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How is alcohol-free beer made?

Alcohol-free beer, also known as low-alcohol beer, is meant to have the same taste as a regular beer without high alcohol content. It can contain anything from zero to 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), and in most instances, it will be a lager, but it can also be an ale and even an IPA.

The low-alcohol beer first appeared in Medieval Times as a safe, affordable replacement for drinking water. Much later, during Prohibition in the US, this was the only beer that was legal to consume. This type of beer is a good option for people who wish to stay sober, participate in Dry January, have medical issues, or simply want to cut back on how much alcohol they drink. It allows the drinker to enjoy the familiar flavour still and have a drink in a social setting.

If you’ve ever had a non-alcoholic beer, you might be wondering how it’s made while keeping the same hoppy flavour. Do brewers somehow take the alcohol out, or is it a completely different process? And if the brewery does take the alcohol out, how is that possible? Moreover, how is that possible without affecting the taste? Luckly, we here at BrewDog can answer all of your questions.

Brewing any type of beer, with or without alcohol, starts the same way. Whether it's IPA or lager, it all begins with a process called mashing. In this step, malted grain (or other types of grain) is partly crushed and mixed with hot water. The grain goes through a few more steps - lautering and boiling - before it reaches fermentation. This is where the alcohol is produced.

When it comes to non-alcoholic and low-alcohol lagers and IPAs, like one of our alcohol-free options, the intervention can come in several stages of the process. It can stop the fermentation altogether, or it can remove the alcohol after the fact. Here are the four main methods breweries use nowadays.

Dealcoholisation

In this method, both alcoholic beers and no-alcohol beers are made the same, and the alcohol is removed after the process. This is the favoured method with large breweries and beer brands, requiring them to buy additional equipment, which is usually expensive. Even within this process, there are several methods for dealcoholisation, and new processes are being developed every day. Here are the main ones:

  • Boiling. Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, steaming the beer can leave it alcohol-free. It can, however, damage the flavour if the brewer is not careful.

  • Vacuum distillation. Since high temperatures can modify the flavour, boiling in a vacuum is a better solution. This allows for the boiling point to be much lower.

Reverse osmosis. This method is the most technical on the list. The brewers pass the beer through a sophisticated piece of machinery membrane. The membrane catches the large flavour molecules while allowing the smaller alcohol molecules to pass through.

Diluting the brew

Here, the low-alcohol beverage is also made with the same process, and the alcohol is removed after the fact. The way to do it is by adding water to the beer until the alcohol content reduces to 0.5%. It is similar to having a large batch of soft drink concentrate and diluting it to reach the right consistency. However, it requires a significant amount of balancing to sustain the flavour and carbonation.

Limiting fermentation

As mentioned above, alcohol occurs in craft beer during the fermentation process. This is when the yeast feeds on sugars from the malt. So another way to make the beverage alcohol-free is to limit that step. The most common thing for brewers is to adjust their recipe so it has fewer fermentable sugars, which leads to a lower ABV. There are also strains of yeast that naturally contain fewer sugars in them.

Another option is through arrested fermentation. In this process, brewers inactivate the yeast before it can start the production of high-volume alcohol. The way to do this is to lower the temperature of the beer near the freezing point while it’s fermenting, as yeast feeds on heat.

Eliminating fermentation

One final method to produce a completely non-alcoholic drink is by removing fermentation. This means that the wort won’t come in contact with the yeast, resulting in 0.00% ABV. This method guarantees no traces of alcohol, however, it may result in an overly sweet beer, which may resemble a dessert.

Meet our Alcohol Free beers.

No corners cut, no time saved, no compromise. Just good honest full flavour beer. We've dialled down the Alcohol, not the beer.

All of our alcohol free beers are brewed to non-alcoholic strength using special recipes and micro fermentation processes that have taken us years to develop. This means we get maximum flavour with minimal alcohol.

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Alcohol-Free Punk

Alcohol-Free Punk is our flagship alcohol-free beer, inspired by the recipe of our original Punk IPA. What we’ve got is a non-alcoholic beer with the tropical fruity flavour of pumpkin. It’s incredibly light and crisp with a beautiful tropical white wine aroma, lots of citrus and pine and refreshing finish. Delicious!

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Nanny State

Nanny State is the first alcohol-free beer that we ever released. It’s a dark beer balanced with a massive hit of bitter hops. We add hops all the way through the process of making Nanny State to give a really flavourful bitter beer despite the lack of alcohol. It has a nice copper body with aromas of rich malts, toasted bread crust and an aggressive piny and citrusy bitter hop taste. If you love hops but want to skip on the alcohol, Nanny State is the beer for you.

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Alcohol-Free Hazy Jane

Alcohol-free Hazy is our Alcohol Free New England IPA. It’s a beautifully hazy, soft and juicy IPA with none of the alcohol. With a pale yellow colour and a subtle haze, it smells like orange and pineapple. Smooth, juicy, summery: it’s everything you want from a New England IPA.

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Lost AF

What you get with Lost AF is a nice pale straw coloured body, crystal clear with a nice crisp carbonation. It’s has a lovely aroma of freshly cut grass, a little hint of lemon and a nice bread malt. It’s super clean, super crisp, very refreshing. The only thing missing here is alcohol.

Why are some beers low-alcohol and some alcohol-free?

As you can probably tell, there are many ways to make non-alcoholic beer. However, most of them will not be completely alcohol-free if they go through some kind of fermentation process, even if it was stopped halfway. Here are the exact percentages, according to the category of the beer:

  • Alcohol-free beer: less than 0.05% ABV

  • De-alcoholised beer: less than 0.5% ABV

  • Low-alcohol beer: less than 1.2% ABV

  • Alcoholic beer: more than 1.2% ABV

Shop our Alcohol-Free Beers

10% off
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Punk AF

CITRUS. GRASSY. BITTER.

Alcohol-Free ‧ 0.5% ‧ 48 x Can (330ml)

Was £54.99
£49.49£1.03/can
Best Seller
Alcohol-Free
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Lost AF

CRISP. REFRESHING. AF.

Alcohol-Free ‧ 0.5% ‧ 24 x Can (330ml)

£27.99£1.17/can
10% off
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Hazy AF

HOPPY. HAZY. AF.

Alcohol-Free ‧ 0.5% ‧ 48 x Can (330ml)

Was £54.99
£49.49£1.03/can
10% off
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MIXED AF

HOLD. THE. ALCOHOL.

Alcohol-Free ‧ 0.5% ‧ 24 x Can (330ml)

Was £27.99
£25.19£1.05/can
10% off
Sold out
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Nanny State

MALTY. ROBUST. BITTER.

Alcohol-Free ‧ 0.5% ‧ 48 x Can (330ml)

Was £54.99
£49.49£1.03/can
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