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The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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3.1 The history of alcohol-free beers

You may be surprised to hear that the origins of non-alcohol beer date back to medieval Europe. These brews (‘small beer’) were made for everyday consumption by the working classes as a safer substitute for often polluted water, with just enough alcohol present to kill bacteria. Beer was viewed as a more nutritious alternative to water and was often part of a worker’s daily pay.

The true origins, however, of the brewing of alcohol-free beer can be dated back to 1919 in the USA. During this time of the Temperance movement, alcoholic drinks that contained more than 0.5% ABV were banned from production, importation, transportation and sale.

In the face of this ban, breweries were forced to produce a different type of beer that was very pale, not so flavourful and just 0.5% ABV. So, in other words, what we would refer to today as either non-alcoholic or alcohol-free beer.