Brewers must recognise the risks of no alcohol brewing says expert

Brewers should be aware of the potential risks of making no-alcohol beer, according to a food safety expert.

Frank Vriesekoop, Senior Lecturer in Food Science at the UK’s Harper Adams University told a webinar hosted by the Independent Brewers Association that no and low-alcohol beer requires even more stringent sanitary requirements than regular brewed products.

“In beer, alcohol is the biggest component that assures food safety,” he said.

“If you’re talking about any bugs that could potentially make you sick, most of them cannot really grow very well in the presence of the alcohol that you typically find in full-strength beer.

“So, as soon as you take a significant cut in that alcohol content, you make that beer quite susceptible to bugs that can make us sick.”

He told the webinar that you can’t just take the most effective preservative – alcohol – out of a beer and do nothing else in the process.

“You have to replace it with something else or you have to work so clean or make sure that at the end of the fermentation and maturation process you got some other means to minimise the level of bacteria,” Vriesekoop said.

“Whether that is pasteurisation or sterile filtration or any other method. Whatever method, you have to minimise it.”

The webinar, featuring a panel of brewers and quality experts, was undertaken as part of the IBA’s increasing focus on technical education for members.

IBA CEO Kylie Lethbridge the webinar was the first of while will be many.

“As part of our announcement regarding the repositioning of our activities for the next year, we committed to the delivery of more technical and in-demand member resources,” Kylie told Brews News.

“This is the first ‘cab off the rank’ and will hopefully help all those indie brewers who are venturing into the no and low alc space.”

The association’s Qualilty & Technical lead, Clare Clouting, said the webinar was an important topical conversation that the association wanted to lead.

“No & low alcohol beers are becoming a popular choice for consumers and with the segment experiencing rapid growth it’s important to have the conversation about how to brew and pack these beers safely and also maintain the high-quality Indie consumers have come to expect,” she said.

“No/lo beers vary significantly from their alcoholic counterparts when it comes to the key attributes that control microorganisms making them a higher risk category.

“In this webinar we discuss some of the challenges and approaches required to create a safe, legal and fantastic tasting no/lo beer.”

The webinar comes as the global market for low and no alcohol beer is expected to balloon by 34 per cent, according to the research organisation IWSR.

In a separate recent podcast hosted by Food Matters, looking at the growing market, Rob Fink, co-Founder, of Big Drop Brewing Co said that five years after starting his business he is selling more than 4 million bottles of 0.5% ABV beer annually around the world, with Australia his second-biggest market.

The growing market has attracted a growing number of brands in the space, with 16 trademarks applied for alcohol-free products in January this year alone.

The webinar, available for free to IBA members, covers aspects of production, quality and legislation. Non-members wanting to access the webinar can join the IBA here.

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