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Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Better For You?

14 October 2022

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The non-alcoholic beer movement is well underway. Sure, you’ve probably noticed six-packs labeled “non-alcoholic” out of the corner of your eyes at stores for the past few decades. But these watered-down versions of traditional beer were limited, usually tasteless and were mainly marketed toward people focused on sobriety. 

While still a microscopic segment of the beer industry – non-alcoholic beer makes up about 1% – it has made quite the leap over the years. No longer do you have to sacrifice removing alcohol for flavor. The ever-expanding craft beer scene is mainly to thank for the rise in popularity of non-alcoholic beer, as you can now find these options at your local craft brewery. 

As the taste has drastically improved, one question remains – is non-alcoholic beer healthier and better for you? We sought out some answers. 


How to make non-alcoholic beer

The art of making beer is quite simple. Brewers start by mashing malted barley with hot water. This process extracts sugars to create what is known as the wort. The wort gets boiled with hops and fermented with yeast. The yeast then eats sugars in the wort to produce alcohol. 

To produce non-alcoholic beer, the difficult part involves removing or limiting the amount of alcohol production. In the early days of non-alcoholic beer, brewers would either boil the finished product at high temperatures so the alcohol would evaporate or use a filtration system to remove the alcohol. While both methods were successful in removing alcohol, they also tended to remove flavor as well, leaving a less-palatable experience.

However, new discoveries have allowed brewers to either use no alcohol at all during the process (alcohol reduction and prevention) or use methods after brewing (dealcoholization) that preserve taste and flavor. 

Alcohol reduction and prevention

Fermentation prevention: By withholding yeast, sugars in the wort can’t produce alcohol. This approach is one way to ensure a 0.0% beer. 

Limited fermentation: This can be accomplished in one of two ways: by using modified yeasts or lowering fermentable sugars in the wort. Rice or corn have fewer extractable sugars than wheat or barley. Without sugars, the yeast will produce a lower amount of ethanol. Some types of yeast can’t digest maltose and therefore won’t create ethanol. 


Distillation method: The brewer heats the fermented beer to a boiling point to evaporate ethanol. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. 

Vacuum evaporation: This newer method uses low pressure to lower the boiling point of beer to preserve the flavor. Ethanol boils at 173 F, but vacuum pressure can reduce this to 68 F. 

Reverse osmosis: High pressure forces the fermented beer through a membrane. The membrane allows tiny particles such as water and alcohol to pass through, while the larger molecules, which include flavor and other aromas, stay behind. The concentrate is then diluted with water to get the final product. 

Gas stripping: The brewer heats fermented beer in a vacuum and uses nitrogen to remove the alcohol and leave behind the beer. 


Does non-alcoholic beer have alcohol? 

In short, it depends. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows non-alcoholic beer to legally contain up to 0.5% alcohol. By comparison, a typical light beer contains 3.2% alcohol.

Non-alcoholic beer vs. alcohol-free beer 

Non-alcoholic beer: During the brewing process, trace amounts of alcohol remain. Many beers will have 0.3 percent or 0.4 percent alcohol despite the name “non-alcoholic.” 

Alcohol-free beer: For a truly non-alcoholic beer, some brands will place the words “alcohol-free” on their label to indicate 0.0 percent alcohol.

Is non-alcoholic beer good for you?

In a vacuum, non-alcoholic beer isn’t necessarily good for you because it still has calories and carbohydrates – albeit fewer than regular beer. Instead, a better classification would be that non-alcoholic beer is better for you and a healthier choice over full-strength beer. 

Alcohol is a toxin, so any way to limit the amount of alcohol in your body is a healthier choice. Non-alcoholic beer does so by satisfying your taste buds without the buzz. In fact, many people have turned to non-alcoholic beer not necessarily to replace beer, but to cut back on their alcohol intake either for dietary reasons or to better their mental health. 

Anecdotally, making the switch from beer to non-alcoholic beer may help improve any alcohol-related sleep issues. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research discovered just two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women (classified as moderate drinking) decreased sleep quality by 24 percent.  

Drinking non-alcoholic beer may also indirectly have some ties to improvements in your diet. Researchers believe alcohol impacts ghrelin production, a hormone released by the stomach that stimulates appetite and food intake. This may explain why drinking alcohol can give you late-night munchies.  

Still, you should be wary about any claims made to possible health benefits. Some proponents of non-alcoholic beer claim it can be used by athletes to hydrate and replace electrolytes. Years ago, Olympians claimed they used the beverage as a recovery tool.  

However, there are better, more affordable – a six-pack of non-alcoholic beer from a craft brewery will set you back at least $10 – ways to achieve this. Chocolate milk is an example. It has carbs and protein to help you recover. Plus, non-alcoholic beer can’t replace electrolytes such as sodium. When you sweat, your body loses key electrolytes. 

Calories in non-alcoholic beer 

Fewer calories is one of the main benefits of non-alcoholic beer compared to regular beer. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which is nearly on par with calories in fat (9 calories per gram). 

Many commercial beers fall in the 140 to 170 calorie range with light beers hovering around 100 calories. Non-alcoholic beers can range from as few as 17 calories to 80 or 90 calories. Further, higher ABV beers, such as IPAs and stouts, can pack as many as 300 calories in a pint. By comparison, some non-alcoholic IPAs have just 60 calories. 

The truth is beer, whether with alcohol or without, has empty calories. Although there are no added sugars – the sweetness comes from malted barley – calories can add up if you drink several non-alcoholic beers in a single sitting. Non-alcoholic beers also tend to have more carbs, too. For example, Coors Non-Alcoholic has just 58 calories but carries 12.2 grams of carbs. 

Here is a glimpse of the nutrition content of several non-alcoholic beers: 

Athletic Free Wave Hazy IPA: 70 calories, 5g carbs, 0g sugar 

Bush NA: 60 calories, 12.9g carbs, 0g sugar 

Coors Non-Alcoholic: 58 calories, 12.2g carbs, 8g sugar sugar 

Coors Edge: 41 calories, 8g carbs, 4g sugar 

Gruvi Stout: 45 calories, 12g carbs, 0g sugar 

Heineken 0.0: 69 calories, 16 g carbs, 1.3 g sugar 

Lagunitas IPNA: 80 calories, 18g carbs, 3g sugar 

Miller Sharp’s: 58 calories, 12.0 carbs, 8g sugar 

Sam Adams Just the Haze IPA: 98 calories, 22g carbs, N/A sugar 

Stella Artois Alcohol-Free: 60 calories, 14g carbs, 3g sugar 

Surreal Natural Bridges Kolsch Style: 17 calories, 2.8g carbs, 0g sugar 

Rightside Citrus Wheat: 49 calories, 10g carbs, 0g sugar 

What about hop water? 

If you’re a regular at craft breweries, you’ve likely seen some iteration of hoppy water on the menu. Since hops have become so popular in beers, brewers are now using them to flavor carbonated water. 

The idea is to have a finished product with zero alcohol and no calories. For example, Sierra Nevada, one of the largest privately owned brewers in the country, came out with Hop Splash. This sparkling water contains citra and amarillo hops – two popular types used in IPAs and pale ales – to provide flavor. 

Some breweries do use small quantities of yeast to bolster the hop flavor in a process called biotransformation. 

Can you drink non-alcoholic beer while pregnant?

Since some non-alcoholic beer contains up to 0.5 percent alcohol by volume, you should refrain from drinking it while you’re pregnant. That goes for any quantity of alcohol, as even small amounts can lead to pregnancy complications and other developmental issues, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

However, you can drink mocktails or alcohol-free beer that has 0.0 percent alcohol clearly labeled on the packaging. 


Visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog for more lifestyle, wellness and food content. 

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