At Big Drop Brewing, the first company to dedicate itself entirely to the production of alcohol-free beer, we think our beers are pretty healthy.
At a time when more and more of us are thinking harder about what we consume, the ability to have a great tasting beer but without the alcohol is largely seen as a bonus, by most.
However, it was suggested recently that some alcohol-free beer has up to 2,000% more sugar than some of its full-strength compatriots. It was also suggested that it is not compulsory for low alcohol beer to put nutritional information on its labels. No evidence was provided for either assertion but I felt obliged to respond.
First, and quite simply, the Department of Health and Social Care in England says: “It is a requirement to label the nutritional contents and ingredients for all drinks with 1.2% ABV or below” (all our beers are under 0.5%). Big Drop beers range from about 11 calories to about 27 calories per 100ml whereas a mid-strength pale ale might have around 50 calories per 100ml.
However, when it comes to comparing the sugar content of alcohol-free beer and full-strength beer, please remember the old Holsten Pils advert: “All the sugar turns to alcohol.”
That’s right: alcoholic beer (generally) doesn’t contain any sugar. The entire point of brewing full-strength beer is to ensure that all of the sugar (in the form of the carbohydrates in the malted grain) turns into alcohol. By contrast, the goal with a lot of alcohol-free beers is to avoid creating alcohol in the first place – and that can mean there are trace amounts of sugar (instead of alcohol) in the final product.
Our beers have a trace of about 0.1g of sugar per 100ml.
So, saying that alcohol-free beer has 2,000% more sugar than full-strength beer is a bit like saying chocolate has 2,000% more sugar than fish – that might be true but equally it is entirely meaningless and arguably misleading.
In conclusion, if you don’t want any sugar, by all means drink alcoholic beer. But just like many ‘sugar free’ products are, in fact, dripping in fat, the fact that alcoholic beers have no sugar doesn’t mean they’re good for you.
As with all things in life, balance is key and if you don’t mind a tiny trace of sugar, may I suggest you could also enjoy a Big Drop (although other alcohol-free beers are available).