Non-Alcoholic Beer

Brewing Techniques for Non-Alcoholic Beer

July 9, 2024

As the demand for non-alcoholic options continues to rise, many brewers may be wondering if venturing into the market of N/A beer is the right choice for your brewery. 

Before you decide, it’s important to understand what goes into brewing N/A beer, if it’s worth it, and what the alternatives are to brewing non-alcoholic beer. 

Understanding Non-Alcoholic Beer

Non-alcoholic beer (NA beer) typically contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). The goal is to create a beverage that mimics the taste, aroma, and everything we love about traditional beer while containing minimal alcohol.

Seems pretty straightforward right? Well, unfortunately, when you really get down to the process involved with producing, serving, and retailing N/A beer, the difficulties start adding up, making the whole process a bit more hazy (pun intended). 

Issues with Brewing N/A Beer

Before you start brewing non-alcoholic beer, it’s good to know some of the common issues that come with it. Many breweries that brew N/A beer have had to overcome issues with packaging, dirty lines, and freezing.

Packaging: Packaging N/A beer comes with a lot of issues since the alcohol in beer is a big factor in reducing the food safety risk. To avoid running into food safety issues with N/A beer, it’s important to pasteurize it thoroughly. As one Reddit user says, “Pasteurize the fuck out of it.” Not only will the pasteurization help with food safety issues but will also help make sure the ABV doesn’t go up after packaging during a second fermentation.

Dirty Lines: If you plan on serving your N/A beer on tap, you’ll need to make sure that you consistently clean your lines. This means cleaning them pretty much every day. Similarly to how alcohol prevents safety issues in packaged beer, the alcohol being served on tap helps keep your lines safe. Without alcohol, the high sugar content of beer makes it a breeding ground for pathogens. This can be extremely dangerous if not properly cleaned daily. 

Freezing: For those breweries that are in colder climates, freezing can also be an issue. Without the higher alcohol content, the freezing temperature of N/A beer is much higher, making it easier for it to freeze in the colder months. Freezing beer can damage both kegs and lines in your brewery and ultimately be a pain in the ass to empty the tank. 

Alternatives to brewing N/A beer

With all of that in mind, there are some ways around brewing N/A beer at your brewery that could help you avoid some of the pitfalls. If you still want to offer a delicious non-alcoholic option at your brewery, you can make hop water, N/A Seltzer, or you can buy N/A beer from a different brewer and offer it at your brewery. 

Making Hop water: Hop water is a great alternative to brewing N/A beer since it’s non-alcoholic from the start. It’s basically just a combination of hops, water, and citric acid to bring the ph level down. There’s no barley or malt (although either of these can be added) so the flavor is quite different and the process for making it is much easier.  We won’t go into all of the details of how to make hop water at your brewery in this blog (maybe a blog for a different day), but you can get started here

Making N/A Seltzer: Similar to making hop water, making non-alcoholic seltzer is a great way to offer a N/A option without the need to brew N/A beer. Check out our blog post on brewing techniques for seltzers to learn more about that process. 

Outsourcing N/A: If you’re looking for an easier option than making hop water, but still want to offer something non-alcoholic besides water, you can stock your taproom with N/A beer from other breweries. I know this may sound like it goes against everything a brewery stands for. After all, why did you start a brewery if you’re just going to get beer from somewhere else? Well, sure, but as we mentioned, brewing N/A beer is a pain in the ass.

Not only that, but it’s good for breweries to collaborate. Partnering with a brewery that does N/A beer really well is nothing to be ashamed of! Not only are you supporting other brewers in the space, but you’re saving yourself time and money by doing so.

Techniques for Brewing Non-Alcoholic Beer

Now, all that being said. If you still want to make Non-alcoholic beer at your brewery there are a few different techniques that you can take. 

Controlled Fermentation

Process: This technique involves controlling the fermentation process to limit alcohol production. It can be achieved in a few different ways:

-Using special yeast strains that produce less alcohol during fermentation.
-Fermenting at lower temperatures to slow down yeast activity and alcohol production.
-Halting the fermentation process early by cooling the beer, filtering out the yeast, or pasteurizing the beer.

Pros:

Flavor and Aroma Retention: This method tends to preserve much of the original flavor and aroma of the beer because the basic brewing process is similar to regular beer production.
Less Processing Required: Since the beer doesn't need to undergo further alcohol removal, the process is relatively straightforward.

Cons:

Consistency Challenges: It can be difficult to achieve consistent results, as even slight variations in the fermentation process can affect the final product, although brewery software like Beer30 can help with fermentation monitoring (among many other things).
Limited Alcohol Reduction: This method may not reduce alcohol content as effectively as other methods, often resulting in beers with lower but not zero alcohol content.

Vacuum Distillation

Process: Vacuum distillation involves removing alcohol from fully fermented beer by heating it under reduced pressure. This lowers the boiling point of alcohol, allowing it to evaporate at a lower temperature, thus preserving more of the beer's original flavor compounds.

Pros:

Flavor Preservation: Since the beer is heated to a lower temperature, more of the original flavor and aroma compounds are retained compared to traditional distillation.
Effective Alcohol Removal: This method can effectively reduce the alcohol content to very low levels.

Cons:

Specialized Equipment: Requires vacuum distillation equipment, which can be costly and complex to operate.
Energy Intensive: The process can be energy-intensive, adding to production costs.

Reverse Osmosis

Process: This method uses a filtration system to separate alcohol and water from the beer. The beer is forced through a membrane that allows water and alcohol to pass but retains the larger flavor and aroma molecules. The alcohol is then removed from the separated liquid, and the remaining liquid is recombined with the flavor-rich concentrate to create non-alcoholic beer.

Pros:

High-Quality Results: Can produce non-alcoholic beer with excellent flavor retention, as most of the original flavor compounds remain intact.
Precision: Allows for precise control over the final alcohol content.

Cons:

Expensive: The technology and equipment required for reverse osmosis are costly.
Complex Process: The process is sophisticated and requires careful management to ensure quality.

Dilution

Process: This method involves brewing a high-gravity beer, which has a higher concentration of alcohol and other components, and then diluting it with water to reach the desired alcohol content.

Pros:

Simplicity: The process is straightforward and doesn't require specialized equipment.
Cost-Effective: Less expensive than other methods since it relies on standard brewing practices and readily available water.

Cons:

Flavor Dilution: The resulting beer can have a diluted flavor profile if not done carefully, potentially compromising the beer's taste and mouthfeel.
Balance Issues: Maintaining the right balance of flavor and body can be challenging, requiring precise calculations and adjustments.

Each of these methods has its own set of advantages and challenges, making the choice of method dependent on the specific goals, resources, and expertise of the brewer.

How Beer30 Can Help Track Data

Just as Beer30 software can help keep track of your brewing process for regular beer, it also comes in handy for N/A beer to help you manage every step from recipe creation through production and distribution.

Having Beer30 software track and manage your data, allows you to easily see inefficiencies and ways you can improve your performance, save time, and overall save money. 

Beer30 helps with:

Recipe Management: Easily tweak and track recipe changes to achieve the perfect balance of flavors and aromas.

Batch Tracking: Monitor key parameters such as mash temperature, fermentation progress, pH levels, and alcohol content to ensure consistency.

Quality Control: Identify and address any deviations from the desired quality standards like DO levels, VDK tests, filtration data, and sensory panels.

Inventory and Material Resource Planning: Ensure you have the necessary packaging materials and raw ingredients so that you’re never forced to stop production due to a lack of materials.

Reporting and Analytics: Gain valuable insights to optimize your brewing process and make data-driven decisions.

Sales and Distribution: Track your finished goods inventory easily and manage Sales Orders, Packing Slips, and Picklists all in one place.

Regulatory Compliance: Simplify reporting requirements and ensure adherence to industry standards.

Conclusion

Brewing non-alcoholic beer can be a difficult task and it may not be for every brewery. As a brewer, you may want to look into other alternatives like brewing hop water or outsourcing N/A beer, but if you do decide to brew your own N/A beer, it’s important to use the right technique to ensure that you end up with some delicious non-alcoholic options. Once you decide to brew N/A beer, Beer30 can help your brewery manage the brewing process ensuring consistency, quality, and efficiency throughout the process. 

If you’re interested in leveraging Beer30 software, to keep track of everything from recipe management to distribution and compliance, please reach out to book a demo or get a pricing quote

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