Whether you are new to the world of non alcoholic beers or an old hand, you will have noticed that there are two distinct categories. 0.0% beers, usually called alcohol free and less than 0.5% beers, usually called non alcoholic.
But are 0.5% 0r 0.0% beers lower in calories? And if there is a difference, why?
Are 0.5% Or 0.0% Beers Lower In Calories?
On average, beers classified as non alcoholic, with an ABV of <0.5%, have a lower average calorie count than alcohol free beers, with an ABV of less than 0.0%. The difference is due to how they are brewed and which type of brewery makes these types of non alcoholic beers.
I have a data set of well over 100 non alcoholic beers which i have personally reviewed. You can see an index of the reviews with rankings on my “best non alcoholic beers” page. I have also crunched all the numbers relating to calories on my article “are non alcoholic beers lower in calories” i found there was indeed a difference in calories in 0.0% and <0.5% beers.
What are the numbers?
From my data set, i found…
Alcohol free, 0.0% beers, had on average 23.1kcal per 100ml and 82.2kcal per 12fl oz serving
Non alcoholic, <0.5% beers, had on average 21.5kcal per 100ml and 76.2kcal per 12fl oz serving.
|Type of Beer||kcal per 100ml||kcal per 12fl oz|
This might not see like a big difference but it works out at about a 7% calorie saving per beer which is still significant.
If you remove the outlier of the <0.5% group, Henry And His Science, that would increase to about 11%.
Why are alcohol free beers (0.0%) higher in calories than non alcoholic beers (0.5%)?
Ok, so there is a reasonable difference in calories between the average 0.0% and <0.5% beer. But shy should that be the case? And you would like that little tiny bit of extra alcohol should add to the calorie count not make it lower.
The difference comes down to how they are made in the first place.
How are 0.0% beers made?
These type of alcohol free, 0.0% beers, are made from full alcoholic beer which then have the alcohol removed. It can generally be done in 1 on 3 ways…
Spinning cone column
This is probably the most efficient but costly method and used mainly to create alcohol free wine. Using a vacuum and steam, the very delicate aromatic compounds are filtered out then regathered. Compared to other methods, it is more gentle and more flavour is retained.
If you heat a beer to evaporate off the alcohol you need to get it to 173.1°F. At such a high temperature you will begin to damage the aromatic compounds that create flavour.
To avoid this damage, you can heat the brew in a vacuum. The boiling point of alcohol is then reduced to 93.2°F. This lower temperature enables you to keep more flavour.
Reverse osmosis, cold filtration
Another way is reverse osmosis with high pressures used instead of the high heat. The beer is forced up against a fine membrane that filters the alcohol, water and flavour compounds
Distillation can then be used to separate the alcohol. Lastly, they bring back the remaining water with the aromatic components. As there is less water than the water/alcohol mix, they usually have to add more water to get it back in balance.
How are <0.5% beers made?
These type of non alcoholic beers are brewed completely differently from start to finish. The aim to reduce to nearly zero the amount of alcohol produced at all instead of trying to remove it al the end. This process is called limited fermentation.
The first way to limit fermentation is by having less sugar available to be turned into alcohol in the first place. Using grains like rice or maize which naturally contain less sugar can achieve this.
You can also remove sugar from the beer precursor, wort, before it is fermented. Sugars that do not ferment such as lactose or fructose can be added to retain sweetness.
Some brewers can use a process called “arrested fermentation”. The yeasts are inactivated before they can start producing more than trace amounts of alcohol. It is achieved by rapidly cooling the fermenting beer to about zero, which basically puts the yeast to sleep
The other way to reduce alcohol is to use a specialised yeast which produces little to no alcohol. These yeasts can still have a positive effect on the flavour of the beer but produce little alcohol.
Why are some beers 0.5% and others 0.0% anyway?
Well, to be honest, it comes down to cost and PR.
The methods of removing alcohol are expensive and only begin to pay for themselves with a lot of volume, more than most craft breweries will produce. It is more cost effective for a craft brewer to start from scratch and produce a 0.5% beer than make a 5% one and remove the alcohol.
The other consideration is PR. Basically all the 0.0% alcohol free beers are from the big hitters and brewers. They are making a 0.0% version of one of their own beers. They want to sell it as tasting the same and also keeping up with all the other big brands who are making 0.0% beers.
Table of 0.0% vs <0.5% beer calories
Below is the full table of my data set split into 0.0% beers and less than 0.5% non alcoholic beers, looking at their calories.
There are much more <0.5% beers as only the big beer brands make 0.0% beers but all the craft breweries, which are legion, make the <0.5% ones.
|Beer||Score/10||Type||ABV||kcal/100ml||kcal/12fl oz||Beer||Score/10||Type||ABV||kcal/100ml||kcal/12fl oz|
|Furstenberg Pils 0.0%||7||Pilsner||0||11||39.05||UNLTD.||9||IPA||0.005||4||14.2|
|Doom Bar Zero||8||Ale||0||13||46.15||Nanny State||9||Ale||0.005||6||21.3|
|Carlsberg 0.0||8.5||Pilsner||0||14||49.7||Drop Bear Tropical IPA||5.5||IPA||0.005||6.5||23.075|
|Becks Blue||8||Pilsner||0||14||49.7||Drop Bear Yuzu Pale Ale||6.5||Pale Ale||0.005||8||28.4|
|Budweiser Zero||5.5||Lager||0||14||49.7||Nirvanan Hoppy Pale Ale||6.5||Pale Ale||0.005||9||31.95|
|Guinness 0.0||9||Stout||0||16||56.8||Infinite Session IPA||9||IPA||0.005||10||35.5|
|Corona Cero||7||Lager||0||17||60.35||Infinite Session Lager||8.5||Helles Lager||0.005||10||35.5|
|Stella Artois Alcohol Free||7.5||Lager||0||18||63.9||NEIPA The Cosmic Turtle||8||NEIPA||0.005||10||35.5|
|Free Star||4.5||Lager||0||19||67.45||Lost AF||8||Lager||0.005||10||35.5|
|Birra Moretti Zero||6.5||Lager||0||20||71||Infinite Session Best||7||Best Bitter||0.005||10||35.5|
|A Ship Full Of IPA||8||IPA||0||20||71||Are Wheat There Yet||5.5||Wheat||0.005||10||35.5|
|Nirvana Stout||7.5||Stout||0||20||71||Infinite Session Pale||8.5||America Pale Ale||0.005||11||39.05|
|Free Damm||7||Lager||0||20||71||Coba Maya||8.5||Lager||0.005||11||39.05|
|Heineken 0.0||6||Lager||0||21||74.55||Fieldhopper||6||Golden Ale||0.005||12.4||44.02|
|Bitburger 0.0%||9||Pilsner||0||22||78.1||Southwold Pale Ale||5.5||Pale Ale||0.005||13||46.15|
|Peroni Libera||6.5||Lager||0||22||78.1||Upside Dawn||7||Golden Ale||0.005||14||49.7|
|Perlenbacher 0.0||3||Lager||0||23||81.65||Drop Bear New World Lager||4||India Pale Lager||0.005||14||49.7|
|Paulaner Weissbeir 0.0||9||Wheat||0||24||85.2||Punk AF||5.5||IPA||0.005||15||53.25|
|San Miguel 0.0||7.5||Pilsner||0||24||85.2||Budvar Nealko||7.5||Lager||0.005||15.5||55.025|
|Cobra Zero||4.5||Lager||0||24||85.2||Drink’in in the sun||8||Wheat||0.003||16||56.8|
|Bavaria 0.0||2.5||Lager||0||24||85.2||Pica Nova||7||West Coast IPA||0.003||16||56.8|
|St Peters Without||8.5||Ale||0||26||92.3||Lucky Saint 0.5%||8.5||Lager||0.005||16||56.8|
|Veltins Pils 0.0%||7||Pilsner||0||26||92.3||Wildtrack||5.5||APA||0.005||16||56.8|
|Lust For Life||6||DDH IPA||0||33||117.15||Double Strike||4||Sour||0.005||16||56.8|
|Brulo Dry Hopped Stout||5.5||Stout||0||33||117.15||Drop Bear Bonfire Stout||7.5||Stout||0.005||17||60.35|
|Coast Hazy IPA||4||IPA||0||33||117.15||Rothaus Tannenzäpfle 0.4%||9||Pilsner||0.004||18||63.9|
|Coast Idaho 7||4||IPA||0||33||117.15||Pine Trail||8.5||Pale Ale||0.005||18.5||65.675|
|Brulo Sabro Galaxy||3.5||DDH IPA||0||33||117.15||Paradiso||5.5||Citra IPA||0.005||18.5||65.675|
|Brulo 5 Fruit Gose||6.5||Gose||0||37||131.35||Run Wild||9||IPA||0.005||19||67.45|
|Brulo Mango Guava||4.5||IPA||0||37||131.35||Nirvana Porter||4.5||Porter||0.005||20||71|
|Leffe Blond 0.0||7.5||Belgian Abbey Ale||0||40||142||Sam's Brown Ale||6.5||Brown Ale||0.004||21||74.55|
|Average||23.147058823529||82.172058823529||Kloster andechs Weissbeir 0.5%||4.5||Wheat||0.005||21||74.55|
|Henry Gose Lightly||2||Gose||0.003||22||78.1|
|No Worries Pineapple||8||Fruit IPA||0.005||22||78.1|
|Old Speckled Hen Low alcohol||6.5||Ale||0.005||22||78.1|
|No Worries Grapefruit||5||Fruit IPA||0.005||22||78.1|
|Schneider Weisse Tap3||9.5||Wheat||0.005||23||81.65|
|Ghost Ship 0.5%||6.5||Pale Ale||0.005||23||81.65|
|Zunft Kolsch 0.5%||6||Kolsch||0.005||23||81.65|
|Lidl IPA||5||Pale Ale||0.005||23||81.65|
|Venture point five 0.5%||8||Ale||0.005||25||88.75|
|Clausthaler Unfiltered Dry Hopped||8||Lager||0.004||26||92.3|
|Off-Piste Hazelnut Porter||8.5||Porter||0.005||26||92.3|
|Limbo Series Yuzu||5||Fruit||0.003||27||95.85|
|Galactic milk stout 0.5%||8.5||Stout||0.005||27||95.85|
|Krombacher Weizen 0.5%||9||Wheat||0.005||28||99.4|
|No Worries Mango||6||Fruit IPA||0.005||29||102.95|
|No Worries Lemon||4.5||Fruit IPA||0.005||29||102.95|
|Incel "Surfers"||9||Summer Ale||0.005||32||113.6|
|Incel Swimmers||7||Saison Ale||0.005||32||113.6|
|Incel Snorkelers||5||Salt IPA||0.005||32||113.6|
|Esmeralda||4||Cerveza with Tequila||0.005||32||113.6|
|Limbo Series Raspberry||6||Fruit||0.003||34||120.7|
|Baltika lager 0.5%||7.5||Lager||0.005||35||124.25|
|Shallow Passion Pool||4||Fruit Gose||0.002||38||134.9|
|Henry And His Science||3.5||Ale||0.003||89||315.95|