Jack Schmidling

Everytime I mention NA beer, people give me funny looks and ask questions like, "why would anyone want to do that to homebrew?"

Having been a victim of my hobby some years ago, I drank nothing but Kingsbury for almost 10 years. The thought of going back to that is all the motivation I need. I have been limiting myself to one 16 oz glass of beer, per day for a couple of years and I no longer consider myself a recovering alcoholic.

However, making beer is so much fun and hombrew tastes so good that rather then cheat, I have been experimenting with making NA homebrew and have come with a process that works, is simple and most "experts" can't identify what is missing.

The basic process makes a one gallon batch for the skeptical but can be scaled up to any size.

When you have your next batch ready to bottle, syphon off one gallon before priming. Put this in a kettle with (2) tablespoons of sugar and bring the temp up to 170 F with the lid off, hold it there for 15 min. Let it cool, uncovered until the temp gets below 150 F. Then cover it and cool it to room temp as quickly as possible. You can put it in a sink with running water.

When room temp, add 1/8 tsp yeast. I used EDME yeast but I presume that any yeast will do. However, all bets are off if you use Red Star. Let it sit for a while to disolve and disperse, then stir well with a sanitized spoon.

Pour the brew into your favorite bottles and cap. It is a good idea to include at least one plastic bottle to monitor cabonation. When the plastic bottle is hard, refrigerate them all. This usually takes no more than a few days at room temp.

If you are set up for kegging, it is even easier. Just heat up 5 gallons as above, keg it when cool and force carbonate it.

You can also experiment with adding hops during the heating step. I don't particularly like the results but I am not a hops freak.

What does it taste like? You'll have to try it yourself to find out. However, I would say that it has a slight hint of a "cooked" taste. This taste can be totally masked by the addition of a pound of roasted barley in an all grain beer or whatever you do to make an extract beer taste like stout.

This beer improves dramatically with age. If you can refrigerate it for a month or two before drinking, all of the off flavors will go away and you will be hard pressed to believe it is what it is.

Jean Hunter at Cornell has tested a sample on a gas chromatagraph and says it contains around 1.3% alcohol. This can not legally be called NA but it solves my problem completely. It is below the threshold that drives me to continue drinking.

More recently I have done some additional experimenting and think I learned the secret to very low alcohol. It is not some exotic yeast or process, it is simply diluting the beer with water.

After "cooking", I simply add an equal volume of water (previously boiled) and keg as usual. The result is an NA that is still amazingly good compared to the industrial stuff (NA or otherwise) and half the calories and alcohol compared to just de-alcoholizing the beer. Any off flavors from cooking will also be reduced in half. If you don't like 50:50, use what ever suits you.