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Everything You Need to Know About Non-Alcoholic Beer
If you avoid alcohol or limit your intake, non-alcoholic beer may seem like a promising option.
However, there are some downsides to non-alcoholic beer, particularly for pregnant women.
This article explains everything you need to know about non-alcoholic beer, including how it’s made, its nutrient and alcohol contents, and whether it’s safe to drink while pregnant.
Non-alcoholic beer is beer that contains very little to no alcohol.
By law, non-alcoholic beers sold in the United States can contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), but many brands claim to offer 0.0% ABV (1Trusted Source).
Although numerous methods of production exist, most non-alcoholic beer is made by removing the alcohol from regular beer (2Trusted Source, 3, 4).
One method involves heating the beer, but this can significantly alter the flavor. Sometimes beer is heated inside a powerful vacuum that lowers the boiling point to preserve its taste.
Another method involves straining out the alcohol using a filter so fine that only water and alcohol can pass through. Liquid is then added back to the remaining ingredients.
Once the alcohol is removed, the beer is flat. Carbon dioxide must be added to carbonate it, much like what happens with soda.
In addition, sugar is often included to improve the taste.
Non-alcoholic and regular beers are similar in terms of their calorie, protein, and fat content but differ significantly in their carb and alcohol content.
This table compares the nutrients in 12 ounces (350 ml) of regular and non-alcoholic beer (5Trusted SourceTrusted Source, 6Trusted Source):
Although non-alcoholic beer boasts only a fraction of the alcohol as regular beer, it contains a similar number of calories.
This is because non-alcoholic beer packs more than twice the carbs as regular beer, mostly in the form of sugar — which helps improve the taste once the alcohol has been removed.
In addition, both types offer small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins.
Types of non-alcoholic beer
Countless non-alcoholic beers are available, but they can all be divided into two categories.
The first category is alcohol-free beer. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), truly alcohol-free beer must contain no detectable levels of alcohol. These beers should be labeled 0.0% ABV (1Trusted Source).
The other category is non-alcoholic beer, which can contain up to 0.5% ABV. All non-alcoholic beers with any detectable amount of alcohol would fall into this category (1Trusted Source).
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Surprisingly, non-alcoholic beer often contains more alcohol than its label claims.
One study of 45 non-alcoholic beverages revealed that nearly 30% of them harbored more alcohol than stated. This same study found that 6 beers labeled 0.0% ABV did contain alcohol — at levels up to 1.8% ABV (7Trusted Source).
In addition, researchers have shown that drinking non-alcoholic beer can sharply increase your blood alcohol level in certain rare instances, as well as lead some individuals to test positive for alcohol metabolites in their urine or breath (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Therefore, labels of 0.0% ABV should be taken with a grain of salt — and even beers that claim to offer 0.5% ABV or less may provide significantly more.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), drinking alcohol while pregnant is a leading cause of birth defects (11).
ACOG recommends zero alcohol intake during pregnancy to eliminate the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), an umbrella term for a variety of problems that can develop if your child is exposed to alcohol in the womb (12Trusted Source).
The most severe form of FASD is called fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s characterized by facial abnormalities, stunted growth, and behavioral and mental disabilities (12Trusted Source).
Although this condition is almost exclusively attributed to chronically high intakes of alcohol during pregnancy, no safe level of alcohol intake has been established for pregnant women (12Trusted Source).
Should you drink non-alcoholic beer while pregnant?
Because of the risks involved, you should avoid non-alcoholic beer while pregnant.
Many non-alcoholic beers contain more alcohol than they claim, with some packing nearly 2% ABV (7Trusted Source).
You may wonder whether non-alcoholic beer is right for you.
It’s a great option for people looking to reduce their alcohol intake. Yet, pregnant women and anyone recovering from alcoholism should avoid it.
One promising, 6-month study in 90 people with alcohol-related liver disease found that those who drank non-alcoholic beer were more likely to remain abstinent from regular alcoholic beverages than those who did not drink non-alcoholic beer (13Trusted Source).
However, non-alcoholic beer isn’t a good option for people looking to reduce their calorie intake, as it often provides a similar number of calories as regular beer due to its added sugar.
Potential side effects
Because most non-alcoholic beers contain some alcohol, you run a slight risk of alcohol intoxication if you drink them in excess. That said, it would be nearly impossible to drink enough to become heavily intoxicated.
In rare cases, people with alcohol-related liver damage may experience significantly higher blood alcohol levels after drinking non-alcoholic beer (8Trusted Source).
Non-alcoholic beer may also cause some people to test positive for alcohol in their urine or breath (9Trusted SourceTrusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Non-alcoholic beer is typically made by removing the alcohol from regular beer.
Although it has much less alcohol, it still may harbor small amounts — making this drink unsafe for pregnant women and anyone recovering from alcoholism. In addition, it usually contains more sugar than regular beer.
Still, if you’re simply looking for ways to reduce your alcohol intake, non-alcoholic beer can be a good option.