The production of non-alcoholic beer is a modern phenomenon and more and more hobby brewers make their non-alcoholic beer themself. Historically, this would probably be treated as a contradiction, in today’s time, however, it may well have its socially valid effect. Athletes, nutrition-conscious people and “lifestyle-conscious” consumers prefer drinks that are isotonic and nutritious, yet tasty. It is also favored when they have fewer calories.
The history of non-alcoholic beer
The birth of the non-alcoholic beer is characterized in 1972 in the former GDR. In East Berlin, the Engelhardt brewery presents for the first time a beer that largely does without alcohol. As in the GDR – unlike, for example, in the Federal Republic of Germany – the 0.0 per thousand limit applies, this beverage technology innovation quite hits the “political” attention. But the good taste of the non-alcoholic beer meets the interest of the population. From then on it was known as “AUBI” – car driver beer – and enjoys good sales figures. In 1979, the brewery Clausthaler managed to brew a likewise alcohol-free counterpart on the West German side.
According to current definition, a non-alcoholic beer may contain a maximum of 0.5% alcohol by volume. Beers containing 0.5 to 1.2% by volume of alcohol are said to be low in alcohol. This is followed by the so-called light beers with an alcohol content of 2.5 to 3.0 vol.-%. Despite all efforts to remove alcohol from the beer, alcohol is an important flavor carrier that binds, transports and unfolds aromas. Accordingly, alcohol helps the beer to its taste-giving complexity.
The passionate beer drinker says that a beer is tasty, tart or malty. So, each variety has its rounded taste image, which represents their recognition value. Therefore, processes dealing with the production of non-alcoholic beer are always aimed at allowing maximum flavor development; be it to prevent the formation of the same or to withdraw the resulting alcohol again. Just like an alcoholic beer, a non-alcoholic beer has to develop its identity in order to be recognized by the consumer and to be drunk again.
The fact that this is now being pursued with great success by the local beer industry can be seen in the doubled beer sales of non-alcoholic beers in the period from 2007 to 2014. In 2017, non-alcoholic beers accounted for 6% of total beer output, and the trend is upwards.
Production of non-alcoholic beer in the brewery
On the one hand, it can be prevented that alcohol is produced in larger quantities. This can be done for example via a throttled or stopped fermentation. Throttling is achieved by lowering the fermentation temperature, rendering the yeast cells inactive.
For the stopped fermentation, the malt beer is a prime example. Here it is briefly fermented, in order to “kill” the yeast by increasing the temperature (= pasteurization at approx. 75° C). In the meantime, breweries have special yeasts such as Weihenstephan’s WSL17, which can only ferment up to 0.4% by volume of alcohol and thus neither have to be stopped nor throttled.
On the other hand, the resulting alcohol from the beer can be eliminated by means of technical processes. For this purpose, breweries use technical processes such as vacuum retreading, which is comparable to distillation. The beer is warmed and the alcohol volatilizes. However, some of the flavorings are also lost in the process.
Another method is filtration based on dialysis or reverse osmosis, in which the alcohol is almost cold extracted from the beer (membrane process).
Brew alcohol-free beer by yourself
For hobby brewers who brew alcohol-free beer themselves, of course, the above-mentioned de-alcoholization process can not be accomplished. The hobby brewer can only aim to prevent the production of alcohol – that is, to pursue a throttled or interrupted / stopped fermentation.Thus, the Malt beer production offers for the Hobby brewer to brew its alcohol-free beer itself. In addition, it can be attempted to brew the mash at brewing only from 72° C to produce only small amounts of fermentable sugar (maltose). Between 70° C and 80° C mainly dextrin, an indigestible sugar, which also has a lower sweetening power compared to the maltose. An excellent alternative to the comparatively sweet malt beer!
Basically, there are certainly in both types of production taste disadvantages when alcohol-free beer is brewed at home. The membrane processes lose flavor to the dialysate, which volatilizes. In thermal processes may possibly come to bad taste and reduced shelf-life.
The novel process for de-alcoholization
All these disadvantages are to be eliminated by a novel and innovative method. In this process, a so-called inert gas (for example nitrogen) is fed to the finished beer by means of slight negative pressure, which gradually discharges the alcohol. This is based on the principle of desorption: the concentration difference between the alcohol content of the fermented beer and the introduced inert gas is used. But even this method requires a larger technical apparatus and is therefore not suitable for the self-brewing of non-alcoholic beer.
As a hobby brewer, we are still dependent on industrial intervention if we want to quench our thirst for non-alcoholic beer. With some brew kits out there you can brew your own alcohol-free beer yourself. A caramel malt is particularly suitable for this. In some shops for beer brewers you will find the matching beer sprayers and brewing equipment. Do you need help or have questions? Then their brewing instructions will help you to brew your own beer. If you have questions you can also contact us. We are happy to assist you, so that you use the right malt variety and get a perfect head of foam.
Share your experiences of brewing alcohol-free beer yourself by commenting in the comment box below – cheers.