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I have recently found that some alcohol free beers such as German hefeweissbiers like Weihenstephaner Hefeweisbier Alkoholfrei, and BrewDog Nanny State taste pretty ok, actually. I have also found that some other alcohol free beers are heavily unbalanced and are practically undrinkable.

About the only drawback of these alcohol-free beers is that they cost quite a lot; the cost with taxes is the same as the cost of beer with 5% ABV, and the taxes where I live are high for alcoholic drinks!

How are the good tasting alcohol free beers manufactured? Is the alcohol in the beer somehow removed in an industrial process, or do they just use less malt so that the alcohol concentration remains below 0.5%?

Can one reasonably make alcohol-free beer that tastes good at home? Where I live, distilling high-alcohol-content drinks is illegal, and if the process to make an alcohol-free beer is to just distill the alcohol away, it might be pretty risky to own the equipment for that... (Well, ok, if the purpose is to just get rid of the alcohol, you don't need all of the distilling equipment, simply boiling it at a controlled temperature would work.)

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The only way to make non-alcoholic beer that actually still tastes good is to boil the alcohol off under a vacuum. Since the vapor pressure of alcohol is much lower than that of water, they can basically draw off most of the alcohol under a vacuum. You wouldn't want to distill it off in standard fashion by adding heat because it would result in cooked flavors that are unpleasant. By using vacuum, little or no heat is required to remove the alcohol. Unless you are a science wizard, this can only be done in a commercial or laboratory setting. I don't know of anyone doing this at home.

You can, however, brew a decent kvass or kombucha at home which is typically around 0.5-1.0% ABV. Perhaps that is something you might be interested in.

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    That sounds like a challenge for me (hint: I'm a science wizard!) -- but oh well, I guess manufacturing would require so specialized equipment that it isn't worth the cost. – juhist Jul 5 at 15:15
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On a homebrew scale, I have had decent results making "non-alcoholic" beer by boiling off the alcohol in the oven. It took a long time, but I did not perceive the "cooked" flavor that people mention.

My process: Pour your fermented beer into a non-reactive oven-safe pot and place in a 250 deg F oven. KEEP THE OVEN DOOR OPEN SLIGHTLY to release the alcohol vapors. Leave pot of beer in the oven until the temperature of the beer is at least 200 deg F (alcohol boils at about 173 deg F). Remove from oven and cool.

Keg as normal. Bottle with extra yeast to carbonate. I used about 1.5g dried yeast per gallon.

It worked splendidly for a non-alcoholic Porter I made last year. YMMV

  • I've tasted heated beer before. It just doesn't taste the same to me. YMMV – dmtaylor Jul 11 at 16:25
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    I am sure the roasty flavors from the Porter masked some of heated beer flavor. My NA friends liked it. Again....YMMV – RAReed Jul 11 at 20:18
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As already stated above, boiling off the alcohol is pretty much the only option available to the average home brewer. You can't brew alcohol free beer since alcohol is a byproduct of fermentation; you can only remove the alcohol after fermentation. Industrial brewers mostly use high-tech filtering methods, sometimes vacuum evaporation.

Whether or not the boiling off changes the flavour to the point where this becomes noticeable or problematic depends on the beer style, especially where the hop character is concerned. A beer with lots of volatile hop aromas will suffer more than a malt driven beer with only some bittering hops (e.g. an English stout).

Using hop extracts may be the way to go here. Use extract for bittering since it tends to be more stable than pellets or cones, remove the alcohol and then add more hop extracts for flavouring and/or aromatizing.

YMMV so expect to need some experimentation here.

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