Although some alcohol-free beers contain up to 0.5% alcohol, this amount of alcohol is not enough to get you drunk or push you over the drink driving limit.
This is because your body is able to metabolise the small amount of alcohol found in an alcohol-free beer basically as soon as you consume it – on average, a person will process the 0.28 units of alcohol found in a 0.5% ABV alcoholic beer within 17 minutes after consumption.
In comparison, beer with 5.6% alcohol takes over 3 hours to metabolise.
When you stick to non-alcoholic beers, you will skip the nasty side effects that go hand in hand with drinking alcohol, like increased anxiety, memory impairment, and insomnia (or restless sleep).
How Much Alcohol is in Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Even if the label says the beer contains zero alcohol, trace amounts of alcohol can still be found in alcohol-free drinks. This is not because the brewer is intentionally leaving alcohol in and lying to the consumer; it is simply because of alcohol produced during the brewing process.
Beers can be labelled as “alcohol-free beer” if it contains less than 0.5% alcohol content in the US. In the UK, laws are stricter, and alcohol-free beers must have less than 0.05% ABV. Beers with an alcohol content between 0.05% to 0.5% are labelled as “de-alcoholised”, even if no alcohol was removed during brewing.
So, why are beers labelled as “alcohol-free” and not called “low alcohol beers” when they contain 0.05% to 0.5% alcohol?
It is because beers with less than 0.5% ABV contain between 0.2 grams and 2.2 grams of alcohol per pint, which is comparable to alcohol found naturally in a lot of food and drinks that are not labelled as containing any alcohol.
Can You Get Drunk On Non-Alcoholic Beer?
You cannot get drunk or exceed the maximum blood alcohol content for driving when you have just a couple of alcohol-free beers.
Theoretically, you will have to drink 10 0.5% beers to equal just one regular 5% alcoholic beer. This means you will have to drink a lot of alcohol-free beers to even start to feel drunk, and it will be near-impossible for your blood alcohol content to reach England and Wales’ drink driving limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
Why Can’t You Get Drunk On Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Non-alcoholic beers contain less than 0.5% of alcohol, which means your alcohol intake is incredibly low per beer. For example, if you have to drink about 10 non-alcoholic beers to equal one 5% beer, you have to drink around a minimum of 40 alcohol-free beers to start to feel drunk.
This is because the body can metabolise the low alcohol content in non-alcoholic beers within just a couple of minutes. To get drunk, you have to consume alcohol faster than your liver is able to process it, which is a near-impossible feat with alcohol-free beer.
Why do I feel drunk after non-alcoholic beer?
Although you will not get drunk on non-alcoholic drinks (unless you drink more than 40 pints of alcohol-free beer), you can still get the feeling of being drunk while consuming low alcohol beer with an alcohol content below 0.5%.
This is because of the placebo effect.
This effect occurs when there is an association between two events, which formulates an expectancy of the second event. In this case, it is called alcohol expectancy. For example, if you associate the taste of beer with getting drunk, then drinking alcohol-free beer with a similar taste could make you feel drunk.
This means that even though you have not had any alcohol, you can have faults in your perception and start to feel very drunk indeed – it can even distort your memory.
This will not occur in everyone drinking non-alcoholic beer. However, if you are drinking an alcohol-free beer in a group of people who are drinking alcohol and getting drunk, it may generate the expectancy in your body to also start feeling drunk.
Even though it is just a psychological effect, the placebo effect can be very real.
Does non-alcoholic beer show up on a breathalyser?
These days breathalysers are incredibly sensitive and can pick up the smallest amounts of alcohol. But does this mean they can pick up non-alcoholic beers?
The answer will depend on how much non-alcoholic beer you had and how soon after your last drink you take the breathalyser test.
If you drink just a few non-alcoholic beers, then they are unlikely to show up on a breathalyser test. That being said, if you drink a lot of these non-alcoholic beers in a short period and take a breathalyser test immediately afterwards, it will pick up the alcohol level in the body.
How long does it take for non-alcoholic beer to leave your system?
Your body can metabolise 0.5% of alcohol in a non-alcoholic beer within 17 minutes.
This is incredibly fast when compared to a standard 5% beer which can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to leave your system.
Alcohol-free beers have many health benefits. They can improve your immune system, help with rehydration, strengthen bones, and reduce the risk of heart disease. And, all these benefits come without the negative effects of being drunk and hungover!
Although you may experience a placebo effect from drinking alcohol-free beer and start feeling a bit tipsy after a couple of these non-alcoholic drinks, you can rest assured that you will not be exceeding the maximum blood alcohol content (unless you have 40 or more of these beers!).
Whether you are trying to cut back on your alcohol consumption or simply want to prioritise your health, alcohol-free beer is an excellent choice of beverage in any social setting.
It is worth noting that minors are often restricted from buying non-alcoholic beer, even though it cannot make them drunk, ID is usually required to purchase non-alcoholic beer, and pregnant women often choose to avoid non-alcoholic beer, even though it contains very low levels of alcohol.