Alcohol Free German Beer - Your Dry January Questions Answered
Considering alcohol free lager alternatives following the December festivities? In the first of a short series of blogs inspired by Dry January, Sandip ‘Sandy’ Patidar, Founder & MD of Germandrinks.co.uk, answers the questions he’s most often asked at this time of year…
“Germans really like beer…”
In Germany, the popularity of drinking beer dates back to the end of the first millennium (the year 1000, no less), when monasteries began brewing beer for mass consumption. 516 years later, The Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law allowing only water, barley and hops to be used as main ingredients - strictly no additives!) was introduced to ensure the high quality of beer brewed across Germany - and remains in place to this day.
Germans now drink a mind-boggling 106 litres of beer per capita, per year and beer permeates German culture in a myriad of ways - from small after-work drinks to huge Oktoberfest events.
So, Germans undoubtedly like their beer and take its quality very seriously.
“…but do Germans really like alcohol free beer?”
Surprisingly, the answer is now a resounding ‘Yes’, but it took some time and refinements to get there.
Alcohol free beer was first introduced in the seventies. Accounts differ as to which brewery created it, but AuBi (Germany), Clausthaler (Germany) and Miller Lite (USA) are often mentioned.
Over subsequent years, German breweries marketed their alcohol free beer alternatives as ‘the car drivers beer’, simply as a way to drink beer and drive safely.
German beer connoisseurs were often left cold (and not particularly refreshed!) by the early examples of alcohol free beer; citing weak flavours and aromas when compared with their alcoholic counterparts. In recent years, however, this perception has changed and alcohol free beer has exploded in popularity in Germany.
- Following The Reinheitsgebot, alcohol free German beer is also brewed with all natural ingredients
- Competition among German breweries to create the best alcohol free beer (boosted by advances in dealcoholisation methods) has resulted in ever more pleasingly ‘realistic’ tastes and aromas
- The health benefits of alcohol free beers are becoming more widely-known
Germany’s 1500 breweries now produce around 500 different varieties of alcohol free beer and as much as 7% of all beer consumed in Germany is now alcohol free (and 7% of 6.2 million hectolitres is a lot!).
“How does Rothaus brew their alcohol free German beer?”
Rothaus’ Master Brewers travelled the world to find the right system to remove the alcohol from their famous German beers and found it in Australia. The only one of its kind in Germany, Rothaus’ special ‘steam under vacuum’ dealcoholisation system removes the alcohol whilst leaving the beers’ signature flavours and aromas surprisingly intact.
First, Rothaus brew the beer in their usual way. They mash their summer barley malt (grown near Lake Constance) in hot water to remove the sugars and create the wort. Then, they boil the wort with their noble, aromatic hops (from the highly-regarded Tettnang and Hallertau regions) and ferment it. During the fermentation process, the yeast turns the remaining sugars in the wort into alcohol.
To create their alcohol free specialities, Rothaus remove the alcohol from their beer by heating it. This is only possible because the boiling point of alcohol is 78.37°C; 21.63°C lower than the boiling point of water (science!). Ordinarily, this process would risk ‘cooking’ the beer and removing, or altering, some of its unique flavours. The special steam under vacuum distillation system Rothaus uses carefully heats the beer at low pressure - enabling the alcohol to evaporate at even lower temperatures and the beer to retain even more of its characteristics.
Rothaus combines this method with their technologically advanced ‘spinning cone column system’ which pinpoints and extracts the beers’ flavour compounds from the removed alcohol. Then, they re-add these compounds to their alcohol free beers - enabling them to retain even more of their original flavours.
“Which Rothaus beers are alcohol free?”
Closely following the growth of alcohol free alternatives in Germany (and how much their fans appreciated the extent to which they worked to retain the unique flavours and aromas within their alcohol free beers), Rothaus created a range of alcohol free (and low alcohol) alternatives.
The alcohol free version of their flagship German Pilsner, Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Alkoholfrei, garnered especially positive reviews upon its release.
World champion beer sommelier, Oliver Wesseloh, raved, “Just like the non-alcoholic Hefeweizen; you'd never know this was a non-alcoholic beer - outstanding!”.
As Oliver mentions above, Rothaus Hefeweizen Alkoholfrei instantly pleased wheat beer connoisseurs.
With its authentic flavours and aromas, Rothaus Hefeweizen Alkoholfrei is often favourably compared with its alcoholic counterpart. Oliver puts it best, “Pleasantly tangy. The honey tapers off in the aftertaste, leaving just a hint of bitterness that strikes the tongue in a short, dry flash.”.
Released in time for summer 2022, Rothaus Natur Radler Lemon 0.0% blends alcohol free Kellerbier (Rothaus Schwarzwald Maidle Naturtrüb, de-alcoholised for the first time) and citrus fruit soda with a hint of apple and lemongrass. The result delivers traditional German cellar beer tastes and aromas in a refreshingly modern way.
Fast becoming the ‘go to’ soft drink for legions of Rothaus fans in Germany, Natur Radler Lemon proves once again that Rothaus leads the way in non-alcoholic German beer taste and refreshment. (It’s also great to drink whilst writing blogs!)
Find out more about Radler here: ‘Radler Beer - The Legend, the Latest and a Challenge for You!’
“Is alcohol free beer only for Dry January?”
Here in the UK, we’re often inspired to drink alcohol free alternatives following the over-indulgent festive period but may not reach for them all year round.
In Germany, the quality of alcohol free beer (thanks to all-natural ingredients, dealcoholisation innovations and recognised health benefits) is boosting its popularity year-on-year.
Find out why by trying the Rothaus range of alcohol free beers this Dry January…and beyond!