Besides many preconceptions, alcohol free beer has become a real drinking trend here in the UK for some years now. Perhaps you have already tried non-alcoholic beers or you would like to know more about it to reduce your alcohol consumption after the year-end celebrations? Or maybe you are looking to do Dry January? Beer Hawk, the online beer expert, tells you everything about alcohol-free beer, its origins and its taste!

What is an alcohol free beer

The origins of alcohol-free beer

It's easy to think that alcohol free beer has only recently been created. But think again, because alcohol-free beer has been around for much longer…

Alcohol-free beers first appeared in the Middle Ages, when water was full of bacteria and the risk of disease was high. The working classes were offered very low-alcohol beers to compensate for the lack of drinkable water. These beers were offered as an alternative to wages and were considered a nutritious drink. At that time, there were already traces of alcohol-free or low-alcohol beers, but they were called "small beers".

But the alcohol-free beers' production really started to develop from 1919 during Prohibition in the United States, which marked the ban on brewing or importing alcoholic drinks. Facing this ban, breweries were forced to change their methods and brew beers with less than 0.5% abv.

Definition of the alcohol-free beer

The definition of ‘alcohol-free’ differs from one country to another. In the United Kingdom, there are a few definitions depending on the alcohol content and the way beer has been brewed.

According to the Low alcohol guidance descriptors released in December 2018 by the Department of Health and Social Care, we distinguish beers based on: ‘low-alcohol’, ‘alcohol-free’, ‘non-alcoholic’ and ‘de-alcoholised beer’.

  • A low alcohol beer has an alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of 1.2% or below and an indication of its maximum ABV should be mentioned on the label.
  • Alcohol-free beer should only be applied to a beer from which the alcohol has been extracted and contains no more than 0.05% abv. The alcohol content or the statement “contains no alcohol” should also be on the label.
  • A de-alcoholised beer is brewed in the same way as traditional beer, but is subsequently de-alcoholised. The sugars in its composition are naturally converted into alcohol through natural fermentation, then the alcohol has been removed. De-alcoholised beers shouldn’t contain more than 0.5% abv.
  • Some people also use the term non-alcoholic beer. However in reality, it is not legally correct to use the term non-alcoholic to describe a beer that does not contain alcohol. Non-alcoholic should not be used in conjunction with a name commonly associated with an alcoholic drink.

So please, always read the labels carefully and take care when selecting your alcohol-free beers.The consumption of alcohol-free beers is not recommended in certain cases or health problems.