Beer might be the drink of choice for many people but while there is a great range of different beers available they all share some undesirable characteristics. Beer is one of those drinks many people misunderstand for one thing it isn’t high in sugars like many people.
But beer still isn’t overly healthy, is it? It might not have a high sugar count but it is quite high in calories and too much beer can lead to a variety of health issues. The term “beer belly” exists for a reason, doesn’t it?
So, many beer lovers are turning to healthier alternatives which is one of the main reasons non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers are so popular these days. But how are these beer-variants even made? Well, let’s look at that in more detail.
The Brewing Process
It might surprise you to know that non-alcoholic/ low-alcohol beers are made with a relatively similar process to their alcoholic counterparts. There are differences of course but they mostly come at the end of the brewing process.
To simplify think of it like this the brewing process for alcoholic drinks follows eight basic steps. The process for non-alcoholic/ low-alcohol beers follows nine and there are actually different ways the new step can be carried out.
To help showcase this below I’ve outlined how the brewing process works and I’ll be taking a more detailed look at the extra-steps required for non-alcoholic/low-alcohol beers.
The Three M’s
The first three steps of the brewing process are malting, milling, and mashing. In these steps, the barley is soaked, dried and grounded. After this, the malt is mixed with water and mashed up then the barley mix is gradually heated during the process and then filtered. The leftover liquid is called wort.
Brewing and Cooling
After those steps, the next is the brewing of the wort other grains and extra-ingredients are added during this time as the wort boils. Once the brewing is completed the wort is filtered again and then cooled to allow the yeast to grow.
Step six begins when the wort is sufficiently cooled it is then saturated with air and extra yeast is added. You can get all different styles of beer by using different yeasts. This step can take quite a while to complete at around 10 days on average.
After the fermenting you will basically have an uncarbonated beer this is then poured into a conditioning tank to age. Again this is a step then can take a variable amount of time depending on the style and taste of the beer.
Finally, once the beer is aged enough it will be filtered one last time. The final mixture is then carbonated and moved to a storage tank so it can be bottled up ready to serve.
Low Alcohol/Alcohol Free/Non Alcoholic Beer
So, now you know the brewing process for alcoholic beers what is the difference for low and non-alcoholic beers? The extra-step takes place after the maturation step but before the finishing and like I said earlier it can be done in different ways and the process for low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers is different as well.
Making Low Alcoholic Beers
Low alcohol beers are created by evaporating the alcohol from beer so essentially you are cooking the beer to get rid of the alcohol. Think of the process as the opposite of distillation and because alcohol is more volatile than water it can be boiled-off quite easily.
Some breweries use a technique called vacuum evaporation to create low-alcoholic beers. This process uses a light vacuum to essentially vaporise the alcohol on a molecular level. Another process of creating low-alcohol beer is the reverse osmosis.
This method doesn’t require heating the beer it is instead passed through a small filter designed to only allow alcohol and water through it. The alcohol in the mixture is then distilled out using a conventional distillation method.
Water, acids and other ingredients and then added back into the mixture afterward. The beer mixture can also simply be diluted to help reduce the total alcohol content as well. So, that’s how low-alcoholic beer is made what about non-alcoholic beer?
Making Non Alcoholic Beers
Non alcoholic beer is made a little differently although some methods are quite similar. The simplest method is to take the uncarbonated beer and heat it up till it reaches its boiling point. This will remove almost all the alcohol in the mixture.
Another commonly used method if to decrease the pressure so the alcohol in the mixture will boil at room temperature. This method is more complicated but favoured by most breweries because changing the temperature late in the brewing process can have a big impact on the overall flavour of the beer.
No matter what process you use once the alcohol is removed the finishing process can then be completed as normal. So, the beer is simply carbonated and bottled ready for serving.