Most people would probably agree that alcoholism is a big problem in our country. Countless studies have been done and techniques have been used to try to prevent or treat alcoholism. Some people may be wondering what role non-alcoholic beer can play in the treatment or prevention of alcoholism. Seems logical, right? Keep the beer; get rid of the alcohol in order to prevent dependence on alcohol. As many beer drinkers already know, non-alcoholic beer may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.
History of Non-Alcoholic Beer
Non-alcoholic beer had its beginning in America during the Prohibition in 1919. At this time brewing companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Schlitz, began producing “near beer” to get around the law of that time. These drinks were malted beverages that had very low alcohol content (less than .5% alcohol by volume). In order to remove the alcohol, it was either boiled or filtered from the beer. It was argued by many that the process of removing the alcohol left the beer tasteless. Over time, however, people found a way to sneak alcohol back into the bottle or keg of beer, an illegal process that resulted in “spiked beer”.
Today near beer is still made and sold, and in many states it is legal for even minors to purchase and drink it, though some states do require a person to be 21 to drink “non-alcoholic beer”. This is because even non-alcoholic beer has some alcohol in it.
Perhaps a logical question would be: “What if individuals with alcohol abuse problems or alcoholics would switch to non-alcoholic beer?” Wouldn’t that solve our problems? Well, there are a few major problems with this solution. First of all, alcohol-free beer in many peoples’ view still does not have the rich flavor of regular beer. Secondly, even most non-alcoholic beer has a small amount of alcohol, which could cause relapse for recovering alcoholics. Thirdly, research has shown that the smell of any kind of beer may be enough to cause reactions in an alcoholic’s mind, triggering cravings. The smell may actually raise the brain’s level of dopamine, which gives the individual a high, making them want more. It may be the anticipation of drinking alcohol that aids in the addiction for more.
Perhaps it is best for recovering alcoholics to refrain from even non-alcoholic beer for the best chances of recovery.
While it may not be the best way to satisfy a recovering alcoholic, non-alcoholic beer may have benefits to other individuals. A study on this subject was done on Spanish nuns and was published online by Nutrition. According to the study, nuns that drank non-alcoholic beer for 45 days had an increase in antioxidant levels in their bloodstream, something that could have positive effects on the cardiovascular system.
Whether non-alcoholic beer is everything beer drinkers had hoped for or not, it may be on future lists of health-friendly beverages.
The Dangers of Drinking NA Beverages February 6, 2004
Non-Alcoholic Beer Origins
Puchala, Jessica Study weighs health benefits of non-alcoholic beer 1/2/2009
Alvarez, Jesus Roman Martinez Effects of alcohol-free beer on lipid profile and parameters of oxidative stress and inflammation in elderly women 22 April 2008