Of the wide range of non-alc or low-alc drinks available to us now, non-alcoholic beer remains a cult favourite. So, let’s take a look at the history and benefits.
The history of non-alcoholic beer
Did you know Non-alcoholic beer has been around since Medieval European times? Back then it was a staple at festivals for people who enjoyed the taste of a delicious ale but couldn’t afford the high price of the alcoholic beers sold by vendors and brewers. It was also a huge step up from the poor quality of the drinking water available to the general populace at the time.
Fast forward to today, where we have a need and a thirst for non-alcoholic beer and other alcohol-free beverages. People who love the taste of beer but have been assigned the designated driver for the night can still partake in their favourite lager or ale. Tradies can have a cheeky drink at lunch and pregnant women can satisfy that golden ale craving. Beers containing no alcohol (0.5% ABV of less) are for just about everyone.
What started off as a sideline operation for a few brewers here and there has now evolved into an industry with worldwide reach and marketability. No longer are non-alc beers just a tasteless alternative to the real deal. They are ever evolving with new and exciting flavours popping up each and every day.
Mainstream brewers have jumped onboard with brands such as Carlton and Heineken introducing non-alcoholic versions of their much-loved classics in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Towards the end of 2019 Carlton United Brewery reported that “non-alcoholic, low-alcohol and mid-strength beers make up about 25 per cent of all CUB beer sales”.
Alcohol-free craft beers have taken the industry by surprise, producing some of the most exotic and innovative low and non-alcoholic beer recipes we’ve ever seen (or tasted). Australian brands Sobah and Heaps Normal are just two of these crafty brands that have taken the non-alc world by storm. Germany, has been a pioneer in this space for decades and are the one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of beer annually.
Across the board, non-alcoholic beer sales have continued to rise in Australia over the past few years with the Australian drinking culture embracing more and more non-alc options across all age groups.
The benefits of drinking alcohol-free beer
1. Enjoy the great taste without the side effects
Having a non-alcoholic version of our favourite drink means you get to enjoy all of the flavours and mouthfeel, but without any of the alcohol effects. This means can still enjoy a crisp, hoppy beer or an IPA anytime.
2. You can stay hydrated for longer
Beers with an alcohol volume of 2% can be dehydrating. This is because alcohol is a “diuretic”. What this means is that it causes your body to try and flush out fluids. So, when you drink full-strength beer and other alcoholic beverages you’ll find you're making more frequent trips to the bathroom and finding yourself becoming dehydrated at an alarming rate.
Non-alcoholic beer, in contrast, can help to hydrate, non-alcohol beer brands like Erdinger, Upflow and Zero+ Pale Ale all contain hypotonic properties which can help rehydrate after physical activity. More on this in point 3.
3. Your athletic performance may be enhanced
Isotonic drinks contain electrolytes and are absorbed quickly and many non-alcoholic beers contain those same properties. A published 2013 study, "Beer as a sports drink? Manipulating beer's ingredients to replace lost fluid" showed that non-alc beer containing electrolytes allowed athletes to retain more fluids. Multiple studies since then have confirmed these findings.
Polyphenols in non-alc beer (derived from the hops and malt) have been shown to assist in muscle recovery and improving physical performance.
Olympian Simon Schempp, a biathlete on the German team has spoken about his enjoyment of an alcohol-free ale whilst in training.
4. Your body takes in less calories with less alcohol
Most of the calories found in beer can be attributed to the alcohol content. Less alcohol is also a plus. We all know that excess alcohol isn't good for the body (or mind). Reducing your alcohol intake is a great step in your personal wellbeing journey.
5. Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid.
Some non-alcoholic beers naturally contain Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in our general health and is commonly found in animal-based foods like poultry, eggs, dairy and meats. So for the vegans (like myself), this is another tick for non-alcoholic beer.
Non-Alcoholic Beers to Try
Budvar Budejovicky B:FREE
Known as the original Budweiser beer, this refreshing alcohol-free lager really knows how to make a mark on its consumers and is filling Aussie fridges by the carton. Natural ingredients include pure artisan water, hops, malt and yeast from their local Czech communities.
You’ll find no added sugar or preservatives and you’ll enjoy a classic malted aroma. It has a bold, lightly spiced and a little citrusy flavour. A slightly bitter taste rounds out the full flavour profile, making this beer a delight to drink.
Clausthaler Original Pilsner
Backed by the German Purity Law, only the finest quality, minimal ingredients are added to this brew. One of the World's oldest non-alc brews, it is also the winner of 2020 International Taste Institute’s Superior Taste Award.
Heineken 0.0 Lager
Heineken spent a long while perfecting the double brewing process used to remove the alcohol from their regular beer recipe. The outcome is their Heineken 0.0 with the same taste and mouthfeel as a classic Heineken beer, with only 69 calories.