NA brews, Athletic Brewing is one that has managed to stand out from the pack. Every beer that they make gets rave reviews, and they are available to order online no matter where you live in the unlikely scenario where you can’t find them in a local store. Their Free Wave Hazy and All Out Extra Dark are great places to start, but they are always releasing new experimental options that you won’t regret trying. Other NA brewing companies that seem to have separated from the pack include BrewDog, Gruvi, and Bravus.
Recap: What Is Non Alcoholic Beer?
In short, non alcoholic beer is a type of beer that has an alcohol content lower than 0.5%. Thanks to advancements in brewing technology, non alcoholic beer offers the same rich taste and aroma as traditional beer–making it a popular alternative for drinkers who enjoy beer, but don’t want to become intoxicated.
Because the non alcoholic beer industry has rapidly expanded over the past few years, there’s a wider range of products available on the market. This means you can find a non alcoholic beer for any type of flavor profile.