Alcohol-free beers, wine, and spirits are increasing in popularity in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Canada. Non-alcoholic beer is most commonly made by removing alcohol from traditional beer, by heating the alcoholic beer to 175 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, cooling to 80 degrees, and returning yeast and sugar to the mixture in a process called "burning off." While non-alcoholic wine is commercially available, it can be created at home by gently simmering alcoholic wine for approximately 2.5 hours to remove up to 98 percent of the alcohol. While very little information is publicly available regarding the manufacture of non-alcoholic spirits, one major player in the market, Seedlip Spirits, reportedly uses a process similar to gin production. Below you will find a deep dive of our findings, as well as recipes for non-alcoholic beer and non-alcoholic wine.
The Brewing Process
The process for creating non-alcoholic beer is generally the same procedure used to create alcoholic beer, and some prior understanding of brewing terminology is assumed in order to keep this project in scope for a typical Wonder request. The brewing process involves milling the grain, mashing, recirculating, lautering & sparging, boiling, chilling and then fermentation, both primary and secondary. Once an alcoholic beer has been successfully brewed, the alcohol is removed via a process referred to as "burning off," which involves heating the brew to 175 degrees for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. It is important to keep the liquid as close as possible to 175 degrees, as failure to do so may result in flavors that are perceived to be "off." The liquid is then cooled to 80 degrees, and yeast and sugar are added back to the mixture, since they were destroyed during the burning off process. Since the creation of non-alcoholic beer, burning off has been consistently identified as the most common and easiest method. However, to create a more flavorful beer and avoid the bitterness associated with this method, manufacturers are innovating new methods that involve partial and limited fermentation to address changes in the overall flavor of the mixture that occurs when alcohol is removed. One of the new methods used is called arrested fermentation.
Non-Alcoholic Beer Recipes
Although brewers typically guard their recipes closely, we identified some home-brewing techniques for making non-alcoholic beer. Many popular home-brewing recipes presuppose that the brewer is already well-versed in brewing alcoholic beer, so we encountered difficulties in locating non-alcoholic beer recipes that "start from scratch." As a result, we have included a recipe from 2010, which is outside the time frame of a typical Wonder request. However, we have included it here because there is no reason to believe that the recipe and/or process has changed with time. The recipe calls for the following ingredients:
"3 gallon container of bottled water
3 lbs light dried malt extract
8 oz crushed crystal malt
1 oz Northern Brewer pellet hops
1 package brewers yeast
3/8 cup sugar
1. Pour the crystal malt into a large freezer bag.
2. Crush the grains with a rolling pin to a coarse consistency.
3. Pour half a gallon of bottled water into a large bowl.
4. Pour the remaining water into a brew pot, leaving three inches at the top.
5. Add the crushed grains to the brew pot.
6. Turn up the heat on the brew pot until the mixture reaches 150 degrees, cover the pot, and remove from the heat for 30 minutes.
7. Strain the grains off and pour the hot liquid into a heatproof container.
8. Pour this liquid back into the brew pot and return it to the stove.
9. Stir in the malt extract and return to boiling.
10. Add 2/3 oz of hop pellets and boil for one hour.
11. Turn off the heat and add the remaining hop pellets.
12. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes.
13. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
14. Add sugar to the brew pot and heat the mixture in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid reaches a temperature of 173.5 degrees, stirring occasionally.
15. Boil at this temperature for 30 minutes.
16. Create an ice bath in the sink.
17. Remove the mixture from the oven after 30 minutes and stir, and then place the container in the ice bath.
18. Add half the package of brewer's yeast to the cooled mixture.
19. Bottle and cap the mixture.
20. The beer will be carbonated in a few weeks and ready for consumption.
The Fermentation Process
Non-Alcoholic Wine Recipes
Many of the previously mentioned techniques, such as distillation and filtration, may be difficult to master for consumers who wish to create non-alcoholic wine at home. Additionally, the process for fermenting wine "from scratch" is lengthy, and recreating this process would be outside the scope of this request. However, we identified some relatively simply techniques to remove the alcohol from an existing bottle of alcoholic wine at home. To remove alcohol from a bottle of wine:
1. Pour the wine into a pot or saucepan. The liquid should be a few inches deep.
2. Heat the wine until it simmers gently, taking care not to allow it to boil, which will result in too much evaporation of the wine.
3. Simmer the wine for 2.5 hours to remove the majority of the alcohol in the wine.
It is noted that the amount of alcohol removed from wine by this process may vary. This recipe notes that the "majority" of alcohol will be removed, although a review of posts by experienced consumers using this technique and others indicates that 75 percent to 98 percent of the alcohol is removed.
The Distillation Process
In reviewing non-alcoholic spirits, it appears that one of the most popular manufacturers dominating this market is Seedlip Spirits. While the actual process utilized to create the company's non-alcoholic spirits is closely guarded, we did identify some general techniques utilized. Seedlip Spirits's distillation process involves using cold maceration and copper pot distillation, along with blending and cold compound filtration. The ingredients used are similar to gin, with herbs, spices, peels and barks prominently featured. Gin can be created in only a few hours, although the complete process to manufacture Seedlip's products takes up to six weeks. The company's secret process ultimately yields a product with no calories, no sugar, and no alcohol.
Non-Alcoholic Spirits Recipes
Unfortunately, an exhaustive search for recipes for non-alcoholic spirits was unsuccessful, which is likely the result of demand for these products being relatively new. Additionally, as previously discussed, it appears that major players in the market keep their recipes closely guarded, resulting in no publicly available recipes for non-alcoholic spirits.
Non-alcoholic beer and wine are created by removing alcohol from commercial beer and wine products, and while consumers can purchase commercial non-alcoholic products, they can also remove the alcohol from beer and wine at home by heating the liquids using the aforementioned techniques. There is very little information available on the production of non-alcoholic spirits, either commercially or at home.