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Posted by
Mike Benson
on 13/12/22

About Me

Mike is the sales manager for Wales and the West of England and is located in Wigan.

You can read my bio by clicking the button below

Read Me

Cards on the table, I was not a fan of low alcohol beers…

Let alone those with no alcohol at all. Sweet, worty, beer-like without tasting like beer – and a hangover to boot.

Not for me, thank you.

There are two main ways low and no alcohol beers can be produced.

One process is to brew a beer as normal, then to remove the alcohol by processes such as vacuum distillation or filtration.

These methods are costly. They require large capital investment or the support of a co-packer with the equipment.

Crisp Malts and wortAnother way is to restrict fermentation. This is quite simple. You brew as usual, then cool the wort to bring the temperature close to zero before adding a small amount of yeast.

This limits the conversion of sugars to carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Up until relatively recently, these were not delivering great results.

But change was afoot. And, spoiler alert, my views had to be revised.

Posted by
Mike Benson
on 13/12/22

About Me

Mike is the sales manager for Wales and the West of England and is located in Wigan.

You can read my bio by clicking the button below

Read Me

Lifestyles and habits have been changing

The number of people who drink has fallen. According to Drinkaware, around 20% of adults in England and Wales, 19% in Northern Ireland and 17% in Scotland do not drink alcohol. Sure, they define adults as 16+, but even so these are sobering considerations to those of us in the drinks industry. Or alternatively, food for thought – and an opportunity

An opportunity not least because, unlike other parts of the beer market, the no-and-low market is growing.

Large breweries have been investing significantly in equipment, research and trial brews. Some of them now produce some very good low or no alcohol beers. These have been essential in the quest to keep beer on people’s drinking repertoire – even when they’re avoiding alcohol. The theory is around brand loyalty. It suggests that with a low alcohol version of a favourite brand, drinkers don’t have the ‘not-for-me’ reaction, that they might do with something unfamiliar.

Laboratories at Crisp Malt for technical support

Smaller breweries are also in on the act. Names such as Big Drop, Nirvana, and Jump Ship have helped set the scene and others are beginning to dip their toes in the water.  SIBA’s Craft Beer Report says that during 2021, 10% of UK craft brewers produced a low or no alcohol beer. If you ask me, there’s a lot more potential than that. The percentage could be much bigger. Especially with the support of suppliers.


New yeasts are brewing

Lallemand have been working hard to develop new yeasts specifically for the production of no and low alcohol brews. Their research involving the use of standard equipment should be particularly helpful to the craft sector. This, alongside other educational materials, is available to small brewers Lallemand Best Practices for Low Alcohol Beer

Andrew Patterson from Lallemand did one of the best presentations I have seen for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.  For IBD members, this is still available on the website IBD Lallemand Brewing Presentation  and is well worth a look. It details the conditions brewers need to master for a decent low alcohol beer and it inspired me to look closer at all the malts and grains we offer.

Key to a successful restricted fermentation brew is limiting the fermentable sugars produced during mashing. That’s while still converting enough starch to prevent processing issues from stuck mashes or from blocking during cold filtration. Andrew suggests a mashing temperature of 820C (179.60F) to give a balance of fermentable sugars and issue-free brewing. Checks with iodine will give a deep red colour.

The choice of base malts can have an effect

Extra Pale and Lager malts undergo much gentler kilning than darker malts. More enzymes survive and the resulting malts have higher enzyme levels. A grist high in Extra pale malts will make the wort very fermentable, delivering the alcohol so often desired – but not in this case!

Crisp_Malting_037The deeper the colour of the base malt, the lower the enzyme activity, and the less fermentable the wort becomes.

Good news as you work on reducing the abv of the beer.

Try substituting Extra Pale or Lager base malts with the slightly darker Best Ale Malt. This will give a less fermentable wort.

The extra colour formed during kilning also helps to build body in the beer and my favourite for this is Vienna Malt.  It brings a complexity to the flavour and mouth feel unmatched by other malts – and still has enough enzyme activity to convert the mash.

Light Munich malt is fantastic for adding to body and mouthfeel. Enzyme activity drops off.  So it’s important to add a good amount of base malt to ensure the beer is balanced – and you bring some malty goodness.

Of course, there’s the final colour of the beer to think about – and here’s where the challenge comes in.

Chances are, for the most part, you’ll be aiming for lighter-coloured beers. After all, they make up the lion’s share of the market.  But to restrict enzyme activity and to enhance flavour and mouthfeel, it’s the darker malts that brewers need. Small proportions can often be accommodated. We can advise: just get in touch:

Hannah Beer, Technical Lead with Crisp MaltsWe have some light-coloured malts and adjuncts which can help lighten the colour of the wort.

Dextrin, which is very pale, is a staple among many customers, finding its way into most of their grists. The issue is that it has enzyme activity; in any case, using too much can produce undesired flavours.

Chit malt doesn’t undergo germination, the process that synthesises the enzymes – and this makes it enzyme-free. It has a very light hue and is fantastic for building body – but again, high use can introduce unwelcome flavours.

Rice and maize are both virtually colourless so will dilute any colour while bringing a crispness or smoothness.  Too much maize can increase the Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS) levels and attributes.


Starting OG’s in low and no alcohol beers are relatively low at 1025. Without the addition of coloured malts, the colour is very light to the point of appearing a little wishy-washy.

Caramalt and Cara Gold add body and mouthfeel with limited colour pick up, the latter bringing an attractive non-diacetyl vanilla flavour that can really lift many beers.

Using darker Crystal malts help to build a beautiful colour – but beware: using too much makes the beer astringent.

One of the best options is Black malt.  Usually not one of my favourites, I have to admit, it’s fantastic for bringing colour at a low cost without adding too much flavour.

I may have highlighted quite a few risks…

But there’s a reason for that. Any brewer worth their salt can brew a no or low alcohol beer. But it’s actually quite hard to brew a really decent low or no alcohol beer.

There’s a lot of trialling ingredients as well as processes to get the results you want – but the growth in the category points to the potential benefits if you manage it.

Anyway, you’ll have fun trying things out in the brewhouse, and further fun conducting comparative blind tastings. The (low or no) proof will be in the pudding!

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