The Travelling Sommelier: Non-alcoholic beers

Athletic Brewing Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA
Photo credit: Athletic Brewing Company/Facebook []
Posted on: February 14, 2024

Non-alcoholic beers have come a long way since I last wrote about them in 2017. Non-alcoholic beer (or NA beer, as it’s sometimes called) starts life as a normal beer. In fact it goes through almost the full process, ie, a mash, boiling the wort, adding hops, and fermenting. But then non-alcoholic beer has to have its alcohol removed.

There are several different methods a brewer can use to make non-alcoholic beers:

  • Dealcoholization through evaporation (e.g. vacuum distillation)

The beer is heated under vacuum and distilled to remove the ethanol. This reduces the alcohol content of the beer, but can also strip some of the volatiles (such as yeast esters). This method has been used for many decades to produce non-alcoholic beers.

  • Dealcoholization through membranes (e.g. reverse osmosis)

This method uses fine membranes to separate the alcohol molecules from other soluble molecules, similar to how a reverse osmosis device operates. Since pressure is used rather than heat and the separation can be more precise than some older vacuum distillation methods, membrane dealcoholization can be an effective way to produce full-flavour dealcoholized beer. The tradeoff for this higher quality method is the higher costs of production that usually only large commercial breweries can afford.

  • Cold contact fermentation

Cold Contact Fermentation (CCF), or Cold Contact Process (CCP), is one of the several methods of producing beer with little to no alcohol content through a combination of low fermentation temperatures and extended fermentation contact times.

Non-alcoholic beer first started popping up in the U.S. in 1919. Why? Prohibition. It was decided that the strongest a beverage could be is 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (abv) and this still applies today. A wide variety of these products are available in most grocery stores across Eastern Ontario, and they are Canadian, US or European in origin depending upon the brand. The following are available in LCBO.

Heineken 0.0, 0%abv, 330ml, Netherlands

Great taste and zero alcohol crafted by the master brewers using the vacuum distillation method for the beer drinker that is unwilling to compromise on taste. All natural, zero alcohol beer that delivers all of the quality you expect from Heineken. Enjoy its soft, malty, toasted grain and refreshing fruit character. Serve anytime as the perfect palate refresher. One of my top favourites!

Guinness 0 .05%abv, 440ml, Ireland

Guinness 0 is brewed just like the Guinness Stout, using the same natural ingredients, before removing the alcohol through a cold filtration method. It is relatively new on the market and pours with the familiar dark liquid and creamy head, with hints of coffee, chocolate and bitter-sweet roasted notes, providing all the flavour you expect without the alcohol.

Peroni Nastro Azzuro 0.0, 0.01%abv, 330ml, Italy

Brewed and bottled with Italian passion, probably by cold contact fermentation method, it delivers the crisp, smooth and refreshing taste and distinctive fresh hoppy flavour you expect from this iconic brand. Enjoy ice-cold straight from the bottle or pour it into a tall pilsner glass.

Athletic Brewing Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA, .5%abv, 355ml, United States

Athletic Brewing was started in 2018 by two guys in Connecticut, USA, using a patent-pending method that they say is neither by vacuum distillation or reverse osmosis. Run Wild is a multi-award winning session craft IPA brewed with a blend of five Northwest hops. It has approachable bitterness that is balanced by good maltiness, and it is refreshing and clean with only 65 calories. Pairs well with pizza. 

Clausthaler Premium Non Alcoholic, .01%abv, Germany

Award-winning non-alcohol lager that’s brewed in accordance with the German Beer Purity Law. Crafted with the finest ingredients and a brewing method that reduces the alcohol but not the flavor, it is crisp with lightly sweet bread notes, smooth palate, balanced by grassy hops. Also highly rated in beer reviews, serve when you want great flavour without the alcohol.

Beck’s – imported from Bremen, Germany and comes in a six pack of 330ml bottles listed at 0.0%abv, with 50 calories and zero sugar. I don’t see this one in the LCBO just now, but it is one to get if it comes back. Like all beers, the ingredients were water, malted barley, and hops according to the traditional Bavarian Law for brewing beer. Beck’s poured a golden colour with a full head that lasted several minutes. It had that European aroma that I love (dry, clean with a touch of bitter steely character) which was indiscernible from a regular Beck’s. It was medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel and a dry, pleasantly hopped taste with a less sweet profile common to North American beers. This one was my favourite back in 2017.

A Valentine’s Wine recommendation

From a deeply complex amarone della valpolicella, produced in Verona, Italy, the birthplace of Romeo and Juliet, or to a less expensive versatile lighter local Rose like: The Speck Brother’s Three of Hearts Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, Vintages#552562 $19.95 12%abv

Fresh and elegant, this wine displays vibrant aromas of white peach and strawberry with subtle floral notes. Medium-bodied mouthfeel with balanced acidity and flavours of fresh raspberries and honeydew melon on the palate, it is quite versatile on its own or with a range of foods.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News