Here Comes Zero Alcohol Beer
by Ron Jones
There's no real reason you can't make great quality non-alcoholic beer. Admittedly most non-alcoholic beers
you'd find 20 years ago were made by boiling the ethanol out of normal brews. The problem is, when you heat
beer, you change its flavor. You destroy a lot of its delicate aromas.
Some of the newer, better alcohol-free beers are created through a process called "arrested fermentation, That's
when you stop the brewing process before the yeast has turned the sugar into alcohol, usually by cooling things
down to where the yeast falls dormant. But beers made this way were a bit too flat and sweet for most people's
Top brewers now use a combination of different techniques to reduce the alcohol content in beers, The process
begins with less grain than traditional beer recipes because less grain means there's less sugar for the yeast to
convert into alcohol. Some brewers also uses a "lazy" yeast — a strain of yeast that's particularly slow at
converting sugar into alcohol. And the beer is brewed at a higher temperature, at which point the lazy yeast
begins to act even lazier. Finally, at the very end of the brewing process, a bit of lactose is sometimes added to
give the beers extra flavor and body.
There are other ways to reduce beer's alcohol content.. One is a process called "vacuum distillation." This means
he heats up alcoholic beer in a vacuum, very gently, at low temperatures so the beer hardly even notices that the
alcohol is evaporating, Then the brewer uses high-tech equipment to capture any aromatics that try to escape
during the heating process, and adds them back in at the end.
Other brewers, including Germany's Clausthaler, use reverse osmosis, which more or less filters the alcohol out of
the beer. Different techniques work best for different styles of alcohol-free beer,
Joining the growing group of near-beer pioneers is Heineken, which launched alcohol-free Heineken 0.0 this
summer in Europe and Israel.
At this point, neither Heineken nor Budweiser — which released a non-alcoholic brew called Prohibition in Canada
last year and the in UK this Fall — has plans to to sell their alcohol-free options in the U.S. But as Reuters
reported last year, AB InBev, the company that owns Budweiser, predicts that low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers
will make up 20 percent of its sales by the end of 2025.
That prediction is well founded, says Jonny Forsyth, at the global market research firm Mintel. "Non-alcoholic beer
has really risen in Europe, especially in Germany and Spain, to the point where it's become a mainstream option,"
The German beer company Erdinger was one of the pioneers of a movement to make better non-alcoholic beer in
the early aughts, Now, it's "Alkoholfrei" beer is ubiquitous in central Europe. And for the past few years, Erdinger
has been heavily marketing its alcohol-free beer as a sports recovery drink.
The potential market might be larger than most people think, It includes people lwho don't drink alcohol but like
the taste of beer, pregnant women, and perhaps its largest segment, people who do drink. These folks maybe be
out at a bar and they've had a couple, but they want to keep hanging out with their friends, continue watching the
game, etc. and they're looking for something else to drink — that's when a zero alcohol beer would fit perfectly.
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