Lion invests $6m in de-alcoholising plant

Lion has invested $6 million in de-alcoholising equipment investment following the development of its James Squire Zero beer.

Launched last month, the beer – another leveraging of a masterbrand – will be brewed on the new equipment at Lion’s Toohey’s Brewery in Sydney, as will Speights Summit Zero, for New Zealand.

The de-alcoholising plant was delivered last year from Germany in the midst of COVID-19, but it won’t be making other zero-alcohol brands such as Heineken 0.0 at this stage.

“While it is not new technology to Australia, it is very advanced and incorporates a unique process called thermal distillation to remove alcohol once the beer has been brewed to maintain the flavour and body of the products,” explained a spokesperson from Lion.

Zero alcohol beers have been making headlines and the investment indicates confidence in the market for the category from a major brewer. Whilst many brewers in the craft space particularly are using specially selected yeasts, major brewers like Lion have access to specialist equipment, and the major brewer has been open about the process of how it makes zero-alcohol beer.

Lion said it makes a normal finished product but without carbonation, which then goes through its de-alcoholising plant.

“[This] uses thermal distillation to strip the alcohol out of the beer. We’re able to achieve an alcohol content under 0.05% using this technology.

“Firstly, we preheat the beer before going through a degassing unit to remove any residual carbon dioxide.

“From here it moves through a column where the alcohol is stripped from the beer. Alcohol has a lower vapour pressure compared to beer or water, allowing it to evaporate and therefore separate from the feed beer.

“The beer then moves into an evaporator, which evaporates some alcohol-free product to be used in the stripping column.

“As the product exits the plant it is cooled down and carbonated on its way to a bright beer vessel. Finally, we dose flavours and extracts and send it for packaging.”

The investment comes as a response to consumer shifts towards more general alcohol moderation, with consumers seeking low alcohol or alcohol-free options, the brewer said.

“Globally, non-alcoholic beer is driving incremental growth for the total beer category,” said a spokesperson.

But they admitted that there were hurdles to overcome in bringing no-alcohol beers to the wider market.

“The biggest barriers that currently exist in the minds of consumers to non-alcoholic beer are perceptions of flavour and quality.

“James Squire brings its brewing heritage and flavour credentials to its new alcohol-free alternative prioritising the full, refreshing flavour of a full-strength beer,” they said.

Brews News hosted a low alcohol webinar describing the techniques and trends in the low alcohol space. Listen to the audio here.

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