Alcohol-free beer: the brewing product of the future?

Jeroen Bauwens
KU Leuven, Belgium

Keywords: Alcohol-free beer Review

Over the past decades the European beer sale showed a decline. In contrast, the alcohol-free beer market is growing every year. Alcohol-free beer is a desired alternative for people who want to enjoy a beer without drinking alcohol, like sportsmen, pregnant women and people who are restricted by religion. However, the taste is often not as desired and alcohol-free beer can suffer from flavour deficiencies such as a lack of fullness, a strong worty flavour and a low aromatic profile. Because of the changing customer perception and the possibility of flavour improvement, alcohol-free beer is a promising product.

Alcohol-free beer can be produced by two main approaches, namely biological and physical. In the biological approach the classic brewery equipment is used and no additional investment costs are needed. The brewing process is altered so that little alcohol is formed during fermentation. This can be achieved by using high temperature mashing, limited/arrested fermentation and/or special yeast strains unable to ferment certain sugars. On the other hand, in the physical approach alcohol is removed from a fully fermented beer by thermal or membrane processes. Alcohol is evaporated from the beer in the thermal processes, this is usually implemented under vacuum and short contact times are desired to lower the thermal load on the beer. Alcohol removal by membrane processes is most commonly performed by reversed osmosis or dialysis.

A review on the alcohol-free beer production methods and the sensorial aspects of the produced beers will be discussed as well as the market trends on the European market. Finally, strategies for the flavour improvement by selection of raw materials and optimization of the production process will be investigated.