Seven years ago, Clinton Schultz gave up alcohol.
The first thing he noticed was that there was “absolutely no decent option for adults choosing not to drink.”
The second thing he noticed was the time and energy he had available.
“The amount of time we waste getting drunk or having a hangover is incredible,” said Mr. Schultz.
“And I had so much more energy because my body wasn’t wasting a whole bunch of it just processing alcohol.”
Since then he has founded a non-alcoholic craft beer business and has seen the industry explode.
Stuart Henshall is co-owner of a Melbourne-based alcohol-free bar and online store.
“A few of our suppliers have stated that their alcohol-free product lines are growing faster than some of their existing alcohol-based product lines,” he said.
Here’s everything you need to know about the increasingly popular bevvy.
How are alcohol-free beers made?
The brewers we spoke to say that most non-alcoholic beers are made from the same ingredients as alcoholic beer; cereals, water, hops and yeast.
Alcohol is either eliminated or produced in very limited quantities.
While there is many ways To do this, Henshall says most of his suppliers dealcoholize using heat or specialized yeast.
He says removing alcohol with heat essentially means boiling alcohol, because it has a lower boiling point than water.
But it can have a negative impact on the flavor.
To combat this, Mr Henshall says some brewers use a vacuum process, which further reduces the boiling point of alcohol.
“[Vacuum distilling] takes less heat, which will then affect the flavor much less, ”he says.
Or brewers can choose to use specialized strains of yeast that don’t produce alcohol.
“The alcohol [in beer] comes from the fermentation process at the end, so there are yeasts that have been grown that stop fermenting once they reach around 0.5 or less ABV [Alcohol by Volume]”said Mr. Henshall.
ABV refers to the amount of alcohol the yeast can withstand before it becomes inactive.
The yeast strain used to make wine can produce 12% alcohol, while a strain of yeast used to make bread or make non-alcoholic beer will stop fermenting at a much lower ABV.
Why is it the same price as regular beer?
As Schultz explains, producing alcohol-free beer is often a more time-consuming process than brewing regular beer.
While he doesn’t have to pay an excise tax like alcoholic breweries do, he says setting up and cleaning his brewery is particularly difficult.
“I need to completely sterilize the brewery and make sure there is no [alcoholic] saccharomyces floating around because it will just have a day in the field and make the product alcoholic, ”Mr. Schultz said.
Does non-alcoholic beer still contain alcohol?
You may have seen non-alcoholic beers advertise “less than 0.5% blood alcohol content.” So can they get you drunk?
Short answer: No.
Ms Melanie Pirinen is a Food and Nutrition Scientist who studies soft and low-alcohol drinks at Newcastle University.
She says 0.5 percent is the same amount you would find in other foods like vanilla extract or a very ripe banana.
“A normal fruit juice could contain the same amount of alcohol,” says Pirinen.
“It is unlikely that a person could easily consume a volume large enough to impact them.”
Are there any health benefits?
Ms Pirinen says any reduction in alcohol consumption can enjoy your health.
Drinking alcohol-free beer can also lower your overall energy intake.
Ms Pirinen says it will still have calories, but will contain less calories than plain beer and will likely contain less sugar than other non-alcoholic alternatives like soft drinks.
“You should get this stuff from fruits and vegetables or other parts of a balanced diet.”
If you fancy trying a non-alcoholic beer and wondering which one to choose, Ms. Pirinen says there is no “better” option.
“If you want to have that crystalline, fruity flavor that you can get with beer, this is a great substitute,” she says.
“Just focus on [the] alcohol-free beers that you love to taste. “
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