The low alcohol, non alcoholic and alcohol free beer market is just exploding currently.
There are many benefits of non alcoholic beer. All the powerhouse drinks like Heineken and Guinness are researching and promoting new 0.0% ranges. I have reviewed Heineken and Guinness 0.0 beers if you follow the links.
There is also a huge number of smaller and craft breweries adding non alcoholic ranges or focusing solely on this market. They aren’t all just doing this for fun.
This market is only going to get bigger in the coming years and i’d like to explain exactly why you should consider making the switch, either partly or in full.
1. You can drink and drive
One of the perceived advantages of drinking a non alcoholic beer, wine, gin etc is that you can probably drive ok after a few. They do all contain alcohol though so are they safe and how many can you drink?
How many bottles?
You can reasonably drink up to 400 bottles of alcohol free beer (<0.05% ABV) without increasing your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08%.
You could drink 900 glasses of alcohol free wine and have 3200 measures of alcohol free spirits. Various factors such as size, age, sex and medical history can have an affect on this. Different strengths of non alcoholic drinks will have other limits.
In the USA, the federal limit of to drive is a blood alcohol concentration of under 0.08%. This equates to the 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in the UK. The question is how many drinks does it take to get to 0.08% BAC and would you want to even become close?!
A commercial driver must have a BAC of under 0.04% and a level of 0.02-0.04% means they cant drive for 24hrs.
In some states there are zero tolerance laws meaning anything from 0.00-0.02% can be illegal if you are under 21 (the legal age to drink)
|Category of driver||Allowable BAC|
|Under 21||Either 0 or <0.02%|
Standard drink vs BAC
It is generally understood that on average, 1 standard drink will increase your BAC by 0.2% so you may need up to 4-5 standard drinks to get to a blood alcohol level of 0.08%.
However, as stated if you are a small woman then you will need considerably less than a 300lb man.
If we look at the 1 Standard Drink equivalent then you can see you would need drink x10 0.5% beers (non alcoholic) or x100 0.0% beers (alcohol free) in an hour to have the same effect.
|12 0z Bottle of beer by ABV %||UK Unit||US/Canadian Standard Drinks|
|5% Regular Beer||1.65||1|
|1.2% Low alcohol||0.396||0.25|
|0.05% Alcohol free||0.0165||0.01|
For such an important topic ive written a full blog on drinking alcohol free drinks and driving here
2. You can’t get drunk.
If we take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% as being “drunk” we can then work out what you need to drink to have that level of alcohol in your blood. This is also the level, in the US, where you are legally intoxicated
Clearly this topic overlaps with the previous section on drink driving as the BAC end point is the same but it’s worth spending some additional time understanding what exactly would need to be drank, in what volume and over what timescale.
2 Standard drinks, consumed over an hour, would probably get your blood alcohol concentration to around the 0.4% level, you may well feel some effects of the alcohol even tho you would be well under the legal intoxication threshold.
I will use this for the calculations to come.
|12 Fl 0z Bottle of beer by ABV %||x2 US/Canadian Standard Drinks equivalent||Drinks needed for same alcohol volume|
|5% Regular Beer||2||2|
|1.2% Low alcohol||0.5||8|
|0.5% Dealcoholised/Non alcoholic||0.2||20|
|0.05% Alcohol free||0.02||200|
So you can see for a 0.5% beer you’d need to consume x20 12 fl oz beers to have the equivalent of 2 standard beers.
This means you’d need to be drinking one every 3 minutes for an hour. It is over 1.5 gallons of beer in an hour. Good luck with that. In metric that is 7 litres or over 12pints.
The numbers are even more ludicrous for the alcohol free version. Its really not humanly possible to drink x10 the previous numbers.
That is 15 gallons, 70litres or 120pints of alcohol free beer in an hour. Im pretty sure you would be dead before you’d be drunk!
For more information and a lot more science explained then check out my research on the topic.
3. You can drink when pregnant
Understandably, pregnant mothers want to do everything possible to protect and nurture their unborn child.
There are many food and beverage rule to try and follow. One of these that everyone knows is that you should trying avoid alcohol.
Im going to take a look at if alcohol free drinks are safe in pregnancy and why you should avoid alcohol when pregnant
In general, alcohol free drinks are safe in pregnancy. They have had their alcohol removed to a level below 0.05% alcohol by volume (ABV) meaning it is not physiologically active. If you compare that to a glass of fresh orange juice with an ABV of 0.5%, you can see that an alcohol free drink has less than 10% the alcohol of orange juice. You can drink about 225 glasses (5 fl oz or 150ml) of alcohol free wine before it counts as 1 US Standard Drink.
Alcohol can affect pregnancy in a number of ways.
- increased risk of miscarriage
- foetal growth restriction
- foetal brain underdevelopment
- increased risk of preterm labour
- increased risk of stillbirth
- can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- baby can be more prone to infections
Unsurprisingly a lot of the worldwide guidance is that no level of alcohol is considered safe despite the recognition that low levels of alcohol will likely cause no issues. The safest option is alway to avoid alcohol.
|Regional advisor||Specific advice||Additional comments|
|RCOG (UK)||There is no “safe” level of alcohol||low risk of harm with small amounts of alcohol|
|Department of Health (Australia)||There is no “safe” level of alcohol||low risk of harm with small amounts of alcohol|
|ACOG (USA)||There is no “safe” level of alcohol||Serious harm unlikely if drinking before pregnancy discovered|
|Standard drink limit||Alcohol free beer limit||Alcohol free wine limit||Alcohol free spirit limit|
|Over 21 Driver||4||400||960||3200|
An abstaining pregnant mom who is wanting to try and avoid alcohol as much as possible and worried about an alcohol free drink can look at the middle line.
0.01 = 1%, so 1% of a can of beer is a teaspoon, 1% of a glass of wine is 1/3 of a tea spoon and 1% of a measure of spirit is basically a few drop. Having spoken to many medical professionals, this level of alcohol would not be concerning to them.
For a full update on alcohol in pregnancy then read my separate blog on this important matter. It includes the amount of alcohol in other foods and drinks. Some are very surprising!
4. You can drink when breastfeeding
Breastfeeding mothers want to do everything possible to protect and nurture their new baby.
There are many food and beverage rules to try and follow. One of these that everyone knows is that you should try avoiding alcohol.
Im going to take a look at if alcohol free drinks are safe in breastfeeding and why you should avoid alcohol when breastfeeding.
What are the current guidelines from across the globe?
|Regional advisor||Specific advice||Additional comments|
|NHS (UK)||No more than 14 UK Units a week||Spread drinks over >3 days. Wait 2 hours after drinking until breastfeeding|
|Australian Breastfeeding Association||Drink less than 2 Standard Drinks per day||Non in first month then wait 2 hours post drinking|
|ACOG (USA)||Drink less than 2 Standard Drinks per day||Wait at least 2 hrs after drinking until breastfeeding|
In general, alcohol free drinks are safe in breastfeeding. They have had their alcohol removed to a level below 0.05% alcohol by volume (ABV) meaning it is not physiologically active. If you compare that to a glass of fresh orange juice with an ABV of 0.5%, you can see that an alcohol free drink has less than 10% the alcohol of orange juice.
As with pregnancy, this is an important topic so i’ve dedicated a full blog to alcohol and breastfeeding here
5. Fewer calories means less belly fat
This is a monster topic all on its own, not least for me and my dad bod!
In general, non alcoholic beers are less fattening than regular beers or even light beers. They contain around 25-50% of the calories of regular beers but don’t have the metabolism slowing effects of alcohol which further exacerbates the calorie difference. This means you have less free energy to convert to fat. However they usually contain both more sugar and carbohydrate.
The USDA quote a 12 fl oz serving of regular beer has 154 kcal. We can use this as a decent generic reference point to start from.
I know there will be a large range within the beer world with different brewing making processes, additives and alcohol contents but it acts as a good surrogate for comparison.
If we look at some of the best selling beers from around the globe and compare them to the USDA standard it should give a general feel for the calorie difference.
Ive chosen 4 beers from different parts of the world that have for comparison in various factors throughout this article. They also have two different alcohol by volume concentrations. I’ll also include some big name brands to compare.
Non alcoholic beers
- Brewdog Nanny State 0.5% – UK
- Erdinger Alkoholfrei 0.4% – Germany
- Heineken 0.0% – Holland but global
- Guinness 0.0% – Ireland but global
|Beer||Kcal count per 12 fl oz||% of calories||% of calories saved|
|Standard USDA beer 5% ABV||154||100%||0%|
|Brewdog Nanny State 0.5%||21||14%||86%|
|Erdinger Alkoholfrei 0.4%||89||58%||42%|
Well well well, that is quite the range. Bud and Heineken are near the standard, Guinness is predictably a bit below as its only 4.2% ABV.
The surprise isn’t the alcohol free beers are lower in calories, the surprise is the range in them with Erdinger having x4 the calories of Brewdog Nanny State.
Ive written an in depth blog on calories, sugar and carbs in beer, light beer and non alcoholic beer. Ive summarised all the data and concluded for you to take away all the work!
6. They can be Halal or perfect when abstaining from alcohol.
Observant Muslims must not drink alcoholic drinks, these are considered Haram. Are the new breed of non alcoholic drinks allowed under Islamic Law?
As a general rule, alcohol free beer can be Halal. The beer needs to be 0.0% ABV for the strict Islamic Law to deem it Halal. Nearly all the major beer brands are producing zero alcohol beers. Not all non or low alcoholic beers are 0.0% ABV with a range from 1.2% down to 0.0% ABV meaning it is critical to read the label.
As you might imagine, this can be a complex topic with many variations across the world. Its hard to summarise a full diverse religion’s view on alcohol in a few paragraphs. Ive written a separate blog with added resources here. This includes the low down on the Heineken 0.0% fall out in Malaysia.
The Prophet Mohammad says in the Quran “Every intoxicant is Khamr and every intoxicant is forbidden. He who drinks wine in this world and dies while he is addicted to it, not having repented, will not be given a drink in the Hereafter.”
One of the arguments in Islamic law is only grape juice and wine Haram or all alcohols. Khamr is the Arabic word for wine and intoxication.
A minority would argue that only wine is Haram due to this word. Indeed some majority Muslim countries produce spirits like aarack and Egypt produces wine.
The conservative thinking is amount of an intoxicating liquid is banned, even a mouthful. Where there may be differing practice is if an alcohol is <0.5% ABV and labelled as “non alcoholic”, can this be Halal?
You cant get drunk drinking 0.5% ABV beer as i’ve explained above, but there is still alcohol in the liquid.
I know Muslim friends of mine who are happy that this is non alcoholic and that they can drink it. From my research, the safest approach if your want a Halal beer is to stick to alcohol free 0.0% beers and speak to local religious leader if in any doubt.
For my full article on if non alcoholic beer can be halal, read here
7. You can fit in
Nobody want to stick out like a sore thumb. Whether thats out at a bar or at a friends dinner party, you do set yourself apart being on soft drinks whilst everyone else is having an adult drink. This might be because you are driving, have something to do or just don’t drink alcohol for any number of reasons.
However if you want to feel more part of the party with a more adult type drink, then non alcoholic beers might be for you.
Fitting in can have a different meaning too. You might have a lot of kids at your house for a party and, probably rightly, you might not fit in if you are sculling full strength beers whilst trying to look after them!
However there is no issues with drinking non alcoholic or alcohol free beers whilst you supervise.
8. The taste of course
No non alcoholic beer is going to get return sales if the taste isn’t good now is it. This is probably the number one reason for return sales. I can list all the benefits of non alcoholic beer but you really need a great taste.
Ive sampled a lot of non alcoholic beers at this point and most of the new craft brews are absolutely brilliant. To be honest, the only ones i’ve been a bit disappointed by have been the big name brands like Heineken and Guinness.
The above picture and blog of 8 German alcohol free beers to try highlights just how good some of these beers can be.
There are lots of amazing online retailers in the non alcoholic space now. They have large catalogs you can try or weekly low cost beer boxes to take the thinking out of it.
I would definitely recommend starting one to sample some of the tasty non alcoholic beers out there you’d not have known about otherwise.
9. For the health benefits
Non alcoholic beer can contain a range of potentially health improving compounds.
My full article on all the heath benefits of beer can be read here
Vitamins and minerals
- Selenium – needed for immune, endocrine, cardiovascular and metabolic systems
- Silicon – important in bone health
- B Vitamins – several B vitamins are supplied through moderate consumption
Super food hops
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Beer, as a fermented drink, has plenty of microbes at work. These same microbes can interact with our gut in a host of positive ways
Some yeast strains used in brewing have inhibitory effects on a number of pathogens including C. difficile and V. cholera, alongside other bugs.
This has lead to some investigation into their potential benefit in antibiotic related diarrhoea and infective diarrhoea in children
Cardiovascular risk reduction
Many different studies have looked at the heart health benefits of polyphenols in beer.
A big meta analysis (review of all the papers), ” highlighting an improvement of the vascular elasticity, detected by the increase of FMD (after acute intake), and of the lipid profile with a significant increase of HDL and apolipoprotein A1 serum levels”
10. Building in alcohol free days
Data, evidence and recommendations are constantly changing in the medical world.
Guidelines around alcohol consumption is no different. In the UK, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommends “several” alcohol free days a week. The Australian government have gone for 2 alcohol free days per week. The US government doesn’t want you consuming all your weekly alcohol in one binge or in a couple of days.
So if you need to have alcohol free days but want a drink of beer, step forward the non alcoholic beers! You can choose from 0.0% or up to 0.5% depending on how you take the advice.
I’ve written extensively about how these beers can’t get you drunk, how many you can still drink and drive and how little alcohol they have. The math is done for you!
11. Perfect for the elderly
Alcohol is not the the friend of the elderly. As you get older you are more susceptible to getting drunk and having a fall.
You are also at increased risk due to the many medication you can end up on that will interact with alcohol or make you more at risk of falling.
Falling as you get older has an increased risk of injury, namely fractures or worse, a bleed in your head if you hit that.
Frailty fractures like breaking you neck of femur (hip) and proximal humerus (top of arm/shoulder) should be avoided at all costs as they come with a heavy morbidity and mortality
Alcohol free beer can be the perfect substitution. Lots of flavour, able to enjoy beer on your own or with friends and family and no increased risk of a fall and possibly a hip fracture.
12. You can drink and play sports
Trying to do anything sporty after alcohol is both difficult and unsafe. You might want a drink before a round of golf or going to play a friendly game of football with friends after dinner but would like a drink or to fit in with others drinking.
Well then having an alcohol free glass of wine still enables you to go out and do whatever you need to do.
My own personal reason here is i like to run but my only spare time is in the evenings. Sometimes i come home from work and want a beer to 2 with dinner.
If i’m BBQing i think it’s my manly right to have a beer as i flame grill! As soon as that happens i know i’m not running that night, i feel sluggish, maybe a bit drunk and its never happening. Well an alcohol free beer can substitute and i can still go for my run.
It means i save on calories with the drink and compound it by burning calories running i otherwise wouldn’t have! I really do do this now and its revolutionary to me.
This 1-2 beer at dinner switch to non alcoholic beer has been fantastic.
There is a marathon called Marathon du Medoc where you drink quite a bit of Claret tho…
I have written an article called “What are isotonic non alcoholic beers? Do they rehydrate you?” Could they be perfect for sport?