How is Non-Alcoholic Beer Made? Everything You Need to Know

Many non-alcoholic beer drinkers are after the health benefits of cutting back. But many don’t stop to ask an important question: how is non-alcoholic beer made? 

Getting clear answers on the brewing process can be tough, since many brewers keep it behind the veil. (Athletic Brewing is a good example.) 

In this blog post, we’ll outline everything you need to know about how non-alcoholic beer is made. So whether you’re looking to cut back on your drinking or want to learn more about your favorite beverage, read on.

What is non-alcoholic beer?

On the surface, NA beer is straight-forward: it’s beer without alcohol. This means that it follows the same brewing process as regular beer, but has lower alcohol by volume (ABV). 

There are different standards and categories, often by country and state. Here are some common definitions:

To compare, traditional full-strength beers sit between 3% and 9% alcohol by volume.

How is non-alcoholic beer made?

There are several ways of making non-alcoholic beers. The technology has grown over time, allowing brewers to come closer to replicating the flavor of full-strength beer. Here are the most common techniques.


In this process, brewers reduce the ABV of regular beer by adding water after it is fermented. Then they recarbonate it.

The problem is that you have to dilute regular beer significantly to lower the ABV to under 0.5%. For example, if the beer was 5% alcohol, you’d have to use a 9:1 ratio of water to beer to hit 0.5% ABV. That means you’d dilute 1 oz. of 5% beer with 9 oz. of water for a 10 oz. beer. That’s pretty—well, watery.

Dilution is easy, but you can end up with a very watered down product that doesn’t feel or taste like real beer. 

Dealcoholization via Reverse Osmosis

How is non-alcoholic beer made? Figure showing membrane filtration process to make non-alcoholic beer.
This figure shows the process for making non-alcoholic beer through membrane filtration. / Image source: Journal of Food and Bioproducts Processing

By running beer through semi-permeable membranes, reverse osmosis systems can filter out alcohol molecules while retaining key complex flavors. 

This technology preserves taste and quality, allowing craft brewers to make quality beers that are low in ABV without sacrificing flavor. Reverse osmosis also allows faster production for large batches, since you need less intervention. 

Reverse osmosis isn’t perfect. Most importantly, beer suffers under high pressure and the membranes can filter out some flavors (especially hops). 

Dealcoholization via Vacuum Distillation

How is non-alcoholic beer made? Figure showing vacuum distillation to produce non-alcoholic beer.
This figure shows the process for distilling full-strength beer into non-alcoholic beer. / Image Courtesy: Journal of the Institute of Brewing

Distillation is done by heating beer to cook off the alcohol. This works because alcohol has a lower boiling point (78℃) than water (100℃). So if you boil at less than 100℃, you’ll lose alcohol but keep the rest (in theory). 

Since flavor suffers under high heat, brewers use vacuum distillation to lower alcohol’s boiling point. This preserves the hop oils and other flavor compounds.

The main negative of distilling is that it reduces the depth of flavor since other molecules will be heated off. It also has high energy needs. However this method significantly reduces the cost and time. 

Arrested Fermentation

In arrested fermentation, brewers stop the yeast from becoming active. This keeps the yeast from converting sugars into alcohol. 

Arrested fermentation is usually done by fermenting beer at colder temperatures, and then removing the yeast from the equation. In some cases, flash pasteurization is also used to kill the yeast rather than removing it.

The biggest downside of arrested fermentation is that the final product can be high in aldehydes and have off flavors. It’s a delicate process, in other words.

Simulated Fermentation

How is non alcoholic beer made? Image of yeast on a table.
Non-alcoholic brewers can use special yeast strains to tweak the fermentation process.

Using enzymes and negative yeast strains, brewers can “simulate” fermentation. This allows them to make alcohol free beers without compromising its taste profile or quality. 

While this method is effective in producing a great tasting beverage that is nearly identical to regular beer, it can be a difficult process. Also, some of the flavor notes can be lost due to the lingering aspects of enzymes used. 

Fermentation free (No Fermentation)

While traditional fermentation is the main process behind crafting beer, modern brewers have found success in a fermentation free process. In this case, brewers withhold yeast to take it out of the equation. Without yeast, there’s no fermentation and no alcohol. 

This method is untraditional and often derided. But it’s the easiest way to ensure a 0.0% (truly alcohol-free) beer

The problem? Yeast creates esters, phenols, glycerol, and transforms hops during fermentation. Basically, it does a lot of what makes beer what it is. Without yeast, beer can be “worty” and sweet.

To be successful with no fermentation methods, brewers have to take steps to ensure a balance of flavors. Hairless Dog has used this method to some success.

Does non-alcoholic beer still contain alcohol?

In most cases, the answer is yes. When you’re buying “non-alcoholic” beer, the product is usually ~0.5% ABV beer. It’s highly reduced, but it has alcohol in it. 

The only way it is truly alcohol-free is if it is labeled as such. (This is why Heineken is being sued for Heineken 0.0. It has 0.5% ABV and is not truly “alcohol-free.”)

To be fair, you would have to drink around 10 NA beers in an hour for it to register on a breathalyzer or feel any effects. Not a typical thing you’d find me doing. Then again, some in the sobriety community think that even 0.5% is a slippery slope that should be avoided.

What are the benefits of drinking non-alcoholic beer?

NA beer has several benefits. They include:

Article: Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Good for You? 15 Amazing Health Benefits

There are also fringe benefits of non-alcoholic beer, most of which stem from avoiding alcohol. When you drink alcohol, you overeat, exercise poor judgment, and take on health risks (including cancer). Avoiding these behaviors is always a bonus.

Are there any downsides to non-alcoholic beer?

For all of its benefits, NA beer is still a beverage that has calories, carbohydrates, and allergens. Drinking water is always best.

For example, Athletic Brewing’s Free Wave Hazy IPA has 70 calories and 16g of carbs. Their All Out Stout has 90 calories and 21g of carbs. This is hardly calorie-neutral and can cause weight gain. 

NA beer also often contains wheat, gluten, and corn. These can cause some people digestive and inflammation issues.

Having said that, NA beer is a better option than full-strength beer. A Bud Light has 145 calories, for instance. A Michelob Ultra has 95 calories. Comparable NA options are almost always superior in this area.

FAQs About Non-Alcoholic Beer

Why Are More People Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Figure: The growth of  the non-alcoholic beer market.
This figure shows the growth of the non-alcoholic beer market and where it is expected to go in the future. / Image source: Statista

There are several reasons why the non-alcoholic beer category has grown exponentially the last few years. In fact, it is expected to reach $40 billion by 2032 (possibly more).

Here are some key reasons why more people are buying non-alcoholic beer:

  • Thanks to technological advances in brewing, NA beer has improved in quality. Today, it often tastes and feels like the real thing.
  • Craft NA brewers like Athletic and Untitled Art have honed the process and expanded the offerings.
  • The popularization of Dry January and Sober October sent millions searching for alcohol replacements. In fact, 29% of Dry January participants (2022) drank NA beers.
  • There is a well-documented Millenial trend toward less alcohol, for health reasons and more. Some call it the “sober-curious” generation.
  • Restaurants and bars are now embracing NA beers, which is increasing on-premise NA sales.

To see the growth of non-alcoholic beer, we need only look at Athletic Brewing. They boast a 55% market share and have seen three-year revenue growth of 13,071 percent. (That’s gonna be an amazing IPO.)

Who Drinks Non-Alcoholic Beer?

The trend is especially-driven by three crowds: Millennials and Gen-Z, health-conscious drinkers, and the sobriety community. To be fair, some people in the sobriety community think it’s not a great idea, and possibly a path to relapse.

How To Find A Style Of Non-Alcoholic Beer That Fits You

If you’re already a beer drinker, it’s probably best to start with the styles you already like. DrinkICD has reviews on the following:

If you aren’t a beer drinker, it might be a good idea to check out what’s popular and see if it suits you. Here are some of the most popular NA beers:

  • Any of the Athletic Brewing flagship beers
  • Ceria Grainwave and Indiewave
  • Clausthaler Original
  • Heineken 0.0
  • Partake IPA and Pale Ale
  • Rightside Citrus Wheat
  • Samuel Adams Just the Haze
  • Any of the Untitled Art flagship beers
  • Weihenstaphaner Wheat
  • Wellbeing Intentional IPA

Another way to find what you like is to explore different craft NA breweries. Here are some good ones:

  • Athletic Brewing
  • Brewdog
  • Bravus
  • Ceria Brewing
  • Partake Brewing
  • Untitled Art Brewing

Want Options? See our buying guides for NA wine and NA spirits.

What ingredients are used to make non-alcoholic beer?

What ingredients are used to make non-alcoholic beer? Hops, barley, malts, and grains.
Brewers use the same ingredients to make NA beer as full-strength beer: Hops, barley, malts, and grains.

Non-alcoholic beer is beer that has had its alcohol content removed either during or after the fermentation process. It is made using beer ingredients, which include:

  • Malt
  • Barley
  • Hops
  • Grains
  • Corn
  • Yeast 

NA craft brewers may also use additives that help them control the brewing process. These might include:

  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Potassium metabisulfite
  • Potassium sorbate

How does the fermentation process work for non-alcoholic beer?

It varies. In some cases, NA brewers follow the same fermentation process as regular beer, then remove the alcohol after with reverse osmosis, vacuum distillation, or dilution. 

In other cases, brewers disrupt the fermentation process by using high/low temperatures, special yeast strains, yeast removal, or flash pasteurization. Arrested fermentation processes are becoming more common in the NA brewing space.

Some non-alcoholic brewing skips fermentation altogether (fermentation free). Hairless Dog brewing has done this to some success.

What is the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer?

The difference between alcohol and non-alcoholic beer is the alcohol content. Alcoholic beers have alcohol by volume (ABV) ranging from 3-10%, while non-alcoholic beers contain no more than 0.5% alcohol. 

In the USA, a non-alcholic beer has less than 0.5% alcohol. To be considered “alcohol free” it has to be 0.0% alcohol. 

How is the flavor of non-alcoholic beer achieved?

Non-alcoholic beers get their flavor from the same ingredients as regular beer. That means from barley, malts, grains, and hops. Brewers may add other ingredients to make specialty brews, like sours and pumpkin ales.

The bigger question is, how do they keep the flavor during the dealcoholization process? (See explanation above.)

What are the steps involved in the making of non-alcoholic beer?

The steps for making non-alcoholic beer are similar to those for making full-strength beer. Here’s a rundown of the process:

  1. Malting
  2. Milling
  3. Mashing
  4. Heating
  5. Brewing
  6. Cooling
  7. Fermentation may be:
    1. Regular fermentation
    2. Arrested fermentation
    3. No fermentation
  8. Maturing
  9. If fermented, dealcoholization may be done by:
    1. Reverse Osmosis
    2. Vacuum distillation
    3. Dilution
  10. Recarbonization (if needed)
  11. Packaging

Can people under 21 buy non-alcoholic beers?

The following states allow buyers under 21 to purchase and consume NA beer:

  • Minnesota
  • Texas
  • New Jersey
  • Wisconsin
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska

Other states typically restrict people under 21 from purchasing alcohol free beer. But since they only contain small amounts of alcohol, it is techinically legal for minors to consume non-alcholic beer.