Kicking back at the end of a long day, cold beer in hand, is a great way to relax and unwind. But this scenario doesn’t always have to include alcohol. Teetotalism is a growing movement, with Gen Z, in particular, championing a transition towards clean, sober fun. But what are they drinking and where can you find it? Let’s dive into the world of vegan, alcohol-free beer.
Why should I choose alcohol-free?
Alcohol-free beer is enjoying a surge in popularity, with Gen Z leading the charge. RDSI Research claims that the prohibitive cost of alcohol is a driving factor. However, the rise of the health and well-being movement has also been identified as a major influence.
It’s no secret: drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. The risks of overindulging include everything from high blood pressure to a higher risk of heart disease, liver damage, strokes, cancer, and even dementia. Excessive drinking was the cause of more than 140,000 deaths and 3.6 million years of “potential life” lost in the US between 2015-2019.
All alcohol consumption places the drinker at higher risk of short and long-term health complications. The NHS states that there is no safe drinking level.
But the good news is if you’re trying to cut booze from your life altogether, or maybe just reduce the amount you drink, you can enjoy the same taste, without the alcohol. While alcohol-free beer has historically been considered a less appetizing version of its conventional counterpart, this is no longer the case.
Major beer brewers like Heineken and Busch now use vacuum distillation, a relatively new methodology, to make their beverages alcohol-free and tasty. It’s an improvement from past methods, where alcohol was simply removed from the beer by heating a finished brew. (Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water and so evaporates off, leaving a sober, but arguably less tasty, drink behind.)
Which vegan alcohol-free beer should I try?
While there are many alcohol-free beer options available now, they’re not always vegan.
Similarly to winemaking, beer brewing includes a number of processes that allow animal products to creep into the mix. Chief amongst them is clarifying, which can include ingredients like isinglass.
Taken from swim bladders of tropical and subtropical fish, though traditionally sturgeon, isinglass is a form of animal collagen used to create a clear finished drink. It is not essential but has been used since the 19th century to make beer more visually appealing to consumers.
In addition to isinglass, gelatin, made from boiling animal bones and hooves, is also used as a clarifying agent.
Unlike wine, which rarely adds extra ingredients to impact grape flavor, beer brewers can add honey, lactose, and whey to their tipples. The former two add sweetness while whey is used to create milk stouts, and none are vegan-friendly.
Lactose is a sugar and whey is a protein. Both come from cow’s milk. Meanwhile, honey might be a “gray area” for some plant-based eaters, but it is widely accepted as a non-vegan product.
That said, there are plenty of booze-free vegan beers to sample.
We think the following seven should definitely be on your list. Crisp, authentic, and in some cases, award-winning, these are the (vegan) cream of the crop.
1. Days Brewing
Made in Scotland, Days focuses on real beer, just without the alcohol. The founders removed the alcohol percentage and topped up the flavor. All without any animal products used in the process.
Two varieties are available, with both the lager and pale ale definitely worth a try. You can find them here.
2. The Free From Beer Co
The clue is in the name here. The beer is free from gluten, animal products, and most alcohol too (0.5 percent remains). The company started out looking to cater to gluten-free drinkers but has evolved to embrace vegans as well and aims to be served on tap in popular locations soon.
Buy Free From gluten-free beer here.
3. Divine Brewing
If a stylish container is as important as the beer inside, this is the option for you. Gorgeously packaged in Deco-inspired cans, the vegan alcohol-free beer line is award-winning and comes in three different varieties. We recommend trying the Polaris porter, though the Atlas English Bitter and Vesta golden ales are excellent too.
Find pretty Polaris cans here.
4. San Miguel
Known for its tasty regular beer, San Miguel has stepped up to the alcohol-free plate and batted out a winner. Just as refreshing as you’d expect from an experienced brand, there has been no compromise on taste to remove the booze or negate animal-based clarifying processes.
This is also a great option when you don’t necessarily want to draw lots of attention to your alcohol-free status, as the packaging is similar to the standard offering.
Try alcohol-free San Miguel here.
Already a favorite brand for vegans, due to no animal products being used in any of its processes, Heineken now appeals to the alcohol-free plant-based crowd.
Light, refreshing, and uncharacteristically low in calories (69 per 300ml can), Heineken 0.0 is a good value option from a recognized and trusted brewer. Top tip: this is quite a floral beer and works very well in shandy.
Buy Heineken alcohol-free for your next party here.
6. Stella Artois
Yes, you read it correctly: Stella Artois has brought out an alcohol-free beer and what’s more, it’s vegan too. The company proudly states that no animal products are used during its brewing or finishing processes and that even the glue used on its labels is animal derivatives-free.
One of the most recognizable brands in the world, traditional Stella Artois features a big punch of alcohol (5.2 percent), but it’s more laid-back cousin retains all of the flavors with none of the next-day regrets.
See if you can spot the difference by buying Stella Artois Alcohol-Free here.
7. Big Drop Brewing Co
Another stylish addition to the alcohol-free beer roster, Big Drop has created a craft lager that ticks all the cool boxes but leaves you with no chance of a hangover. Also award-winning, Big Drop was the world’s first brewery dedicated solely to the production of alcohol-free craft beer.
Gluten-free and fully vegan, the Uptime variety beats Heineken’s calories at just 39 per can or bottle, but still tastes like proper beer.
You can find can multipacks of Uptime here.
Will I be less fun at parties?
No. And better still, you’ll be the life and soul of brunch the next day, because you won’t be dehydrated or hungover.
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