You may have noticed that more beer brands have come up with non-alcoholic beer options. Names from Heineken, Clausthaler, to the local favorite Bintang, now provide 0% beers in their lineup.
This may seem like a recent trend, but did you know that non-alcoholic beers were first consumed in medieval times?
This invention started out for the working class in Europe as a substitute for water, which was often polluted in those days.
Centuries later, the health craze created a specific segment of people who opt for low-alcohol drinks for health purposes and those who just want to drink without the dreaded hangover.
Manufacturers then picked up this medieval method to provide the market with what they wanted. Let’s learn more about this non-alcoholic beverage.
A brief history
As aforementioned, non-alcoholic beer originated in medieval times. It was made by essentially boiling out the alcohol from the wort.
However, this process ended up ridding the drink of its natural flavors. It wasn’t the tastiest of drinks, and popularity quickly dwindled as people preferred the alcoholic kind. This is why we haven’t seen a boom in 0% beer until recently.
The first commercial non-alcoholic beer was created by the brand Clausthaler. The product was launched in 1979, and the rest is history.
Does non-alcoholic beer really exist?
It’s tempting to glance over the beer can and accept that there is indeed 0% alcohol in it. It’s called “non-alcoholic beer” after all. But does it really contain zero alcohol? The answer is no!
Most beers that claim to be non-alcoholic still have around 0.5% alcohol in them. In fact, beers can only be labeled as such if there is 0.5% alcohol or less in them.
This is indeed a lower amount compared to the regular kind of beer, which contains 5% or higher.
However, studies have shown that even this seemingly innocent amount of alcohol can cause alcoholics to revert back to their addiction. While intoxication from consumption of this beer is highly unlikely, it can still be damaging.
How is non-alcoholic beer made?
You would think that this clean version of beer would be made the same way as regular beer, with the omission of a few steps in the process. But non-alcoholic beer actually takes an extra couple of steps to create!
In essence, alcohol is taken out of the beer in four different ways:
- Limited fermentation,
with the last two being the most commonly used by large beer manufacturers.
Alcohol forms in the fermentation process as yeast interacts with sugar. Limiting fermentation can reduce the amount of alcohol produced. This can be done by
- Using particular strains of yeast
- Reducing how much sugar is in the wort
- Interrupting the fermentation process
If the medieval method of dealcoholization is to boil the alcohol out, the modern method is to distill it out.
In this process, the fully formed beer is distilled in a vacuum. This way, the beer will not need to be at too high a temperature for the alcohol to evaporate out, meaning the flavors in the drink won’t be affected.
What about root beer?
You may be familiar with root beer from brands like Dr. Pepper and A&W. These drinks are available at supermarkets and fast food restaurants. They’re kid-friendly, so they must be non-alcoholic too, right?
The fact of the matter is that root beer these days is simply flavored soda! In this case, root beer is 100% non-alcoholic.
However, the original root beers go through the same brewing process as regular malt beer. Because this involves fermentation, it can contain about 2% of alcohol. The difference is only in the ingredients. Beer is made of grains, while root beer is made of roots and spices.
Going local: coffee beer
Another sort of beer has become popular locally. The Indonesian trend of coffee beer derives from Jombang, East Java, combining two beloved beverages in one. It’s packaged in green glass bottles the same way beers are. Best of all, it’s completely non-alcoholic.
This is because it’s not technically beer. Just like modern root beer, coffee beer is also flavored soda. It’s a mix of soda, coffee, and caramel.
You can make your own coffee beer at home with the following ingredients:
- Ground coffee
- Hot water
Brew coffee as you would and leave it to cool for 4 minutes. Add in sugar and stir to dissolve. Once the coffee is lukewarm, add in your soda and stir well. Cover and chill in the fridge for as long as possible. You can add ice cream to it to create float!
Find out more about alcohol-drinking tips in Minuman.com Blog.