The history of non-alcoholic beer dates back to the years following Prohibition in the United States, with the Volstead Act of 1919 setting a 0.5% alcohol cap on all alcoholic beverages.
However, the first dedicated non-alcoholic beer brand did not appear until the 1970s when innovative brewing processes allowed for the reduction and elimination of alcohol content while still maintaining the beer’s flavor profile.
History of Non-Alcoholic Beer
The origins of low alcohol beer can be traced back to medieval Europe, where brews with low alcohol content were made primarily for the working classes as a safer alternative to often polluted water sources. These low-alcohol beverages were commonly referred to as “small beer” or “small ale”.
During the Prohibition era in the United States, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, the production and sale of alcohol were outlawed under the Volstead Act. This led to the development of the first non-alcoholic beer, also known as “near-beer.”
Near-beer was created to comply with the legal thresholds established during Prohibition, which permitted the production and sale of beer with an alcohol content below 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume).
The World’s First Non-Alcoholic Beer
The rise of modern non-alcoholic beers began in the 1970s. Spanish brewery Ambar launched a non-alcoholic beer called Ambar Sin in 1976, and the famous German non-alcoholic beer Clausthaler was launched in 1979.
As non-alcoholic beer gained popularity, more breweries started to offer their own versions in the decades that followed.
Non-Alcoholic Beer Today
The late 2010s and early 2020s saw the emergence of craft non-alcoholic beer, following in the footsteps of the craft beer craze.
Scottish brands Partake and Brewdog were among the pioneers in introducing craft non-alcoholic beers to the American market.
Nowadays, non-alcoholic beer is popular as a healthy alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages, and a wide variety of styles and flavors are available to cater to diverse tastes.