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Can we finally enjoy alcohol-free beer too? Editorial Image

Is alcohol-free beer cool now?On tasty beer, with no alcohol

Alcohol-free beer is hot! In recent years, its popularity has been increasing and smaller brewers are now trying their hand at producing flavourful alcohol-free versions of their beers. So is it finally cool to drink alcohol-free beer?

Whereas before you always needed a good excuse to be seen drinking alcohol-free beer because it was considered “water with hops”, “fake beer” or looked down on by the “taste police”, there are now lots of flavourful beers available with zero alcohol. It’s these beers that are starting to improve the image of this segment.

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The origins of alcohol-free beer

The American prohibition, which began in 1919, led to the creation of the first alcohol-free beers. Many breweries at the time began manufacturing low alcohol beers, which were very light, had little flavour and had exactly 0.5% alcohol.

Alcohol’s influence on flavour

Lots of research has been done into alcohol’s influence on flavour. It was once hypothesised that alcohol amplifies bitter and sweet flavours, however, whatever influence it has is limited and disputed. The bitterness is actually caused by the hops and the sweetness by the malt. However, alcohol does influence the mouthfeel and creates a rather dry aftertaste.

The biggest factor in determining the end result of an alcohol-free beer is the way in which the alcohol is removed from the beer. This can be done by reheating the beer, a process which destroys much of the flavour. However, techniques for producing alcohol-free beer have come a long way, so this technique is used less often these days. In a nutshell, alcohol-free beer doesn’t necessarily equal flavour-free beer anymore!

VandeStreek: “It’s a real challenge to make a modern alcohol-free beer with an intense hoppy flavour, but we’ve done a pretty good job — if we do say so ourselves.”

Alcohol-free beers with flavour

The Dutch Consumer Association named the Heineken 0.0 and Budels Malt 0.0 as the best alcohol-free pilsners. In De Volkskrant, Jenever Fun was chosen as the best, due to its authentic, hoppy flavour. However, lets not forget about other beer styles. There’s also the alcohol-free wheat beers by Weihenstephan, Erdinger and Paulaner. And Nanny State by Brewdog is a good example of an alcohol-free pale ale. This year, the brothers VandeStreek were the first Dutch brewers to create an alcohol-free IPA!

Alcohol-free beer sometimes contains alcohol

Be careful with alcohol-free beers if you can’t drink alcohol due to a medical condition or pregnancy. The prohibition law that was passed in the US in 1919 stated that beverages could contain up to 0.5% alcohol. This definition of “alcohol-free” has endured and is used in many European countries today. If you’re drinking before or after exercising, or while eating, an alcohol-free beer is a great idea, but if you want to be 100% certain you’re not consuming alcohol, drink one of the 0.0 versions.

In conclusion, alcohol-free beer has changed a lot over the years and deserves to be given another chance. When you’re in the mood for something other than water or a fizzy drink, but you don’t want to risk getting tipsy, a glass of alcohol-free beer is a thirst-quencher that’s well worth a try!

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