| Alex Andrews

How Is Low Alcohol Beer Made?

Beer was brewed in the same way with the same four ingredients for centuries. Over the last few decades, the brewing industry has reinvented itself, driven by a demand for more automation and lower costs.

At the same time, the rise of alcohol-free beers has added a whole new dimension to brewing, which we will now delve into.


Your favourite beers are likely brewed with the same four ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast.

The magic starts when the malted barley is steeped in hot water (known as mashing) to extract fermentable sugars. This sugary liquid - known as wort - is then boiled with hops, which add bitterness as well as aroma. After boiling, the wort is cooled, at which point the yeast is added to enable fermentation, which is how alcohol is made.

Crafting low alcohol beer is a little different, as it can be difficult to achieve the desired flavour and mouthfeel without the presence of alcohol.

READ MORE: Why malt is the backbone of any beer


Brewing low alcohol beer below 1% ABV is different to brewing stronger beer, as it is difficult to achieve the desired flavour and mouthfeel without the presence of alcohol.

Here are some of the techniques that a brewer may use to produce beers that contain little or no alcohol:

  • The alcohol produced during fermentation is removed through processes such as vacuum distillation, reverse osmosis or evaporation
  • The beer is naturally fermented and then diluted with water to reduce the alcohol by volume (ABV)
  • Fermentation is stopped prematurely, by selecting yeast strains with a lower alcohol tolerance

While the basic ingredients remain the same, some brewers that produce low alcohol beers below 1% ABV may use additives to build body and mouthfeel.

Look at almost any recipe online for brewing a low alcohol beer online and you’ll find mention of additives like corn syrup, maltodextrin powder and lactose, which means the beer is not suitable for vegans.

Our mission at Small Beer is to brew great-tasting beer at a mid-strength - up to 2.8% ABV - with the best ingredients we can find and absolutely no funny business. All of our beers are suitable for vegans and they don’t contain anything that isn’t labelled on the packaging.


Tradationally, most brewers would brew to strength, which means that the amount of alcohol that is produced during fermentation - measured by ABV - is the same amount that ends up in the finished product.

Nowadays, the industry standard for large scale breweries is known as 'high gravity brewing,' brew to a higher ABV and then water down their beers or strip out the alcohol to get to the desired strength.

This practice is becoming more common due and newspapers in the UK are now using the term ‘drinkflation’ to describe the trend towards lower ABV beer styles, as breweries seek to reduce their tax bills. The reality that many beer drinkers do not know is that many macro brewers have been doing this for years as a way to improve efficiency.


Small Beer is naturally brewed and fermented at a mid-strength because it’s designed to meet the demands of modern life.

We never remove any of the alcohol or dillute our brews. The recipes that we follow - and continue to improve - contain the precise amount of ingredients needed to produce big-tasting beer at a sociable mid-strength that won't leave you spinning.

We’re able to achieve our vision, thanks to the bespoke brew kit that was designed by our co-founder Felix to maximise flavour over alcohol production.

Sure, we could find an easier shortcut, but we choose to brew to strength and use a bespoke kit, because we strongly believe that doing it any other way would compromise the flavour and body that you can only get through natural fermentation.

We firmly believe that our commitment to sourcing high-quality ingredients and brewing with integrity is at the heart of what makes Small Beer the better beer choice for modern drinkers.

Tags: brewing