How are non-alcoholic beers made?
Do non-alcoholic beers taste the same as the ‘normal’ beer? Well, it all depends on how it's made. Brewers today use a very careful process so as to remove the alcohol without removing the complex taste and aroma that goes with it. There are 2 main methods of making non-alcoholic beer that keeps the classic taste: Dealcoholization and Limited Fermentation
Most non-alcoholic beer brewers use dealcoholization to keep the flavours of fully fermented beer. It starts off as all beer does: first a mash is made, then the liquid (wort) from it is extracted and boiled. The hops are added and then it’s fermented with yeast. Instead of bottling this full-strength beer up, non-alcoholic beer goes through an additional process: either distilling, stripping or using reverse osmosis.
- Steam distillation
To boil the alcohol from the brew without taking away the flavours, the brew is placed in a vacuum. This lowers the temperature that the brew needs to reach for the alcohol to evaporate.
Brewers could combine this with a spinning cone column system. The cone separates the different molecules so that the ethanol can then be discarded and the flavour and aroma re-inserted.
The much loved Heineken Zero is created through this process of removing the alcohol and blending the beverage to get an almost exact replica of the original classic!
Shop Heineken Zero HERE.
2. Water Vapour or Gas Stripping
Like the first method, the brews are heated in a vacuum. The only difference is, they have water vapour or a gas forced through them to strip away the alcohol. Like the steam distillations, a second process can separate molecules to be re-added to keep the flavours.
3. Reverse Osmosis
This method is complex to say the least! First, the full-strength beer is forced through a membrane through which the larger molecules can't get through. Basically, this leaves you with a highly alcoholic concentrated beer. From this, you separate the water and the alcohol using the methods mentioned above - and discard the alcohol. Once the alcohol is gone, the flavour molecules are put back in to the blend.
When fermenting alcoholic beer, the yeast is breaking down the sugars which produces alcohol. So if you want to make a non-alcoholic beer, you could limit the amount of alcohol that is being produced in the fermentation process.
This means limiting the fermentable sugars, using special low-alcohol yeast strains, or interrupting the fermentation.
This is one reason why non-alcoholic beers tend to have less sugar - by reducing the sugar content in the wort, less alcohol will be produced. You could do this by using grains that produce less fermentable sugars, such as rice or maize.
Our favourite non-alcoholic beers, Heaps Normal XPA and Big Drop Pale Ale and Lager, use these limited fermentation techniques!