Non-alcoholic beer would appear to be the perfect solution for a recovering alcoholic: They can maintain their sobriety while once again partaking in social gatherings, or simply indulge in the signature tangy malt flavor of the most popular beverage in the world. The concept of alcohol-free beer, however, is one of great controversy that has everyone asking: Can alcoholics drink non-alcoholic beer?
What Is Non-Alcoholic Beer & Is It Real Beer?
Yes, non-alcoholic beer is “real” beer and not just some mocktail being pushed as an alternative for your usual brewsky. Alcohol content, or lack thereof, has no bearing on beer’s classification. It is defined as any beverage made by brewing a cereal grain such as barley, wheat, or corn. Normally during the brewing process, the sugars in the starches ferment, creating ethanol resulting in beer’s standard 4-5% ABV. Non-alcoholic beer either prevents the fermentation process from happening or removes the ethanol after production.
There are two ways that beer manufacturers make beer without the alcohol content. They either remove the ethanol that’s naturally produced during the fermentation process or stop that process from happening altogether. Most non-alcoholic beer manufacturers opt for the former option, brewing beer as normal and then removing the ethanol that’s produced. The exact method of this extraction can vary. Some boil the ethanol away, while others use a physical filter to separate it.
What’s In a Name? The Source of Controversy
Whether you’re for or against alcoholics drinking non-alcoholic beer, one thing that we can all agree on is that this product category is pretty misleading. Despite its name, non-alcoholic beer does, in fact, contain trace amounts of alcohol. Legally, as long as it contains less than 0.5% ABV, it can be considered a non-alcoholic beer (which is also sometimes referred to as alcohol-free beer, or de-alcoholized beer).
Opponents of so-called non-alcoholic beer feel that the presence of alcohol, no matter how tiny, can trigger a relapse. While an alcohol level of less than half a percent may not seem a source of concern, drinking several and in rapid succession could put enough alcohol in the system to make a person feel it.
The Pros of Non-Alcoholic Beer
Not everyone drinks alcohol to get drunk, and many supporters of alcoholics drinking non-alcoholic beer are if they’re doing so for taste. Drinking is deeply ingrained in our social customs and for many, the allure of beer is the nostalgia it holds. As such, non-alcoholic beer presents a rare opportunity for recovering addicts to indulge and reconnect with the malty beverage that accompanied many a pastime while maintaining their sobriety.
Sure, there may be tiny traces of alcohol and the name is somewhat of a misnomer. But as long as they drink it without the intention of getting drunk, what’s the harm? It’s similar logic to that of decaffeinated beverages. The label may say that your coffee or tea may say “caffeine-free” and it’s accepted that trace amounts may still exist.
Final Thoughts: Can Alcoholics Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Whether an alcoholic can safely drink a non-alcoholic beer with relapsing is a matter of personal preference. Some recovering addicts are wary of any amount of alcohol, no matter how small, and will even abstain from using wine in their cooking. For others who feel in control of their past addiction, it’s a chance to be reunited with a taste that accompanies their happiest moments. For recovering alcoholics to do this safely, we recommend doing so in the presence of a trusted friend that will step in if consumption gets out of hand. Long-term recovery is about being open and honest, if you are struggling with your addiction and are worried about relapsing, our experienced staff can help talk you through it.