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We at Ceria Brewing Company wouldn’t blame you if quality isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’re sipping on your non-alcoholic (NA) or alcohol-free (AF) beer. As January comes to an end, however, and you’ve likely tried many new NA/AF products (good job!), we thought it would be worthwhile to discuss an important step that some brewers take in order to ensure quality and safety of NA and AF beers: pasteurization. If you’ve ever seen any beer cans that bulge or overflow as soon as you open them, you’ll want to continue reading!
Side note: If you don’t remember the difference between NA and AF beers, take a peek at this short post explaining the difference.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pasteurization is the “…sterilization of a substance and especially a liquid … at a temperature and for a period of exposure that destroys objectionable organisms without major chemical alteration of the substance”. More simply, pasteurizing a beer is the process of exposing the beer to heat for a specific amount of time to destroy microorganisms like bacteria. This process also makes the beer “shelf stable”, allowing it to be stored at room temperature without the fear of any organisms growing inside the can.
Pasteurization prevents two main things from happening. (1) As stated above, it prevents potentially harmful organisms from growing in the beer. These could be bacteria that affect the flavor of the beer or make people sick. (2) Pasteurizing also kills any leftover yeast in the beer, which is important because residual live yeast in the beer can referment in the can, leading to an NA or AF beer becoming alcoholic, sometimes as high as 2% ABV. As a rule of thumb, if your can of NA or AF beer is bulging or gushes out when you open it, it’s safest to toss the whole can.
We normally see NA/AF beer packaged in cans or bottles, and although there are a couple types of pasteurization (flash pasteurization and tunnel pasteurization), for packaged NA/AF products, the safest option a brewer can use is tunnel pasteurization. This option means that the beers are pasteurized at the end of the process, after they are packaged in their bottles or cans, which protects the beer to the highest possible degree. At Ceria, we tunnel pasteurize every one of our cans for shelf stability and safety, as well as to ensure prolonged deliciousness. We even print that right on the can!
Ceria’s fans frequently ask us if our AF beer is available in kegs to serve on tap. Draught beer is arguably the best way to enjoy a fresh pint. However, less-than-clean tap lines can negatively affect the beer taste and possibly cause infection. This could lead to off-flavors or even make people sick. As a point of reference, the Boulder-based Brewers Association recommends that line cleaning should be performed at least every two weeks for beer with alcohol. There currently isn’t an agreed upon recommendation for beers without alcohol, and until we know our beers can be served safely from kegs, you won’t find them on tap. Some day we would love to make this happen!
While some brewers stabilize their NA/AF beers with chemical preservatives, and other brewers do not have a stabilization process, Ceria uses tunnel pasteurization to prevent our beers from becoming infected and to prevent residual live yeast from re-fermenting in the can. This allows our consumers to feel confident that each can of Ceria’s AF Grainwave Belgian-Style White Ale or our AF Indiewave IPA stays great tasting, safe to drink, and always 0.00% ABV.
Did you know that the word “pasteurization” comes from a French scientist named Louis Pasteur whose first pasteurization experiments were done with beer in 1876!