Unveiling the truth about non-alcoholic beers

Is there such a thing as alcohol free beer?

A refreshing glass of beer. Credit: Alter-ego/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that your non-alcoholic beer might not be completely alcohol-free? It’s a revelation that might surprise many.

Beer, with a history reportedly spanning over 7,000 years, originates from the Middle East. The earliest recorded evidence of beer is found on a tablet depicting people sharing beer from the same drinking vessel.

Fast forward to the present, and we encounter a diverse range of beers, including the increasingly popular non-alcoholic varieties. But there’s more to these ‘alcohol-free’ beverages than meets the eye.

The origins of non-alcoholic beer

The concept of non-alcoholic beer dates back to the Prohibition era when a brewing company stipulated that drinks could contain a maximum alcohol content of 0.5 per cent. This led to the production of beers within this alcohol limit.

In 1976, Spain welcomed its first non-alcoholic beer, Ambar Sin, introduced by La Zaragozana Brewery. Since then, non-alcoholic beer has become a staple in Spain, with about 13 per cent of all beer consumed being non-alcoholic, as reported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Alcohol content in non-alcoholic beers

Despite their label, non-alcoholic beers can have an alcohol content of up to 0.9 per cent. This is in stark contrast to the typical alcohol content of Spanish beers, which ranges between 4 per cent and 6 per cent.

It is therefore crucial to understand that non-alcoholic beers do contain alcohol, although in much lower quantities than their conventional counterparts.

The rise of 0.0 beers

Distinguished by their exceptionally low alcohol content, not exceeding 0.04 per cent, 0.0 beers offer an even closer alternative to alcohol-free beverages.

San Miguel Magna Tostada 0.0, a Spanish brand, has garnered acclaim in the non-alcoholic beer world, scoring a perfect 100 points at the World Beer Challenge. Similarly, Mahou’s 0.0 Tostada and San Miguel 0.0 have also received high accolades in the competition.

Legal and consumer considerations

The labelling of non-alcoholic beers, particularly those marked ‘0.0’ despite containing traces of alcohol, has sparked debate regarding regulations and consumer information.

The European Regulation 1169/2011 mandates that product information should not mislead consumers about various product attributes. The Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) notes that some non-alcoholic beers can contain up to 0.9 per cent alcohol, similar to a conventional beer.

Cerveceros de España, an association of beer manufacturers, defended their labelling practices, citing European legislation and the World Health Organization’s definition of an alcoholic drink as one with more than 1.2 degrees of alcohol.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Barbara Jago

      14 January 2024 • 12:10

      Thank you for your article re non-alcohol beer. Even such a small amount of alcohol can be dangerous for people trying to combat their alcohol addiction. There should be a warning on the products.

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