The challenge of brewing a non-alcoholic beer...
In this crazy time we find ourselves in, with the ban on liquor sales in South Africa coupled with the fact that many of us want to live healthier lives, many people would like to try their hand at brewing non-alcoholic beer. But what exactly is non-alcoholic beer and how do I make it?
What does the term “non-alcoholic” actually mean? The South African Liquor Act defines an alcoholic beverage as a product that contains 1% alcohol by volume (ABV) or more while the Foodstuffs, cosmetics and disinfectant act states that “non-alcoholic” contains less than 1.2% ABV and “alcohol free” permits up to 0.05% ABV. Given the above, we are going to go with 1% ABV or less. Most other countries are not allowed to go over 0.5% so we have a slightly easier task than most.
So now that we know what non-alcoholic means, how do we make a non-alcoholic beer? In bigger breweries, there are two main ways to make non-alcoholic beer. The first is to make a regular beer and then remove the alcohol (either through distillation or filtration). This method requires expensive equipment and sophisticated testing equipment to be able to test how much alcohol remains in the beer. The second method, which is more common among craft and home brewers, is to simply brew a beer that contains less than 1% ABV. Brewing a beer that has less than 1% ABV is easy, brewing one that tastes good is quite tricky. Believe me, I have tried.
The trick with brewing a good non-alcoholic beer is to give it enough body (so that it does not taste watery) and flavour (so that it is not boring) without being able to use much malt. To give body, do everything you can. Mash at a higher temperature than normal (70 degrees C) and use malts that give a lot of body (like rye, wheat, oats and crystal malt). For flavour, hops are your friend but watch your bitterness. With such a small amount of malt, the bitterness can become overwhelming very quickly. I would suggest aiming for the 5-10 IBU range with only whirlpool additions (only add hops after the boil). It’ll taste much more bitter than the IBU’s suggest. Finally, the water profile is also important. Salts can definitely help increase the body and flavour of a beer, so we need to use that to our advantage.
There is a recipe in Brewdog’s DIY dog recipe catalogue for their Nanny State, which is a 0.5% ABV Pale Ale. I have had their version, and it was good, but when I brewed this recipe I found it disappointingly watery and overly bitter. Below is a recipe that I have developed, based on Nanny State but with a few tweaks.
Bheki’s Pride non-alcoholic Pale Ale
Batch size: 20L (in fermenter)
Mash efficiency: 80%
IBU : 7 (Tinseth)
Color : 10 SRM
Carbonation : 2.4 CO2-vol
Pre-Boil Gravity : 1.011 / 2.8 °P
Original Gravity : 1.015 / 3.8 °P
Final Gravity : 1.008 / 2.1 °P
Fermentables (1.2 kg)
500 g - Weyermann Munich II 8.5 SRM (41.7%)
200 g - Weyermann Rye Malt 3 SRM (16.7%)
100 g - Weyermann Caraaroma 180 SRM (8.3%)
100 g - Weyermann Caramunich III 71 SRM (8.3%)
100 g - Weyermann Carapils 1.5 SRM (8.3%)
100 g - Weyermann Carawheat 50 SRM (8.3%)
100 g - Weyermann Wheat Malt Dark 7 SRM (8.3%)
Mash in with 27 litres at 70 degrees C for 30 min and then mash-out at 75 degrees C for 5min. No sparge.
Once the wort is collected, boil for 30 minutes. Once the boil is finished and you start cooling, add the following;
50 g - Simcoe - 12% (4.2 IBU)
50 g - Citra - 12% (4 IBU)
1 g - Canning Salt (NaCl)
6 g - Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)
2 g - Gypsum (CaSO4)
Cool to 18 degrees C and ferment with 1 packet of Fermentis S-04 yeast.
When fermentation slow (probably within 24-48 hours of it starting) dry hop with the following;
50 g - Simcoe
50 g - Citra
100 g - Citra Cryo